Kapil Dev in action against Zimbabwe in 1983 World Cup © Getty Images
Kapil Dev in action against Zimbabwe in 1983 World Cup © Getty Images

 

By Suhrid Barua

 

Syed Kirmani recalls watching Kapil Dev’s magnificent knock of 175 not out against Zimbabwe from the other end.

 

The Nevill Ground at Tunbridge Wells was witness to one of the most explosive one-day innings in World Cup history by Kapil Dev. It was belligerence of a rare kind as Kapil tore the Zimbabwean bowlers to shreds, propelling India to a score of 266 for eight in its stipulated 60 overs.

 

His epic innings lifted India from 17 for five after the Zimbabwean new ball bowlers – Peter Rawson and Kevin Curran dismissed India’s top five – Sunil Gavaskar, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Mohinder Amarnath, Sandeep Patil and Yashpal Sharma – in a flash.

 

The breathtaking knock came at a time when India needed someone to produce something out of the ordinary to get them out of jail. It was truly a Houdini act by Kapil, who hit 16 fours and six sixes in his 138-ball unbeaten 175.

 

His unbroken 126-run ninth-wicket partnership with wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani panned out to be the turning point in India setting Zimbabwe a target of 267 for victory. The unfinished stand is the best ninth-wicket partnership in World Cup history, and second best-ever in One-Day International (ODI) history.

 

Syed Kirmani, the man who shared the world-record stand with Kapil, relives the moment: “When I walked into bat after the fall of Madan Lal’s wicket, I told Kaps, ‘You just play your natural game” to which he said, ‘Humko 60 overs khelna hai’. I told him that I would try my best to hold one end up.”

 

India were still in dire straits at 140 for eight when Kirmani joined Kapil in the middle. The onslaught Kapil unleashed on the Zimbabwe bowlers is still fresh in Kirmani’s memory. “It was one of the best innings I have ever seen. It was Diwali at Tunbridge Wells. He simply murdered the Zimbabwe bowlers,” he reminisces.

 

The blitzkrieg from Kapil’s blade was such that Kiramni was happy to play second fiddle. “He was in such destructive form that I was content to take a single and allow him farm the strike, unless of course it was a half-volley or short-ball which I whacked,” he says.

 

Kirmani was unconquered on 24 off 56 balls, inclusive of two hits to the fence. His was the second-highest score in that game.

 

The Kapil-Kirmani stand spared the Indian blushes as the entire batting line-up had come unstuck. Only four batsmen reached double-figures. “To mount a recovery from a situation where we lost our first five wickets early and on a wicket where the ball was swinging like a boomerang, and had pace as well, and then going on to win the match would always have special memories for me. The overcast conditions also provided a lot of encouragement for the Zimbabwean opening bowlers,” he recounts how they weathered the Zimbabwean resistance.

 

Of course, India experienced some jittery moments when Kevin Curran raised visions of a serious Zimbabwe fightback with a 93-ball 73 inclusive of eight boundaries. “We were anticipating some partnership from the Zimbabweans and were not going to buckle under pressure. Of course, we heaved a sigh of relief when Curran fell at the score on 230,” he pointed out.

 

Besides his superb back-to-the wall partnership with Kapil, Kirmani had a stupendous 1983 World Cup. He was adjudged the best wicketkeeper of the tournament, registering 14 dismissals in eight matches. “Obviously, getting the silver gloves and silver ball from great wicketkeeper like Godfrey Evans was a huge high point of my career, something I would cherish forever,” he added.

 

The summit clash against mighty West Indies saw India script a glorious chapter, something Kirmani feels was only possible due to the relaxed dressing room atmosphere. “Our win over West Indies at Old Trafford in the league phase injected a lot of confidence in us. The dressing room mood was very positive, and all of us were enjoying the game, so it helped as we had nothing to lose,” he signed off.

 

(Suhrid Barua is a cricket buff who invariably gets pumped up before every India match)