PARTAB RAMCHAND | 14 JULY, 2020
Kapil Dev and Tunbridge Wells - Indissolubly Linked
Down Memory Lane
There are so many famous international venues associated with some of Indian cricket’s greatest moments abroad – Lord’s and the Oval in London, Port of Spain, Melbourne, Johannesburg. But one relatively little known venue is associated with one of the most famous feats in Indian cricket history. Or more precisely Kapil Dev and Tunbridge Wells – the two are indissolubly linked.
It is a quaint little town in Kent some 30 miles south east of central London but before June 18 1983 Tunbridge Wells and its picturesque little ground was hardly known to an Indian cricket fan. Today anyone associated with cricket in India – and indeed perhaps all over the world – is familiar with it thanks to Kapil Dev. Even 37 years later and after over 4200 ODIs his 175 not out off 138 deliveries remains one of the famous knocks in cricket history.
By itself its hugeness – it was the highest score in ODIs at the time – would make it truly memorable. But what has heightened the greatness of the innings was the context of the game and the manner it transformed a faltering World Cup campaign into a triumphant one. India had entered the World Cup as no-hopers and 66 to one outsiders. In two previous editions they had notched up just one victory, over East Africa, in 1975 and four years later suffered the ignominy of going down to Sri Lanka then an ICC associate member.
However they had started the third edition on a positive note with a sensational win over West Indies – the first defeat the holders had suffered in the competition’s history - and then a pretty straightforward victory over Zimbabwe who had earlier shocked Australia. But then the campaign stumbled as they lost to Australia and West Indies in successive matches. And on the morning of June 18 the campaign seemed to have slid to a halt when they were 17 for five in the return game against Zimbabwe.
Kapil who had entered at nine for four now took complete charge. He took some time to settle down and then commenced a thrilling counter attack. India continued to lose wickets at the other end and were tottering at 78 for seven despite a sixth wicket partnership of 60 between Kapil and Roger Binny (22). Madan Lal (17) and Kapil added 62 runs for the eighth wicket but at 140 for eight India were looking at the wrong end of the barrel. Syed Kirmani joined the captain who was in his 70s.
Now Kapil Dev took the match in his own hands. He just sailed into the attack doing pretty much what he liked with the bowlers. Suddenly the hunter became the hunted as Zimbabwe wilted under Kapil’s all out onslaught. He got to his 100 – the first by an Indian in an ODI – and then emerged the most glorious phase of his batting as with thrilling strokes he demolished the bowling skimming along at a dizzy rate.
Suddenly the crowd became aware that they were watching one of the great knocks and when the allotted 60 overs were completed India were 266 for eight. The unbroken ninth wicket stand had produced 126 runs with Kirmani contributing 24 off 56 balls with two hits to the ropes. Kapil’s dominance saw him finish with 16 fours and six sixes, something unheard of all those years ago when one day cricket was still in its infancy.
And though his 175 not out has been surpassed many times over – the current record is 264 – it is still the highest score made by a batsman coming in as low as No 6. Despite being demoralized by Kapil’s hitting Zimbabwe fought all the way and went down by just 31 runs putting the Indian captain’s knock into proper perspective.
Kapi’s inspiring knock was just the tonic the Indian team needed. Two days later they defeated Australia by 118 runs to book a place in the knockouts. In the semifinals in a major upset they got the better of in-form England by six wickets and on June 25 in a stunning result they shocked West Indies by 43 runs to notch up the greatest moment in Indian cricket history – a moment that had its genesis at Tunbridge Wells a week before.
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