The third edition of the World Cup opened on an ominous note. India trounced reigning champions, the West Indies, by 34 runs. The triumph must have boosted Kapil Dev’s, and the team’s, confidence sky high. India strode on, brushing aside Zimbabwe.
Though Australia won handsomely by 162 runs, Kapil was brilliant. Even as the opponents rattled up 320 for nine, Kapil bowled superbly to capture five wickets for 43 runs. He took two catches, one of them off his own bowling. Then as India slumped to 66 for six, he hit up a stroke-filled 40 in characteristic belligerent fashion off just 27 balls with 2 fours and a six, and shared a quickfire 58-run stand with Madan Lal.
In the return match the mighty West Indies were seeking revenge and duly got it. Kapil scored a fighting 36. He had a gritty half-century stand with Mohinder Amarnath not long after Dilip Vengsarkar was hit a sickening blow on the face by Malcolm Marshall.
India then faced Zimbabwe. What followed was stuff that legends are made of. The Zimbabwean seamers made full use of the early life in the wicket. The top half of the Indian batting was blown away and left tottering at 17 for five. India were on the verge of being knocked out of the tournament. But Kapil Dev showed that he was no mere mortal on the cricket field. He launched one of the most ferocious assaults imaginable. Fours and sixes rained one after another. As the conditions eased, Kapil Dev seized the initiative totally. He put on 60 for the sixth wicket with Roger Binny, 62 for the eighth wicket with Madan Lal, and a blazing unfinished 126 for the ninth wicket with wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani (24 not out), a record not likely to be broken in a hurry. Kapil Dev remained unbeaten on 175 off just 138 balls as the overs ran out. Kapil’s 6 sixes and 16 fours in his stunning knock enabled India to finish on 266 for eight in their 60 overs.
The Zimbabweans fought on but Kapil appropriately applied the finishing touches by capturing the last wicket, and clinching victory by 31 runs. It was an amazing man-of-the-match performance by one of the true greats of the game.
The last round-robin match against Australia was crucial as only one of the two teams could advance to the semi-finals. Nearly all the ‘Kapil’s Devils’ contributed with the bat, and then the medium-pacers ensured that Australia would not get even within a hundred of India’s score.
India were in the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time but hosts England were hardly ever able to put pressure. India were now riding the crest of a wave. Kapil Dev mopped up the tail to finish with three for 35 in 11 overs, and then his batsmen gave the English no chance, cantering to an easy win.
Came the big day at Lord’s. The opponents were the near-invincible West Indies. If ever there were underdogs, it was the Indians on 25 June 1983. True to expectations, they packed up for a mere 183 runs in 54.4 overs.
It was going to be a mere formality for the Caribbean batting machine, or so it appeared. In strode Vivian Richards at one down, chewing gum and surveying the field in his seemingly arrogant manner. He began spanking the ball to the boundary, and the world prepared to laud the all-conquering West Indies for a hat-trick of titles. Just then Richards got carried away by his own brilliance. He pulled Madan Lal off the front foot high over mid-wicket. Kapil swivelled around and sprinted towards the boundary, keeping his eyes glued to the ball. It took almost a lifetime for the little dot to come down, and for Kapil to reach it. Reach he did, and only just. He clutched it as it was about to go down in front of him. The master blaster had been dismissed, and the Indians had managed to get their foot in the door.
That was just the spur they needed. It, in fact, typified the spirit of the team under Kapil Dev. He was himself a great trier, a fighter to the core. That rubbed off on the team. Led by the supercharged skipper they went for the kill. Kapil held a sharp catch in the covers to send back his opposite number, Clive Lloyd.
There was a veritable procession, and at 76 for six the champions had all but been dethroned. Only the knockout punch remained. That came via the gentle medium-pace of Mohinder Amarnath. In between, Kapil trapped Andy Roberts leg-before, and his team celebrated a famous victory.
The 1983 World Cup was a golden chapter in Kapil Dev’s glittering career, a World Cup record score of 175 not out, and 303 runs at 60.60 per innings; a five-wicket haul, and 12 wickets at 20.41 each and economy-rate of 2.91 runs per over; a record seven catches in a single World Cup; and the championship. Simply brilliant.
(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email email@example.com).
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011
Published in India by Sporting Links
ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3 https://www.amazon.in/dp/8190166840