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World Cup triumph in 1983: The most significant event in Indian cricket

34 years on, India's victory at Lord's is still fresh in cricket lovers memories. It was the inspiration Indian cricket needed to turn things around.

Kapil Dev World Cup News
Kapil Dev. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Patrick Eagar Collection via Getty Images)

June 25, 1983. A triumphant Indian team was celebrating in the Lord’s balcony with the World Cup in hand. We all remember those wonderful pictures where Kapil Dev was holding the trophy aloft in the balcony. He led his side with distinction and defied all the odds to lift the esteemed trophy, all of this at a slender age of 24.

When India reached the shores of England, the bookmakers had placed them at odds as long as 66-1 to lift the trophy. Prior to the 1983 World Cup, India had won just 1 out of 6 World Cup games played across the 1975 and 1979 editions. It was a long tournament as eight teams were placed into two groups of four and each team had to play the other team twice during the group stages. After India won their first group game against champions West Indies, hopes were revived of the Indian fans.

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Fast forward to the grinning Kapil Dev at Lord’s, a whole nation was inspired. The win brought India on the cricketing map as people started taking India seriously. It ignited a passion for the game to a whole generation, including a 10-year old Mumbai boy: Sachin Tendulkar. Such is the impact of these iconic victories that it prompts kids to take up the game. New talents started to unearth in the next few years. Indian cricket was not recognised as a team to fill up the numbers anymore. That India is considered as a powerful and the biggest cricketing nation in the world today is largely attributed to this win which happened exactly 34 years ago.

Zimbabwe game turned India’s campaign around

After winning against West Indies in the first group game, India romped past Zimbabwe but stuttered to consecutive losses to Australia and West Indies. The popular belief was that India had already run out of steam and will crash out in the group stages for the third successive time. They faced Zimbabwe in the next encounter and when Kapil Dev walked out to take guard, they were down and out at 17/5. What construed next is still etched in people’s memory present at the ground. Kapil counterattacked and reduced the lowly Zimbabwe into bits on his way to a record-breaking 175* which took just 138 balls. India, thanks to the 69% contribution to the total by their skipper, reached 266/8 and eventually won the game by 38 runs. It was this moment of brilliance by the captain which turned everything around. India went on to beat Australia and England in their subsequent games to find themselves in the finals of the mega event.

Despite India’s heroics and a glorious run of form, West Indies were expected to end India’s dream run in the finals. The hypothesis was already half validated as India were bowled out for 183 batting first. Kapil Dev emanated belief, passion, desperation and grit into his team during the innings break by giving them a pep talk. There was a spring in the stride of the Indian bowlers when West Indies walked out to chase. When Balwinder Sandhu’s in-swinger rattled the stumps of Gordon Greenidge, India weren’t celebrating much as in walked Vivan Richards with a mean look in his eyes.

Moment of brilliance by Kapil Dev in the finals

The moment of the match was when Richards top-edged a pull off Madan Lal and Kapil Dev, fielding inside the ring at midwicket, ran backwards, with the ball over his shoulders, to take a magnificent catch just 5 yards inside the boundary rope. The exodus of Richards gave India tremendous belief as they went on to bowl the 2-time Champions out for 140 to win the finals by 43 runs. Mohinder Amarnath and Madan Lal were the heroes with the ball picking three wickets apiece and Sandhu also chipped in with 2 crucial wickets. Roger Binny and the skipper Dev picked a wicket apiece to derail Clive Lloyd’s invincible team.

Next-gen taking Indian cricket ahead

That Indian cricket reached great heights in the mid 2000’s was the impact of this victory. Apart from Tendulkar, greats like Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble emerged in the next era all by getting inspired by the triumph of 1983. India started winning overseas under the leadership of Ganguly after the turn of the millennium. The progress was slow as it takes time and, perhaps, decades to build a team Ganguly had at that time.

An entire generation was thrilled to see India win in England in the summer of 1983. People started looking at cricket as a career option. BCCI, now the richest and the most powerful board in the world, started their journey towards the top post the win. The process is a vicious circle. Today’s generation – Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and the likes – were inspired to take up the game when they watched Sachin Tendulkar lift the entire team on his shoulders during the 1990’s. India won two World Cup titles later – World T20 2007 and World Cup 2011 – the twin wins have inspired the next generation to emerge through the ranks and do something similar. The process will go on and on for the years to come but it all started in 1983.

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