The Sunny Gavaskar Column
Every year for over a century, the annual conference of the ICC is held at the Long Room at Lord’s. Several meetings, of which the chief executives’ meeting is one, precede the conference. Last year around the same time, after the chief executive’s committee meeting, I was leaving the venue, which is next to the Long Room, and found a table-plan for that evening’s charity dinner laid out. Going through the list I found there were some famous names who were to attend the dinner and as I checked the date I realized it was around the time when India won the World Cup 24 years earlier.
It struck me that it would be fantastic to celebrate the silver jubilee of that stupendous win with a dinner at the Long Room where we had won the Cup.
It took a few days to ascertain if there was a Test, one-dayer or even a county fixture on that day for in that case the Long Room would not have been available. Fortunately, no game was scheduled and being a member of the MCC, I immediately booked the room. The idea was to have a reunion of the team that stunned the world and changed the way the world looked at Indian cricket.
When I broached the subject to Vijay Mallya, he said it was a great day for Indian cricket and he would ensure his company celebrated it in an appropriate manner. After that assurance, there was nothing left to do but to simply let go and enjoy and that is what the team is going to do on Wednesday night.
It will be an evening to remember, as it will take us down memory lane and relive some of those moments that changed our lives and gave us the affection of the country’s sports followers. That is our greatest reward for no amount of money can buy the affection of the people. Just seeing the smiles when they recollect the match is priceless and it humbles all of us that people we didn’t know were praying for us and egging us on, albeit silently, in the final.
Even now, whenever the highlights are replayed, the mind still boggles at the ball which Balwinder Sandhu bowled to dismiss Gordon Greenidge and the catch that Kapil Dev took to get rid of Viv Richards when the great man was looking to finish the game early all by himself. Not many talk about the catch that Syed Kirmani took to dismiss Faoud Bacchus, who was looking to build a partnership with the lower-order batsmen, and then Jimmy Amarnath’s swing that got rid of the dangerous duo of Jeff Dujon and Malcolm Marshall and finally trapped Michael Holding in front of the stumps. As the ball ricocheted off Holding’s pads I instinctively ran towards it to prevent a leg bye. Dickie Bird’s raised finger meant that I had to do the fastest sprint of my life towards the safety of the dressing room. The ball tucked in my pocket is now my most prized cricketing possession.
When we batted on a greenish pitch, the ball hardly met the bat and I remember taking a leg bye and coming towards Joel Garner, with whom I had shared a flat playing for Somerset in 1980, and saying plaintively, “How about a half volley for your flatmate?” The reply with that famous smile was, “No maan, this is the World Cup final.” Then Srikkanth cut loose even and the six and the ferocious square cut gave us hope that the pitch had eased out. It hadn’t. It was simply Srikkanth’s eye that had got him into position quickly.
Jimmy showed the guts and courage he had displayed earlier in the year when he had batted splendidly against the West Indian pace battery.
Yashpal Sharma and Kapil perished trying to milk the part time spin of Larry Gomes for he was the only bowler off whom runs seem to be gettable. It was a forlorn dressing room and then came the spark that gave us a bit of a lift.
Sandhu cover drove for four and Kiri showed such spirit. Marshall crashing a bouncer into Sandhu’s helmet may have evoked a few smiles but it also brought forth that here was a bowler risking serious injury to add a few precious runs for the team. Before leaving the dressing room, Kapil said we had to defend the meagre total and give it our all. We did. The rest is history.
Sunil Gavaskar 1983 World Cup member, On the famous reunion