On March 10, 1985, India clinched the Benson and Hedges World Championship of Cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) by beating arch-rivals Pakistan by eight wickets in the final. The tournament was like a mini-World Cup and India weren’t the favourites even though they were the reigning World Cup champions.
Right through the tournament, the Indian team — a good mix of youth and experience — was dominant and put in splendid displays to clinch the cup. India bowled out the opponents in all the games barring the final. Ravi Shastri was declared Champion of Champions at the end of the tournament and was gifted with a gleaming Audi.
Sadanand Vishwanath, the young wicket-keeper on that side, recalls the memorable victory in an exclusive interview with CricketCountry’s Nishad Pai Vaidya.
Excerpts from an interview:
CricketCountry (CC): Was a lot expected from India as World Cup champions going into the Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket?
Sadanand Vishwanath (SV): It was an all-time high for the country when Kapil’s (Dev) Devils won us the World Cup in 1983. The importance of that victory is unmistakable as the nation was changing and cricket played a major role in that period. However, after that triumph, we lost to the West Indies at home. But, we did regain our composure and under Sunny bhai’s [Sunil Gavaskar] captaincy. In 1985, we lost a series against England, where I made my debut in the one-day series. So, going into the adventure Down Under, no one gave us a chance, considering the background. However, there was absolutely no pressure on us as we were playing away from home.
CC: India bowled out the opposing sides in all the games except, the final where Pakistan lost nine wickets. What do you think worked for the team and what was the X factor?
SV: In our arsenal, we had an amazing list of all-rounders starting with the one and only Kapil Dev. We also had Ravi Shastri, Mohinder Amarnath, Madan Lal, Roger Binny and Chetan Sharma. Manoj Prabhakar was also there in the roster, but did not play a game. Shastri performed admirably. The team was ably led by Sunil Gavaskar, who got the best out of all the players. He was a great motivator for the younger brigade in the squad. Our new ball bowlers struck early in every game. Shastri and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan bowled numerous match-winning spells, picking up crucial wickets. The Australian grounds are big and way the tournament was played with two balls at either ends. That helped keep the spinners in the game as the ball could grip and spin. Apart from that our fielding was brilliant.
CC: How was it keeping to the young Laxman Sivaramakrishnan. Along with you, he was one of the success stories in that tournament.
SV: I was at an advantage as I had played with him since my school days. We had also toured together to Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and England. That experience helped. The other thing that helped me was that I kept wickets to BS Chandrasekhar for my bank team. Keeping to leg-spinners is a challenge, but I always enjoyed it.
CC: The final was against the arch-rivals Pakistan. India had beaten them earlier in the tournament, but a final is a final. What was the pressure like heading into the game?
SV: There was no pressure at all. We were initially expecting a title clash with the West Indies, but they lost in the semi-finals. We won the semis because of some magnificent batting by Kapil and Dilip Vengsarkar as they eased the nerves during our run-chase. From then on, we knew we were destined to win the cup. I remember walking through the Richmond Park in Melbourne with Sivaramakrishnan and I had a hunch we would win it. In fact, when I helped a blind man cross the street there, he too said we would emerge victorious. I had a cup of coffee with him and it felt nice that he too saw an Indian victory.
CC: Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat. Can you describe the way Pakistan collapsed early on? Pakistan was suddenly 33 for four.
SV: Kapil got us the initial breakthrough as Mudassar Nazar chased a widish delivery and edged it into my gloves. I just took a regulation catch towards first-slip. Binny missed that game due to a bout of flu and Chetan came in. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands by dismissing Rameez Raja — who had done very well for Pakistan in the earlier game. Krishnamachari Srikkanth caught him backward of square. That really had the Pakistan team rocking at 33 for four. Imran Khan and Javed Miandad tried to build a partnership, but we never let the initiative slip. We limited them to 176 for nine in 50 overs.
CC: Javed Miandad and Imran Khan tried to recover. But Imran was run-out with the score on 101 and Pakistan stumbled futher. At 131, you stumped Javed Miandad. Was that the stand-out moment for you in the tournament. Can you talk us through it?
SV: Imran was run-out by a brilliant pick up and throw by Sunny bhai at point. Wasim Raja tried to resurrect the innings, but we were simply unstoppable in that tournament. Coming to the stumping, full credit should be given to Sivaramakrishnan for defeating a man of the calibre of Javed. That ball was an absolute beauty and Javed knew he was gone. He did not even make an effort to get back to the crease. Getting Javed was a huge bonus. The first ball after the drinks break he was stumped if I am not mistaken. That moment will always be etched in my memory. During that game, my mother was in the hospital in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). I knew she would be watching me play. She passed away a couple of months after that. I guess I owed it to her that I performed well.
CC: The bowlers did a splendid job to limit Pakistan to 176 for nine. What was the talk at the break? India had chased a few totals in the tournament, but this was the big one?
SV: It was imperative to get off to a good start, which was provided by Ravi and Srikkanth. From that point onwards, we just cruised. Srikkanth got us off to a flyer and Shastri held firm. We won with great comfort and with balls to spare.
CC: India won the game comfortably by eight wickets and Shastri remained unbeaten. He performed really well throughout the tournament. Can you throw light on the impact he on India’s title triumph? Watching him drive the Audi would surely have been a great moment not just for him, but the whole team?
SV: Ravi Shastri was instrumental in getting many youngsters in that period. He was the torch-bearer for all of us and was someone we all tried to emulate. His gutsy character inspired the youth such as myself, Maninder Singh, Sivaramakrishnan to name a few. We were taken aback during the presentation that Sunny bhai was quitting captaincy. During his speech he made the announcement as he accepted the trophy. When the keys were given to Shastri, we all got into the car. I got on top of the bonnet. We were sipping champagne and they are some memorable pictures. We were very happy for Shastri and there was tremendous team spirit throughout.
CC: What were the celebrations like once India clinched the cup convincingly?
SV: It was special as the pictures were beamed throughout the world. There was a party at the Hilton Hotel after we won. Some of our fans also joined us to celebrate that triumph. The champagne was flowing and we owed it to the fans who believed in us.
CC: What were you other outstanding memories of that triumph?
SV: Mr Erapalli Prasanna was our manager and he played a major role. He was truly inspirational and a father figure to us. We can never forget the bridges we built with the members of the Indian community in Melbourne and Sydney. The food we had at Indian restaurants was fantastic. On our way back, we had a three-day holiday at Singapore and it was sponsored by Air-India. A lot of people remember that tournament and give me respect is because we won. Nothing succeeds like success. I don’t know what would have happened if we did not win that tournament. That tournament made it possible. I feel I was born to play in the Benson and Hedges World Championship of Cricket. That was my destiny and I am thankful to the almighty for giving me that opportunity of playing for the country.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)