Vijay Lokapally Column - The Hindu
A young all-rounder rewrote the history of Indian cricket at a non-descript cricket field in Kent 25 years ago.
That epic act transformed the face of how Indians took to cricket and Kapil Dev, as chief architect of that performance, emerged an undisputed icon among a galaxy of greats that included Sunil Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath.
It is difficult to persuade Kapil to talk about that innings. “The World Cup win was not about that innings,” he counters. It was not in his opinion.
But Gavaskar rates it the best one-day innings of all times while Sandeep Patil counts the knock as a “monumental” contribution from an all-rounder who ruled world cricket like few.Cold day
It was a cold and windy day at Tunbridge Wells and India was laid low by the ball that seamed and kicked alarmingly. “Survival was next to impossible,” recalled Madan Lal.
But Kapil produced a gem, restricting himself to playing in the V and then gradually showcasing his wide range of strokes.
“I had to play a role and I am glad I did it to the team’s liking. The team reacted to a man that day and that to me has been the lasting memory of the Cup.
“You may have individual performances to gloat about but to me what mattered was that it was a wonderful team effort.
It remained so till the moment we shocked the West Indies,” Kapil underplayed his unbeaten 175.
India took Australia, England and West Indies in its stride and set new benchmarks for the generations to follow by winning the Cup against all odds. Five wise men
But the team did not forget to pay tributes to five men who had trusted them to conquer the world. Credit has never come the way of Chandu Borde, Bishan Bedi, Hanumant Singh, Kripal Singh and Ambar Roy, who picked the best 14 available on form and merit.
As Bedi pointed out, those who sat out the final were Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri and Sunil Valson, three outstanding performers of the season.
Reflecting on the triumph, Kapil said, “there were no individual heroes as far as I am concerned. We cared and played for each other and that was the clinching factor. Team came first and the players responded to a man. I am proud of that team.”
So is the nation, which salutes the heroes of 1983 as they commemorate that glorious day at Lord’s by coming together at the same venue. Any regrets?
“None,” asserts Kapil. Any desires? “I want India to win the Cup again.”
The ball is in the courts of the young players, most not even born when Kapil’s team was adding an unforgettable chapter to the history of Indian cricket.
“It would be the best gift to us,” was Kapil’s emotional wish.