PARTAB RAMCHAND | 7 NOVEMBER, 2017
When India Pulled Off A Remarkable Triumph ‘Down Under’
Down Memory Lane
India’s gloriously unexpected triumph in the 1983 World Cup remains one of the greatest moments in Indian cricket. Indeed as a path breaking feat it has no equal for it generated tremendous interest in limited overs cricket.
Till then the main focus of Indian cricket fans centred on the game’s traditional format but now one day cricket became the rage. And with the renewed interest in ODIs the onus was on the Indian team to prove that what happened at Lord’s on that memorable June day was no fluke.
But to the disappointment of Indian cricket followers the team stumbled from one disaster to another. The West Indies came over to India in 1983-84 clearly on a revenge mission for the humiliation they had suffered in the World Cup. Not only did they romp to a 3-0 victory in the six-Test series they also completed a clean 5-0 sweep in the ODIs.
The following season saw another disastrous outing for the Indians lost the only completed game in Pakistan and then they were beaten at home 4-1 by England. In between they claimed some minor prizes - the 2-0 win over Pakistan at home in 1983-84 and the Asia Cup victory at Sharjah in early 1984.
The loss to England was a real damper as India were the favourites. Moreover the result came about on the eve of the World Championship of Cricket to be held in Australia in February – March 1985 with all seven Test playing nations taking part. In a way it was more competitive than the World Cup as they were no easy games against associate members.
And India’s showing since the 1983 triumph had inspired little confidence. In a field that had West Indies, England, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka India were rated as no-hopers and cricket fans were getting more and more convinced that the World Cup triumph was a one-off.
It was against this pessimistic background that India took the field against Pakistan for their opening group encounter at Melbourne. Batting first Pakistan were restricted to 183 all out in 49.2 overs. India made a poor start losing three wickets (all to Imran Khan) for just 27 runs but a fourth wicket partnership of 132 runs between Md Azharuddin and skipper Sunil Gavaskar, batting down the order put them on the road to victory which was achieved with six wickets and 3.1 overs to spare. While Gavaskar was out for 54, Azharuddin remained unbeaten with 93.
It was a fine start but could the Indians maintain it in a tough group that also involved England and Australia?
Six days later this time in Sydney India continued from where they left off in Melbourne defeating England comfortably by 86 runs. Put in to bat India scored 235 for nine in 50 overs the highlight being a typically swashbuckling 57 (off 53 balls with ten fours) by K Srikkanth. England in reply could not make much headway against the balanced bowling attack of Kapil, Madan Lal and Roger Binny and spinners Ravi Shastri and LSivaramakrishnan and were dismissed for 149 runs in 41.4 overs.
Suddenly this Indian side looked like the one to beat for the title. Gone was the diffidence that one had seen in the series against England back home. They were playing confidently and everything was falling into place. The nucleus of the side was still very much that of the 1983 World Cup winning squad and with the addition of Azharuddin and Sivaramakrishnan they had already emerged as the most balanced outfit in the competition.
The victorious run continued when five days later back in Melbourne they defeated Australia by eight wickets. Again they dismissed their opponents within the stipulated overs with Australia being bowled out for 163 in 49.3 overs. A century partnership for the first wicket between Shastri (51) and Srikkanth (93 not out) saw the Indians coast to victory with 13.5 overs to spare.
Topping the group India now played New Zealand at Sydney and for the fourth successive time they bowled out their opponents with the Kiwis being dismissed for 206 in exactly 50 overs. Despite Shastri at the top of the order getting 53 the match hung in the balance when Kapil joined Dilip Vengsarkar with the score 102 for three. The two however with brilliant attacking strokes figured in an unbroken fourth wicket stand of 105 runs to steer India to a seven wicket victory with 6.3 overs to spare.
India then totally against pre-tournament expectations was in the final and.their opponents were again Pakistan who had upset West Indies in the other semifinal. This time India were the favourites and they virtually sewed up the game by having Pakistan reeling at 33 for four after they batted first with Kapil Dev taking three of the wickets. Pakistan put up some sort of recovery but were restricted to 176 for nine in 50 overs, this being the only time India had not bowled out their opponents in the competition. Another century stand for the first wicket between Shastri (63 not out) and Srikkanth (67) meant that India cruised to victory with eight wickets and 2.5 overs to spare.
So a team which had been written off on the eve of the WCC had pulled off a sensational triumph. Some in fact considered this victory greater than the World Cup triumph for the participants were only the seven Test playing nations.
Also unlike in the World Cup campaign where India had lost two matches, here they registered comprehensive victories in all their five matches. Gavaskar attributed his side’s remarkable improvement to their being removed from the keen and at times impatient expectations of the Indian public. He also stood by his previously declared intention to give up the captaincy at the end of the tournament but on a triumphant note.
And the photograph of the triumphant Indian team going around the MCG with the trophy in the Audi car won by man of the tournament Shastri has remained one of the most famous and joyous in the history of Indian cricket.