Kapil Dev lifts the Prudential World Cup after India dethroned two-times champions West Indies at Lord's in the final on June 25, 1983 © Getty Images
Kapil Dev lifts the Prudential World Cup after India dethroned two-times champions West Indies at Lord’s in the final on June 25, 1983 © Getty Images

Kim Hughes has opined before the 1983 Prudential World Cup that India is the “dark horse” of the tournament. It was an opinion even the optimistic of Indian cricket fans had no buyers. But as the championship unfolded, Kapil Dev’s “dark horses” turned out to be Derby winners as they galloped in style past the finishing line. Arunabha Sengupta goes into rewind mode to bring the magic of the 1983 World Cup final, played on June 25, 1983, that changed Indian cricket’s landscape forever.

The catch

Time had frozen in mid-air, crystallised into tantalising standstill. The 25,000 who had flocked to the stands of Lord’s for the 1983 Prudential Cup Final saw the ball swirling in the air, making for the great open spaces in the outfield. And they heard their hearts beating with palpating anxiety — no matter which team they were rooting for.

For the millions of Indians back home, many bleary eyed in the late hour, glued to this novelty of live telecast from the Ole Blighty, there were pangs of apprehension. Even as the ball hovered in the air, there remained the threat of the microwave link going down yet again, and Lord’s giving way to file-shots of a suit-clad Mohammad Rafi, singing his evergreen hits in a live concert.

The score was 57 for 2, and Viv Richards had raced to 33. As he had tucked into the Indian bowling with gusto, the puny target of 184 had looked just about an hour away. Balvinder Singh Sandhu had been hooked for four, Kapil Dev driven through the off and flicked past square-leg. Madan Lal’s innocuous offerings had been attacked with ominous panache. Multiple drives had scorched across the turf.

Skipper Kapil Dev had stood there at mid-wicket, most of the on side full of wide open spaces. Planned? One is not sure. Madan Lal had proceeded to bounce and Richards had swivelled and pulled. He had not got it off the middle, but the ball was anyway heading for no-man’s land in the country. Richards called for two, and Desmond Haynes, running for captain Clive Lloyd, responded. The television camera focused on the deep-midwicket fence, with the man at deep square-leg running around.

And then the stadium erupted. Somehow Kapil Dev had run back from his position, covering the ground in long, lithe, athletic strides. He had extended his long arms, eyes never leaving the ball. After spending what seemed to be aeons in the air, the cherry had come searing down and landed in the hands of the great man.

Viv Richards walked back, dismissed for 33, which we now know was scored in just 28 balls. Back in those days, commentators were still fitting the Test match-measurement of minutes to gauge the quickness of the cameo. The 42 minutes had hinted at a swift and majestic trot to the third World Cup in a row.

Now, with the score 57 for 3 and Lloyd limping with a strained groin, the question of their win was not so rhetoric any more. The rank outsiders who had started the tournament with one win in the previous two editions, at odds of 66 to 1, were in with a definite chance.

It had been a Kapil Dev miracle that had hauled India out of desperate straits at 17 for 5 against Zimbabwe, and had breathed the spirit of indomitability into the team. They had trounced the formidable Australians, securing an unexpected place in the semi-finals. And then they had waltzed past England, outplaying them in a display of clinical professionalism. Now, it was this second Kapil miracle that brought them right back into the reckoning.

Morning blues

The indications of a close tussle could not have seemed more off the cards when play had begun in the morning.

Andy Roberts and Joel Garner started operating their mean, menacing machinery, the balls darting through, making survival difficult, scoring next to impossible. Garner came through at chest or chin. Roberts remained fast and flat.

Sunil Gavaskar succumbed for 2, caught at the wicket off Roberts, thereby ending a miserable tournament with the bat. Mohinder Amarnath joined Krishnamachari Srikkanth at the wicket, and the next hour produced resilient cricket. There was no respite. When Roberts and Garner rested, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall ran in.

Amarnath, in the form of his life and a growing reputation for standing up to fast bowling, met the pacemen with a solid bat. Once during the innings his favourite hook shot was unleashed, and went for three to the long-leg. Yet, the progress was slow.

It was Srikkanth who managed to take the attack to this ruthless pack. He hooked Roberts for four. The bowler sent down a faster bouncer and Srikkanth pulled it for six. Finally came the shot of the Indian innings, as the dashing opener drove Roberts square of the wicket, the sight and sound reminding one of a gunshot. It rattled against the boards under the Tavern Stand.

Marshall got Srikkanth leg-before, after what seemed to be a blistering innings. Alas, the scorebooks  disappoint. It tells us he managed 38 off 57 balls. But, the bravado does not materialise from the numbers unless one looks with scientific rigour, past the absolute scores and strike-rates. And then one finds that Srikkanth indeed top-scored in the match. We also realise that while the runs throughout the game had been pushed along at a strike rate of 50.46, Srikkanth’s 66.7 against the West Indian new ball was indeed striking.

Besides, the look at the numbers also underlines the value of Kapil’s catch of Richards. The Antiguan master had been blazing along at 117.9. Another 5 overs of him and Indians would have been patted on the back with sympathetic murmurs of ‘hard luck’ and ‘well played’.

Amarnath and Yashpal Sharma looked to consolidate. They batted solidly, but the runs were reduced to a trickle. The policy of keeping wickets in hand had worked with the Englishmen in the semi-final, but now the Indians were setting a target. Against a side of the most devastating and destructive stroke-players. No one quite knew how much was enough. There was no hard core strategy other than preserving wickets and going after the twelve overs of off-spin bowled by Larry Gomes and Viv Richards.

But against this attack, keeping wickets intact was an uphill task in itself. After a long vigil of 80 balls, Amarnath missed one from Holding and it sent his off-stump cartwheeling. His innings had amounted to 26 and the score read 90 for 3.

And two runs later, Yashpal, fresh from a gem of an innings against England, went after Gomes and could not clear the infield on the off-side.

Kapil Dev blasted a few boundaries, and Sandeep Patil looked confident as India went into lunch at 100 for 4. Yes, in those early days when limited over matches were played in whites with a red ball, players broke for lunch and tea. The Indian position looked slightly vulnerable, but after the Tunbridge Wells affair the expectations of the countrymen had just been injected with a never-say-die stimulus.

Post-prandial problems

After the break, wickets fell in a flurry. Kapil hit one from Gomes to deep mid-on. Kirti Azad fell to an ambitious hook off Roberts before opening his account. Roger Binny flicked the same bowler straight to mid-wicket.

Patil and Madan Lal attempted a recovery, both getting down on the knee and slogging the part-time spin for a six apiece. But Garner, who had remained wicketless in spite of being excruciatingly difficult to get away, now castled the Bombay batsman. Eight runs later, Madan Lal missed one from Marshall. India had slumped to 161 for 9.

The team batted deep. Sandhu, who came in at No. 11 to join wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani, had made 70 against Imran Khan on his Test debut and 67 against this very West Indian attack earlier that year.  With plenty of overs to go, the two put their heads down, sensibly trying to play out the full 60 overs. They could get as far as 54.4 before Holding’s pace proved too hot for Kirmani. The total on the board stood at 183.

For many thousands the challenge was over. India as a cricketing nation had only learnt to taste victories with regularity since the previous decade. In limited-overs cricket they were the virtual minnows. To have got to the finals meant a lot, and it seemed with a fair amount of certainty that their dream run had ended. The result had already exceeded all expectations of the Indian cricket fan of the day, limited in his dreams and far more grounded in reality. Yet, Kapil Dev’s words rang out in the dressing room. “We have made 183, they have got to make them.”

Monster ball

When the team made their way to the ground for the West Indian innings, the phenomenal opening pair of Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes took guard. Richards, Lloyd and Gomes sat in the dressing room, awaiting their turns — only if necessary. One hundred and eighty three looked miniscule in front of this mighty line-up. But, another miracle was to unfold.

The ones who sat watching the action that day can still see it vividly. Sandhu running in, his ball pitching outside the off-stump, the great Greenidge horribly misreading the swing, shouldering arms, and the ball curling in to clip his off-bail. The best opening pair in the world separated at 5. Greenidge walked back, and Sandhu was forever encapsulated in history with that singular moment.

But, in walked Richards, with that customary swagger, the jaw chomping down on the ever-present gum. Boundaries flowed, thick and fast. The West Indians in the crowd seethed in raucous delight. Celebrations filled the stands. The fifty was raised.

At this score Haynes drove Madan Lal uppishly and found Roger Binny in the covers. The second legendary opener was back, for a rather low score. But there was an avalanche of boundaries at the other end. Joining Richards at the wicket was Lloyd himself, the two centurions of the two previous World Cups together, promising an afternoon of memorable entertainment. True, Lloyd grasped his groin painfully on running the first single and signalled for a runner. But, he had been tormenting India for more than a decade.

And then Richards pulled Madan Lal and Kapil started running back from mid-wicket.

Two slips and a short-leg

The medium-paced attack of Madan Lal, Binny and Sandhu might not have looked much on paper as a supporting unit for Kapil Dev. Certainly they were no Roberts, Garner, Marshall, Holding. But, in the English conditions, they could be more than a handful. And they were. With Richards back in the pavilion, Kapil put slip in place. Gavaskar crouched beside Kirmani as Madan Lal ran in and moved it away from left-handed Gomes. The bat flirted, the ball was nicked and ended up in the grasp of the Little Master.

With Faoud Bacchus joining him as the last specialist batsman, Lloyd tried to hit his way out of trouble. He tried to hit Binny over extra-cover, but perhaps the injured groin did not allow him to get to the pitch of the ball. Like his vice-captain, his stroke ended in Kapil Dev’s fantastic hands.

It was 66 for 5 and West Indies had lost 3 wickets for 9 runs. It was well into the night in India, but hope glittered in sparkling rays around the country. Would the team achieve the impossible? Kapil Dev thought so. Two slips were stationed and Srikkanth perched at short-leg.

The West Indians in the crowd had gone quiet. Well, not all of them. According to David Frith’s report in Wisden, “Down by the Tavern two blood-stained policemen carted off a Rasta (farian) who had departed from the peaceful stance, while a policewoman lost her cap, her smooth hairdo, but not her composure. Lord’s was seeing, for the first time, West Indies in real adversity.”

Having spelt magic with a ball that had darted in, Sandhu now came back to produce a wide delivery that swung away. Bacchus drove hard, got the edge and Kirmani dived to take it in front of Gavaskar at slip. It was 76 for 6. The sections of the ground where Indian supporters sat grew louder.

Jeff Dujon could bat. Indians knew it very well, after the 110 he had scored off them at St John’s the previous winter. Now, as Marshall joined him as the last reasonable batsman, he hooked Sandhu for six. All was not over yet. Marshall stood there, dogged and determined. Dujon was all class as he manoeuvred the bowling, picking up steady runs. They added 43, keeping the spectators of both sides on tenterhooks. Balance was being restored, the match was gearing up for a flourishing finale. And this was when Amarnath ran in.

Surrender to an apologetic saunter

Did he indeed run in? It was more of an apologetic saunter, tarrying in the middle, giving the illusion of having missed his step, before continuing to amble to the crease. The balls were sent down, coated with his many, many years of experience. The innocuous looking delivery landed on the seam, and bounced a trifle more than expected. Dujon, committed on the front foot, tried to leave it. But it struck the glove and landed low down on the off-stump. Amarnath broke into a wide smile. The last resistance had been removed. It was 119 for 7.

Five runs later, Amarnath moved it away and Marshall hung his bat out. Once again Gavaskar pouched it.

There was something heart-breaking in the way Andy Roberts departed. Missing the line, wrapped on the pads off Kapil, he waited for the umpire’s decision. Suddenly it occurred to him that he was out of the crease. Roberts hurriedly made his way back and turned to see the finger raised. As he walked back, he was accompanied on the way by a persuasive gentleman, talking with all the vim and vigour of a seasoned salesman. Later it became known that he had been an agent trying to coax Roberts into joining a rebel tour to South Africa. The score read 126 for 9.

Crowds on the pitch after the final of the Prudential World Cup at Lord's, June 25, 1983 © Getty Images
Crowds on the pitch after the final of the Prudential World Cup at Lord’s, June 25, 1983 © Getty Images

Garner and Holding delayed the end for almost half an hour, adding 14 runs in the course of a dogged 7-over period. And finally, Amarnath sent down the last ball of the 52nd over, yet another curious, military-medium dibbly-dobbly. Holding missed the line and was rapped on the pads. For the final time the finger went up. The Indians made a mad dash for the stumps.

On one side there were Roberts, Holding, Garner and Marshall, with final career figures amounting to 1,086 Test wickets and 532 ODI scalps. In head-to-head comparison on that particular day, they were pipped by Sandhu, Madan Lal, Binny and Amarnath — whose corresponding combined figures at the end of their playing days read 160 in Tests and 212 in ODIs. The bowling averages and strike-rates of the two groups are hard to fit in the same graph.

Yes, it was a giant killing upset and of the most incredible variety. The West Indians had dazed looks of having come face-to-face with the absolutely unexpected. Were they overconfident? Perhaps. Yet, for all those who made it to the stadium that day, or sat in front of the television screens, Kapil Dev’s smile as he held the trophy was worth every spent pound and unslept hour.

What followed?

The champagne was uncorked by Gavaskar, the teetotaller. But the effects of the win far exceeded a tentative venture into the world of alcohol. Exactly 51 years after making their Test match debut, India had finally made the slow, arduous way to the summit.

It was five minutes to midnight in India. Paraphrasing those famous words of Jawaharlal Nehru, “almost at the stroke of midnight, as the world slept, India woke to a new life — a life in which cricket would be mingled forever.” Now, as the cricketers returned and were feted as conquering heroes, Pandit Nehru’s daughter, the then Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi, remarked: “This shows we can do it.” This phrase became enormously popular, and was echoed some time later in an Indian magazine describing the manufacture of India’s first Rover.

In the cultural field, Lata Mangeshkar sung Bharata Viswa Vijeta, a song in the honour of the world champions, written by veteran lyricist Indeevar of Zindagi Ka Safar fame.

The win changed the face of cricket in the country forever. Test cricket may have suffered somewhat in the aftermath, but ODIs became enormously popular. The Indian fan, thus far happy with honourable draws, delighted by one-off wins, suddenly realised he could support a champion side. Little less than wins satisfied him anymore.

The resounding success of the live telecast, coinciding happily with the advent of colour televisions in the country, underlined the enormous market for live action. Soon, the shorter form of the game was beamed live whenever India travelled abroad, to England, Australia and New Zealand. Sponsorship and advertising rushed in and the one-day game became supremely important.

Sunil Gavaskar had scored 36 not out in 60 overs during the first World Cup and had finished with just 59 runs at 9.83 in the 1983 edition. The success and its far reaching effects would make him take the game seriously enough to lead India to one-day triumph in Australia, author a book named One-Day Wonders and hit his first century in this format in his penultimate international game. It would come four years later, in the next World Cup that would be hosted in the subcontinent.

Finally, the World Cup win generated a tidal wave of interest in the game among the younger generation. Every street corner suddenly saw more and more kids with lamp post bases as wickets and wooden planks as bats. The ripples percolated down to the suburbs, small towns and villages.

Somewhere amongst these youngsters in the cities were the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. In the small towns, the game spread, the win was recounted to the next generation as they grew up and wide-eyed youngsters like MS Dhoni listened to the stories of unlimited possibilities.

Brief scores

India 183 in 54.4 overs (Krishnamachari Srikkanth 38; Andy Roberts 3 for 32) beat West Indies 140 in 52 overs (Viv Richards 33; Madan Lal 3 for 31, Mohinder Amarnath 3 for 12) by 43 runs.

Man of the Match: Mohinder Amarnath.
Man of the Series: Mohinder Amarnath.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

Video: Memories from the 1983 Prudential World Cup

Photo Gallery: India’s 1983 World Cup triumph against West Indies