Kapil Dev’s 175 not out was an incredible innings — but would India not have made it without the miraculous knock? © Getty Images
Kapil Dev’s 175 not out was an incredible innings — but would India not have made it without the miraculous knock? © Getty Images

On June 18, 1983, Kapil Dev played what is probably the greatest ODI innings by an Indian. Coming out at 9 for 4 and watching India slump to 17 for 5 and then 78 for 7, Kapil decided to counterattack and went on to score 175 not out and lift India to 266 for 8. As an individual performance it was one of the all-time great knocks. It also won the match for his side. But how crucial was it towards India’s cause in the tournament? Abhishek Mukherjee finds out.

It was, as they say, as good as it gets. Kapil Dev won the toss and batted. Both openers fell for ducks. Kapil walked out at 9 for 4. The fall of wickets read 0, 6, 6, 9, 17, and then 77 and 78. Even after the 8th wicket fell at 140, India did not stand a chance to make it till 200, let alone 266.

But Kapil believed. He smashed 175 not out in 138 balls. Nobody else went past 24, but that did not matter. Take away the extras, and the rest of the Indian line-up scored 79 from 222 (ignoring no-balls). But Kapil did not care, for he hit 16 fours and 6 sixes, a hundred runs without running.

It was one of the greatest innings of all time. It is probably the greatest ever by an Indian. But — how crucial was the innings in India’s run to the World Cup? Let us have a look.

The rules

This was an era when runs conceded did not count in the points table. Hence, if you were tied on points, the side with the higher batting run rate went through.

The other teams in India’s group were West Indies, Australia, and Zimbabwe. Till the match in question, India had lost once to Australia, beaten Zimbabwe once, and had won 1 and lost 1 against West Indies. In other words, their 4 matches amounted to 2 wins and 2 defeats.

Let us check what the situation was, before the match.

Table 1: Points table, World Cup 1983, Group B, June 17

M W L RS BF PTS RR
West Indies 4 3 1 980 1,371 12 4.29
Australia 4 2 2 969 1,440 8 4.04
India 4 2 2 793 1,305 8 3.65
Zimbabwe 4 1 3 851 1,440 4 3.55

BF: Balls faced, RS: Runs scored

Australia had a serious advantage in terms of run rate, but they had to play West Indies on the same day India played Zimbabwe. Australia fought better than people had anticipated: three batsmen scored fifties, taking the score to 273 for 6, but the West Indian top three were too good to be contained. The run rate could have proved crucial.

In the end West Indies prevailed, though the 13-ball margin was closer than what pundits would have anticipated before the match.

While all this was happening at Lord’s, India were playing Zimbabwe in idyllic Tunbridge Wells, and history was being created.

This was what is was like immediately after the match:

Table 2: Points table, World Cup 1983, Group B, June 19

M W L RS BF PTS RR
West Indies 5 4 1 1,256 1,718 16 4.39
India 5 3 2 1,059 1,665 12 3.82
Australia 5 2 3 1,242 1,800 8 4.14
Zimbabwe 5 1 4 1,086 1,800 4 3.62

BF: Balls faced, RS: Runs scored

This is where things started to look funny. West Indies had qualified thanks to their win, while Zimbabwe, despite a few spirited performances, had been knocked out. The match between the two teams was a mere formality, unless West Indies collapsed miserably and India did something outrageous, thus displacing the men from the Caribbean from the top slot.

But — here is the important bit: India had not qualified yet, and had to beat Australia. Had Australia won, they would have gone through thanks to their superior run rate. In other words, I repeat, India had to beat Australia to go through to the semi-finalA win against Australia would see them through. A defeat would have knocked them out.

But India duly went past Australia, bowling them out for a paltry 129, thanks to Roger Binny and Madan Lal, who took 4 wickets apiece.

Table 3: Points table, World Cup 1983, Group B, final

M W L RS BF PTS RR
West Indies 6 5 1 1,428 1,989 20 4.31
India 6 4 2 1,306 2,025 16 3.87
Australia 6 2 4 1,371 2,160 8 3.81
Zimbabwe 6 1 5 1,257 2,160 4 3.49

BF: Balls faced, RS: Runs scored

Thus India qualified, and the rest is history. But the question remains: how would things have panned out, had Kapil not pulled off that miracle, that innings of all innings?

But — what if Kapil and India had failed that day?

Let us go back to Table 1. Let us assume the worst for India in the Tunbridge Wells match. Suppose India never recovered from 17 for 5. Suppose they got bowled out for, say, 150. Too much? Let us settle for half of that, then. Suppose India got bowled out for 75.

Let us also suppose that Zimbabwe did not get complacent, and chased it down at a normal pace, in, say, 20 overs.

Hypothetical final scores: India 75 all out (in 60 overs, since if you get bowled out your full quota of overs is considered), Zimbabwe 80 for 2 in 20 overs.

Do we accept that things could not have gone worse for India in the match? Let us recalculate Table 2, then:

Table 2A: Points table, World Cup 1983, Group B, June 19

M W L RS BF PTS RR
West Indies 5 4 1 1,256 1,718 16 4.39
Australia 5 2 3 1,242 1,800 8 4.14
Zimbabwe 5 2 3 927 1,560 8 3.57
India 5 2 3 868 1,665 8 3.13

BF: Balls faced, RS: Runs scored

India languish at the bottom. Their run rate is appalling, but here is the crucial part — Zimbabwe play West Indies next. Let us assume West Indies vs Zimbabwe panned out in a West Indies win (would that be too much to expect)?

Table 3A: Points table, World Cup 1983, Group B, without the last India vs Australia match

M W L RS BF PTS RR
West Indies 6 5 1 1,428 1,989 20 4.31
Australia 5 2 3 1,242 1,800 8 4.14
Zimbabwe 6 2 4 1,257 2,160 8 3.49
India 5 2 3 868 1,665 8 3.13

BF: Balls faced, RS: Runs scored

What would India have needed from here, in the last match, given that they are tied on points with Australia (and Zimbabwe) before the last match, and had a woeful run rate?

Of course, they had to beat Australia in the last match. A win against Australia would see them through. A defeat would have knocked them out.

In other words, the situation would have remained the same for India irrespective of Kapil’s innings. Kapil’s was an outrageous innings, but it did not alter the situation of Group B.

Oh, and India would still have qualified as the No. 2 side.

Brief scores:

India 266 for 8 in 60 overs (Kapil Dev 175*; Peter Rawson 3 for 47, Kevin Curran 3 for 65) beat Zimbabwe 235 (Kevin Curran 73; Madan Lal 3 for 42) by 31 runs.

Man of the Match: Kapil Dev.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)