When you witness sporting history unfold in front of your eyes, chances are that your brain will lock those memories up in a corner and preserve it for a long time. Those few extraordinary moments truly remain fresh, years and years after they happened; moments that make you recollect exactly where you were at that point in life, what impact it had on you. And those not blessed to watch it live, the generations that were born after, get to relive such unforgettable moments through those memories.
The 1983 World Cup that saw Kapil Dev’s India create history will be one such memory that will be passed along from one generation to the next, till cricket exists. The triumph of Kapil’s Devils changed the very fabric of the game, and not just in India.
June 25, 1983: If it made Sachin Tendulkar lift up a cricket bat with the dream of playing for India and one day maybe repeating the feat, it made a generation believe Indians can be the best in the world in anything they do; it made some fall in love with the sport again as Kapil received the trophy at the Lord’s balcony; it helped some create a special daughter-mother bond.
Scroll.in tried to find out what India’s 1983 World Cup win meant to different people born in different generations, starting from the pre-Independence era.
Kaustubh Jamkhandikar (Year of birth: 1943)
We followed every match of the Indian team, keeping tabs of the scores on radio or in news. I think the turning point for us came when Kapil Dev scored 175 not out against Zimbabwe to help India win the match from a lost cause. This is when I started believing that this team can go on to create a miracle.
I used to live in Altinho (Goa) then and did not own a television set. On the day of the final, my wife, son and I walked to Miramar, which is about 3-4 km from our house, to my younger brother’s place as he had a TV. We wanted to have a good time irrespective of the result of the match as India was in the final for the first time. West Indies were clearly the favourites but we were hoping against hope.
The Indian innings didn’t really go according to plan but the bowlers kept us in the game and celebrations began the minute the last West Indies wicket fell. I remember it was well past midnight when we all walked back home again that day.
That feeling of witnessing something special stayed with me for a long, long time despite watching many more Indian sporting triumphs since then.
Avinash Chaturvedi (Year of birth: 1944)
I remember watching the entire match, and then the highlights several times over as they kept repeating it for days on end. The strongest memory is, of course, Kapil Dev’s amazing catch to dismiss the great Viv Richards. We weren’t at all used to seeing such athleticism from our players back then.
The win was a massive achievement. Many even considered it a fluke at that time. We simply didn’t have any expectations of winning the tournament. Those days every victory was significant for us fans. To beat that West Indies team on the biggest stage was an incredible feat. Everyone was out on the streets celebrating, we just didn’t know what to think.
Saraswathi Narayanan (Year of birth: 1953)
It was a moment to cherish, truly. We had moved to the UAE three years or so before the World Cup. My husband had brought his construction site workers to our place. There was a 16-inch TV and around 30 people were crammed into one room. There was so much cheering, whistling, howling, cries of exasperation and joy...every moment was so exciting. There were workers gathered in our house from Andhra, Kerala, Maharashtra and some even from Pakistan – all of them were living every moment of that final, equally voracious. It was quite astounding. It’s something I’ll never forget.
For a generation, 1983 provided hope that they could be world-beaters too, if they tried hard enough.
Pankaj Mithel (Year of birth: 1956)
I had a big group of friends from the neighbourhood (in Mumbai) and we would all get together to play gully cricket everyday. Mine was the only house in the entire locality that had a colour television. So, all my friends were at my place throughout the World Cup and we enjoyed the matches together.
The celebrations when Indian won were grand. It was an unbelievable high. I can watch that final again and again and again. Just like it was in 2011, everyone was on the streets back then as well. There were hundreds of people all around. My friends and I set off on our two-wheelers and enjoyed the moment with strangers in different parts of the city.
When the team arrived from England in Mumbai, my friend and I were there at the airport, along with hundreds of people, to receive the players. There was chaos. Everyone wanted a glimpse of the champions. We even rode on our two-wheeler behind the team bus.
The victory gave our generation hope... the hope that we as Indians can be winners. It made us believers. That triumph was for our generation, the ones who grew up in the late 50s and early 60s.
We were the true cheerleaders. We were the ones who had seen our team get all-out for 42 a few summers before in England, among many other crushing defeats. There was no real hope going into the 1983 World Cup, neither was there much hype. But as die-hard fans, we still got together to follow the entire tournament. And what a result it ended up delivering.
Kapil Dev was god for us. His huge smile, his Punjabi-laced English... it was all so charming. The thing about him was that he came across as an honest person. That resonated with everyone and he was loved immensely. Sunil Gavaskar was, of course, the epitome of greatness, but that tournament was Kapil’s. It immortalised him.
Not everyone in their 20s were watching, of course because cricket coverage was not ubiquitous.
Dilip D’Souza (Year of birth: 1960)
I lived in the States during 1980s. When India won the World Cup, I was finishing graduate school. At that time, even though I loved cricket, I couldn’t follow the game. I heard about the win from a friend who called me from New York after speaking to his relative in India. ‘Hey, we have won the World Cup,’ he said.
We were exchanging our astonishment at this news. He eventually got the clippings of The Hindu’s reportage and sent it to me, I still have them with me.
Cricket had been out of my consciousness for two years as I couldn’t follow the game at all. This win came as a bolt out of the blue. In one way, it was a pleasure for me to reconnect with the sport that I spent enjoying in the 70s. It took me back to the days when I loved cricket in my college; there was suddenly a void, then this happened.
It was almost as if it was happening on another planet, I had no way of visualising back then what it was like. I never really quite liked ODI cricket, for me the Test win in England in 1986 means a lot more but 1983 helped me reconnect with the game.
Some grew up with the fact that India were World Cup champions. Those born in the early 1980s might not have understood what the win meant immediately, but when it sunk in...
Tareque Laskar (Year of birth: 1980)
The first cricket World Cup I vaguely remember watching is 1987, and at that time I had no idea India were defending champions. I’d learn about it in 1992 when my uncle told me stories of how he was listening to the final on a crackling AM radio set late into the night in a home with no electricity and almost tore apart the mosquito net he was couched under, when jumping for joy as Amarnath took the final wicket.
Seeing India crash out so miserably in ‘92, the school kid in me was initially crushed but I soon moved on. It was in the build-up to the 1996 World Cup, when a newspaper carried a special supplement on the 1983 win, that I really delved deep into the legend. I had seen bits and pieces of the final during Doordarshan documentaries but I finally watched some proper highlights in one of the lead-up programs.
I became obsessed with the match, because everyone loves an underdog story and my dad had just told me how unfancied India were in that final. He told me that magic 66-1 odds number, and for someone who had just started getting the grasp of probability, it seared itself into my brain. I studied the scorecard and memorised almost every detail (including a classic piece of trivia that is Sunil Valson’s distinction of being in the squad, not featuring in a game, and never playing for India again).
The more I studied it the more I was amazed. After the heartbreak in ‘96 and a dismal campaign in ‘99, I thought vicarious memories of ‘83 is all I’d have in my lifetime. Incidentally, when 2011 finally happened, the first feeling was a relief, and the second feeling was elation, but it was the next morning that it hit me, that I finally had a living memory of a World Cup win to demarcate my life.
The ‘83 recollections have always been my passport into a serious cricket conversation. I enjoyed bringing small details up, or describing Kapil Dev’s outstanding catch to dismiss Viv Richards, or talk about how the angle we saw Balwinder Singh Sandhu dismiss Gordon Greenidge from, was no longer a thing in broadcasting except for replays. I can still tell you without looking it up, that Kris Srikkanth hit seven fours on his way to top scoring in the final with 38.
Can you imagine how special it must have made someone feel that their birthday fell on the day India were crowned World Champions? India’s odds of winning the title were 66 to 1, and chance (technically) of someone sharing their birthday with that day in June, is 1 in 366...
Clive Azavedo (Year of birth: 1992, date of birth: 25th June)
When I was six or seven, my uncle told me I was born on the day India won the World Cup in 1983. At that time, my interest was all about cartoons but from then on my love for cricket grew. And over the years, I started asking people – my relatives, neighbours – everything about the tournament.
I used to feel very special. I could have been born on any day but I was born on June 25 and it made me feel a deep connection to the Indian cricket team. As I started watching more cricket, and India’s wait for another World Cup went on, I used to think at least the team became world champions on my birthday: ‘wow, India were so good at one time that we beat the mighty West Indies. How special that must have been.’
My uncle was around 10 at the time and he has told me that when India won the World Cup everybody started picking up a bat. For the first time, his parents didn’t complain about him playing cricket. He told me it gave him a belief anything was possible when you tried hard.
Kapil Dev became the poster boy after that World Cup triumph, and Indian cricket has had no shortage of such heroes since. For a daughter adoring Virat Kohli in the 2010s, her mother’s affection for Kapil in the 1980s was a matter of great bonding...
Harini Venkatraman (Year of birth: 1997)
I started following the game seriously from the 2011 World Cup. My first proper encounter with 1983 has to go back to the India-South Africa match in 2011: the only game that India lost. Ashish Nehra had to defend 13 runs in the final over and he could not.
This was my first loss (as a fan) and I was crying. Legit tears. And then, my mom told me sarcastically: ‘This is nothing, we had faced so many more losses, you have just started following the sport, be prepared for more’.
I thought: ‘okay, hang on, you used to watch cricket?’ So, gradually I got to know that she is as mad about Kapil Dev as I am about Virat Kohli. She stops even now in front of a Kapil poster.
From then on, I kept hearing about the 1983 World Cup much more often. ‘In those days...’ type stories from my mother.
And, to me, the one picture that comes to my mind the minute I hear the ‘83 World Cup is Kapil Dev lifting the trophy in the Lord’s balcony. I so badly wanted Kohli to emulate that in 2019... (for a connect with her mother’s idol).
I can’t quote stats and numbers from back then. Until my mom recounted it, it was just a story. And then I realised just as how I started following the game after 2011, it was a similar, if not an even greater turning point in ‘83. Although I don’t have a first-hand account of it, it will still be a defining cricketing moment for me as an Indian fan.
And for those who belong to the MS Dhoni generation, cricket came a full circle in 2011...
Aaron Tuscano (Year of birth: 2001)
As a cricket fan, it makes me really happy that India won their first World Cup in 1983. I have only watched highlights of the final match of the 1983 World Cup and it was quite thrilling to see them turn around the game. But if I compare the 1983 World Cup with the 2011 edition, I would pick 2011 as it was the World Cup which got me interested in playing cricket.
Sachin Tendulkar (Year of birth: 1973)
“The World Cup that Kapil Dev lifted in 1983 changed my life. When I saw that I told myself that I will be there someday to lift the trophy for India.”
What did Kapil Dev and Co’s World Cup triumph mean to you? What are your memories of that day in June 1983? Leave your comments on Facebook, tweet to us @thefield_in or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.