[Before starting this piece, let me express my gratitude to two of my most favourite cricket writers. I am a very big fan of both of them from my childhood and spent countless hours turning the pages of their books. Those two gentlemen are Neville Cardus and Sankari Prasad Basu. And the idea of the following piece is pretty much stolen from Cardus’ description of the 1882 test match between England and Australia in the Oval; this was the test match which gave birth to the legend of Ashes. Cardus wrote that piece sometime around 1921 and it is described by Wisden as ‘still the most vivid reconstruction of a cricket match ever written’. The first time I read that account was a Bengali translation done by Sankari Prasad Basu. So, thanks to him too.]
It was one of those week nights or the early mornings around 3 o’clock. I was wondering through various pages of Cricinfo and Wikipedia when I suddenly felt everything was spinning around me very fast. I could not keep my eyes open and when I could open my eyes again I was there for a shock!
I found myself in the stands of big lash green ground with a cricket pitch in the center. It was a wonderful sunny day and the ground was full. I looked around to see big galleries as well as places where people were just sitting and standing on the greens. Various hoardings of ‘Whimpy’, ‘Telegraph’ and ‘Gilbay’s Gin’ could be seen in the stands. There was a big black scoreboard with ‘Prudential Cup’ written on the top. The familiar statue of the Father Time removing the bails could be seen on top of a stand. And then it strikes me, I am in the Lords cricket ground in London. Ahhh… a dream location to watch cricket but which match is this? Is this sometime in future, I asked myself.
But from what I gathered from the clothes of the people around me, I concluded that I was either in a fancy dress themed cricket match or magically reached sometime in the past. Most of the people looked like they are dressed for retro theme party with several people in bell bottom pants and white floppy hats. Funnily enough, there were not many people in formals. It was surprising to be in the Lords but finding many few people in suits, in fact there were none in the stand where I was sitting.
Just to my right, there are two Sikh gentlemen sitting with an Indian flag. The elderly man gave me a surprised look and whispered something to his companion’s ear. His companion, a young man of my age nodded and asked me, “Indian?”
As soon as I nodded in affirmative he said, “A jao yaar!! Ek sath mil kar bahut masti karenge!”
He asked my name and after a short conversation about how difficult it is to enter the ground finished it with the chant of ‘Jo bole so nihal, satshree akaal!’
There was a big contingent of Indian fans with tri-colour in their hands waving furiously. The other portion of the crowd was also mostly black with colourful clothes and flashy sunglasses. They were smoking a lot and even singing, they must be people from Caribbean!
So ok… some of the questions were answered. I was in the Lords watching India play West Indies sometime during 80’s. Which match is this? Is this the special one? But obviously I could not ask anyone, I could not make it so obvious that I was not one of them. Luckily I thought of something and asked the Punjabi lad, “Who is going to bat?”
“Us! Lloyd has won the toss and asked us to bat. They have the advantage with the early morning help for their fast bowlers!”
“But, I would say it’s always better to bat first, especially in big match like this. It’s a world cup final!” the elderly man chipped in.
I gave him big thanks in my mind. Without any shadow of doubt I was sitting in the ground to watch the 1983 cricket world cup final.
Sure enough, within next five minutes two umpires were on the ground, Dickie Bird and Barrie Meyer. They were followed by eleven men in white clothes and maroon cap/white cricket hat who entered the ground with enormous cheer from their fans. They looked very much athletic with a great team spirit oozing out from their movements.
There were no huddle like modern days; they just jogged slowly to the ground from the pavilion. I could identify Clive Lloyd, the eldest in the team with specs on and an air of authority around him. Viv Richards was just behind him, kept chewing his gum with the ball in his hand which he threw to a bearded short man, must be Andy Roberts. Roberts was not a tall man and he looked even smaller beside Joel Garner, the demon in 6 feet 8 inches. There were Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding completing the pace quartet, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, world’s best opening pair at that time and very very safe and sound Jeff Dujon as the wicket keeper. Larry Gomes and Faud Bacchus were the other members in the eleven.
Bigger cheers were waiting for Indian openers. Here are they. I could see the short figure of Sunil Gavaskar without any helmet or other headgear walking towards the wicket, focused and determined. With him the taller man with an old-fashioned blue helmet must be Krishnamachari Srikkanth.
I was sitting in a mixed population of Indian and West Indian fans. All the Indian fans were shouting and waving the flags in their hand after watching the Indian pair in to the ground. One gentleman from West Indian fans shouted in his Jamaican accent, “Don’t Score too much Maan! It’s a pain in the ass when you keep hitting our bowlers!”
“Scared of Gavaskar!” the younger Sardar snorted!
And as always, within a few minutes Gavaskar was ready to take the first strike. For Windies, Andy Roberts was given the new ball from the nursery end. The first delivery was on the off stamp which Gavaskar played tentatively to the point. It was pretty much eventless, the first over, except one fumble by big Joel Garner which helped India open their account.
“It’s a fucking final Joe, not a match in your street!!” Windies fan around me showed their displeasure at that miss. But those same ones started cheering at a peach of a delivery which bounced awkwardly from good length by Garner in the next over!
The third over brought the first mishap for India. Roberts kept maintaining his ‘just outside the off stamp’ line and Gavaskar trying to play a shot in the offside nicked to Dujon! The whole group of West Indies supporters were on their feet. They were dancing like it was a wild party. The elder Sardar beside me was in absolutely shock though! He just mumbled, “Hai Raam! What a bad shot!”
Amarnath walked in to the middle and joined Srikkanth, who was not looking solid but he tried to hide his nervousness with some audacious shot making. He played a primitive version of upper cut to Garner and then hooked and pulled Roberts for four and six. With every boundary there were drums playing in the gallery.
Srikkanth reach his quarter century in the 13th over and scored 25 out of India’s total of 32. Amarnath was solid who played a wonderful hook towards mid-wicket for three earlier.
Srikkanth kept hitting and square drove Garner for a four. But then Amarnath played the shot of the morning when he hooked a Malcolm Marshal bouncer to fine leg for four. Indian team crossed 50 run mark with huge cheer from the fans, the younger Sardar beside me tap on my shoulder and said, “Srikkanth shala aaj fifty marega!”
But it was not the case, finally one of the deliveries from marshal came in and hit Srikkanth on the pad. I noticed that the umpire was pretty quick in giving that out!
Yaspal Sharma was the next man in. He came with small cheer, but started aggressively, played a wonderful shot towards point boundary of Holding. Amarnath on the side looked solid and kept scoring runs at every loose ball. After spells from the pace quartet Lloyd handed the ball to Larry Gomes for his off spin. It looked like Amarnath thought that as scoring opportunity and He drove Gomes powerfully to extra cover for a four.
India reached 90 in the 30th over and all the Indians in the ground looked quite relived, especially the Sardars beside me who brought out some Paratha from their bag and even offer me one. But even those awesome Parathas tasted so horrible when the ‘whispering death’ Michael Holding got through Amarnath’s defence and his off stamp went for a walk!!
Amarnath trudged back with lots of respectful claps all around the ground. He looked solid and his 26 of 80 balls was the main backbone of the first half of Indian innings.
But this was just the start, very next over Sharma goes; trying to hit Larry Gomes he gave a catch to the square third man fielder. Kapil Dev came with thunderous cheer, the Sardars beside me went crazy, clapped hysterically and shouted as many praised words as possible in Punjabi!! Kapil was also a favourite of mine in the very early age and hence even I did not show any lack of enthusiasm while clapping and cheering for him.
And he obviously looked a busy player, Kapil was the only player from that group of 11 Indian players whom I have seen live earlier and he reminded me of some of the matches during 91-93, my early days of cricket watching. He hit two fours in one Larry Gomes over and reached to 15 very quickly in less than 10 balls. In between he took a single of Richards’ over to take India’s total to 100. Again the drums were playing and shouting of ‘India- India’ could be heard.
But as I remembered in my childhood days, Kapli played one shot too many and lofted a simple Gomes delivery to the throat of long on where Michael Holding took a simple catch!
And when Kirti Azad came and gone without disturbing the scorers a clear shadow of glum was thrown over the Indian supporters in the ground. Six wickets down with only 111 in the board! How much could they score? 150? Max 160? The older Sarder dropped to his seat. He was shaking his head. The younger one looked at me with disbelief in his eyes, “Are we gonna lose?” he asked me.
What could I say! I just shook my head and optimistically said, “Let’s see, there are more batsmen to come!”
“There’s only Binny and Madanlal. I don’t trust Kirmani and Sandhu is just the perfect number eleven!” he exclaimed!
The West Indies fans on the other hand were jumping like all of their birthdays have come on the same day! There were lots of cheering, dancing and hat throwing among them. The calypsos were sung one after another and when India were six down some of them actually gave us a piece of their mind about what they thing about Indian team and how can Greenidge and Haynes themselves can chase down the score giving good rest to Richards and Lloyd in the dressing room. Some of the remarks were not so soothing, especially when your team has lost their last 4 wickets for 21 runs and the Sardars and some other Indian fans got into some sort of fight which was almost turning towards a free style group wrestling match when a few British police intervened and kept the things under control.
The one man who stood among all these calamities was Sandip Patil. With his tall figure and beard he reminded me of Yusuf Pathan. Patil came after Amarnath’s fall and hold on to one side when 3 of his team mates were dismissed. Roger Binny came and joined him. Patil was playing a lot of sweep shots to Gomes and in the following over swept Gomes for a big Six over square leg. It cheered up the mood of Indian supporters and they started to get their voice back. Next over Patil played another nice cut shot to thirdman for a well-run three but then Binny played an uppish flick shot to give another catch to Garner of Roberts! India was 7 down for 130.
How many runs more? Everyone have the same question in their mind. Another all-rounder came from the dressing room and joined Patil. This time it was Madanlal.
West Indies bowlers were pretty much on the top. Lloyd kept Gomes bowling as he needed to get 12 overs from his 5th bowler. On the other end he kept rotating his four fast bowlers. Gomes was hit for another six over square leg. This time it was Madanlal. He looked confident and another push towards short mid-wicket took India’s total to 150, but soon after Patil was gone. He tried to Pull Garner but again his shot went upwards and Gomes took the catch in the mid-wicket.
So, India’s last hope was gone. Patil had the ability to take India to a respectable total.
“He played so well in the semi-final!” The Sardar shook his head.
Kirmani was the next batsman. India’s wicketkeeper was coming at number 10. I felt awkward thinking about all these batsman-wicketkeeper in recent times who bat in the top order.
Madanlal kept fighting but one Marshall delivery was too fast for him and went through his defence. The end was near. Indians were 9 wickets down in the 46th over. And then I realised that this is a 60 over match and another almost 15 overs to go.
But, Indian supporters were pleasantly surprised when India’s number 10 and 11, Kirmani and Sandhu decided to grind. They kept surviving somehow. In between Sandhu hit a powerful drive to the boundary. As usual being a number 11, all his runs were hugely cheered by the Indian fans.
Marshall was surely not impressed and bowled a vicious bouncer to Sandhu which hit him on the helmet. Clearly the West Indian fans loved it and kept shouting for more! Luckily no damage was done and immediately after that bouncer Sandhu played another strong drive, this time towards long on. They kept batting for almost an hour and added 22 precious runs when finally Holding got success in getting through Kirmani’s defence! India finished with 183 on the boards.
When the players were going back to their respective dressing rooms, we fans got into an animated debate about whether this 183 was enough. But keeping the strong West Indian batting line up in mind not many Indian fans were very optimistic. Few of them did say things like, “Kapil can swing” or “Madanlal is bowling well” but those were few and far between and the general sense was a feeling of despair and mentally preparing ourselves for the runners up prize.
As expected the Caribbean fans were in a very cheerful mood with singing and dancing galore! Some of them even decided on which pub to go in the evening to celebrate their third world cup win! Obviously they did not bother to keep those discussions out of our ear; in fact some of them made it a point that we could hear what they are talking about!
The two West Indian openers walked in to the middle and Greenidge took the first strike to face Kapil. Sure enough, Kapil Dev swung the ball but it did not look too alarming for Greenidge. From the other end it was the medium pace of Balbindar Singh Sandhu with red turban on his head. The Sardars cheered loudly for him but that cheer got somewhat died down when Haynes drove strongly for a boundary to start the run count for West Indies.
In Kapil’s second over a thick outside edge helped Greenidge to open his account and as a result of that single me moved to the other end and faced Sandhu. Sandhu with his medium pace never looked threatening and when he pitched one ball just outside the off stump Greenidge just let it go and did not offer a stroke. But to his utter dismay the ball cut back and rattled the off stump to give India the early break through.
The Indian fans on the ground went crazy, they started jumping up and down and waving flags, getting the world’s best opening partnership separated with just 5 runs on the board was something special and fans enjoyed that moment to the core. Similar scenes could be seen in our stand too, the Sardar father and son hugged each other in tight embrace and after that the younger one hugged me. Lots of high fives and hand sakes were going on with huge chants of ‘India… India’ and ‘Bharat mata ki jay’!
It was a big shock for the West Indian fans! They could not believe that Greenidge could get out so cheaply but their mood surely lifted after seeing the astute figure of Viv Richards coming out to bat.
Viv started briskly. He pulled Sandhu in the 6th over to get his first boundary, drove Kapil through the extra cover. Madanlal came as the first change and Viv hit him for 3 boundaries in one over to quickly reach 30. West Indies was 50 for loss of just one wicket.
In the other end, Haynes did not looked too settled and when he drove Madanlal on the rise, the timing was not quite there and it was an easy catch for Roger Binny in the cover. Again the Indian fans cheered loudly but still Viv was there and was joined by his captain Lloyd in the middle.
Lloyd was off the mark immediately through a single in the thirdman but then he looked in trouble. He could not walk properly and after some bit of treatment Desmond Haynes came back to ground to run for his captain.
And then Richards got out! It happened so suddenly we could not understand what happened. He pulled one ball from Madanlal which went high on the air but outside any players reach near deep mid-wicket. Kapil thought otherwise, he ran back from his normal mid-wicket position, saw the ball till the last moment and completed the catch! It was an awesome bit of fielding. One of the most memorable amongst what I have seen. And the ground turned truly crazy! All the Indian supporters were on their feet, some of them even entered the ground to congratulate Kapil. Drums and horns were in full volume. It was a great moment for India team, the best batsman from the opponents was gone.
The West Indian fans were surely disappointed but still did not lose heart. Their captain was still batting and despite not being 100% he was still capable enough to take West Indies home. But when India struck again at the score of 66, not once but twice including the wicket of great Lloyd, even those fans started to have doubts.
On the other hands Indian fans were on the moon! More than 100 people ran in to the ground to celebrate the wicket. The fans in the stands went berserk!! Claps, cheers, shout… Lords felt like a crazy place!
“Can we make it?” the elder Sardar whispered. He was scared to say that loud, he feared that he might jinx it but I realised that, in his heart he wanted to shout those words out because I was in the same state of mind as his.
Not only were the fans, even the 11 Indian players in the ground were charged up. It could be seen from their body language and out of this enthusiasm they could have get a run out of Dujon.
What happened was, Bacchus defensively played on ball to the point, Dujon from the non-striker end just took a few steps, but Srikkanth from the point charged towards the ball, picked up and hit the wicket with a direct throw. Umpires did not give it out; I wondered what would happen in case there would be third umpire with television replays available!
Madanlal was bowling superbly, 3 of the 5 wickets were taken by him. Kapil made a change to bring Sandhu back. It was an inspired change, Sandhu immediately got Bacchus nicked one and Kirmani dived in front of Gavaskar in the first slip to take a great catch. West Indies 6 down for 76, they required another 108 runs with their last 4 wickets.
Malcolm Marshall came and joined Dujon as the 8th batsman. I remembered how in my younger days used to read about those 4 great all-rounders; Imran, Kapil, Marshall and Hadley and the comparison between them to decide who the best was.
Marshall looked solid while batting. He and Dujon ensured that there was a partnership. They batted very slowly though, grinding out runs. Their main objective was to stay in the wicket, but Dujon was ready to punish the bad balls and he pulled a short ball from Sandhu for six. They took West Indies pass 100 and kept taking singles.
The people in the stands, specially the Indian fans started to become tensed. Not much cheer, everyone was waiting for something to happen. Some like me must have started praying to their gods. This partnership need to be broken. Their partnership crossed 40 and only 60 odd runs were required for West Indies to get their third world cup.
In the 42nd over Kapil Dev introduced Mahinder Amarnath to the bowling. It was funny to see Amarnath bowling for the first time. You will get a feeling that he is jogging reluctantly towards the wicket and may not even reach and deliver the ball. But he surely bowled and in the very first over one of his slow medium pace deliveries took the inside edge of Dujon’s bat and rattled his wicket! 7th wicket was down, now only the 3 fast bowlers left.
First one of them, Andy Roberts came and joined Marshall. But Amarnath was bowling superbly and in the next over he forced Marshall to nick one of his out swingers and Gavaskar happily grab that one.
One man I have not mentioned much except that exceptional catch of Viv Richards was Kapil Dev. Kapil was wonderful as a captain in that match. He made right bowling changes and correct field placing and obviously bowled wonderfully well, so when he came back for his second spell I prayed for a wicket for him. He got Roberts leg-before-wicket to bring India to the brink of victory! He stood there with both his hands raised, realized that his team is going to make history in next few minutes.
Another joyous mob entered the ground after the fall of Roberts’ wicket, those guys were forced away by the police but by that time they were so much in the party mood nobody even bothered by those pushes. All the Indian fans in the stand were having a great celebration. Around me, people were doing ‘Bhangra’, led by the two Sardars as expected. The West Indians fans were quite, with many of them lighting cigars to hide their disappointment.
The last pair, Garner and Holding was in the wicket. They tried to delay the inevitable. Runs were coming in snail’s pace but they kept batting for almost half an hour and took the score to 140.
And then, in the last ball of the 52nd over Holding tried to pull Amarnath, the ball kept relatively low, hit him on the pad and umpire’s finger was raised even before the appeal was completed. I was watching very intensely but at that point everything became a blur, I could not believe it. We have won the world cup!! India has beaten on of the greatest sides in the cricket history to win the cup!
As soon as the final wicket fall the players dashed towards the pavilion as thousands of hysteric Indian as well as some West Indian fans were on the ground. Everybody wanted to go near the Members’ stand where they can have a better view of the prize distribution; some of them were just running and jumping like crazy, people around me got into tight embrace with each other and then even we ran in to the ground, I realized I have tears in my eyes, tears of unbound joy and happiness, the happiness of seeing your country winning the biggest prize in the game you love! But I ran hard; I had to get a good view of Kapil lifting the world cup!!