It was a night of celebration. People swarmed the streets, there were smiles all around, magic was in the air. For a moment everything was forgotten — the grind of daily life, the examination results. There was a good reason for this joyful mayhem, this spontaneous outburst of emotions. Kapil's Devils had just pulled off a coup in the '83 World Cup, signalling the dawn of a new era. It was a special night indeed.
The World Cup. It does funny things to people. Now let's take a journey to its genesis.
The year was 1975, the host England. The competition witnessed several fascinating duels. Like the battle between the belligerent Kallicharran and the fiery Dennis Lillee. The Aussie head-hunter repeatedly pitched short, but Kallicharran was ready as he launched into breath-taking pulls and hooks, picking up 35 runs from 10 deliveries It was a day when titans met and sparks flew.
And then there was that Aussie leftarm seamer Gary Gilmour's burst of six for 14, that sent England on a tailspin in the semi-final. But was anything more memorable than Clive Lloyd's ruthless dismantling of the Australian attack in the final? Lloyd not only made a hundred but also produced a knock frozen in time.
Fittingly he became the first skipper to hold aloft the Cup. The Aussies had lost a close match, with a young Antiguan called Vivian Richards playing a decisive role with his razor-sharp fielding. The world would hear more of him later.
It was obvious now that a new, vibrant form of the game had emerged. The spectators loved nothing more than seeing the batter knock the cover off the ball... and with the big hits came the big bucks.
And whenever money comes into the picture, there is bound to be competition. In 1977 Kerry Packer, an Australian tycoon wanting to start his own TV network, roped in the leading stars, made them wear colourful costumes, staged matches under lights. The game changed forever.
Some called it ‘pyjama cricket', but Packer couldn't care less. The chasm between the traditionalists and the Packer boys widened.
The clouds had not yet cleared when the second World Cup began, once again in England. The worst hit were the Australians who came with virtually their second string. It wouldn't have mattered much. The West Indians were way ahead of the rest of the pack, and coasted to the final. Their opponents this time were the English.
Viv Richards had become a household name by now, and not just for his fielding. King Richards was the most feared batsman in the world, a destroyer pure and simple. None looked beyond the Caribbeans for the 1983 event. And none gave India a chance anyway — it had lost five out of its six games in the two World Cups.
But everything changed in the summer of '83. India shocked West Indies in the opener at the Oval and it was the beginning of a dream that culminated on one golden evening at Lord's.
Along the way, there were several memorable moments like Kapil Dev's now-part-of-folklore knock of 175 not out against Zimbabwe that really lifted the Indians. Then there was the big win at Chelmsford in the vital league game as the under-rated medium pacers Madan Lai and Roger Binny ambushedAustralia. An useful allround effort from Mohinder Amarnath and a blazing effort by the swashbuckling Sandip Patil enabled India to humble England in the semi-final. And then in the final at Lord's...
18 3. A number few Indians will forget. India was bundled out for 183 under seaming conditions, and when Viv Richards stroked the ball arrogantly, it seemed curtains for Kapil's men. Then the ‘King' played a rather casual shot and Kapil held on to the skied hit, under pressure, running backwards. The sluice gates were open. When Amarnath closed out the match under mounting tension, trapping the last man Holding leg before, India had achieved the impossible. Amarnath became the only cricketer to win Man of the Match awards in both the semifinal and final.
Steve Waugh was the man for the occasion in the Reliance World Cup 1987. The event, for the first time, travelled out of England, it was now held in the subcontinent. Actually the Aussies believed they were destined to win the World Cup after shutting out India by one run in the opener at Madras. Led by the courageous Allan Border, Australia never looked back after that cliffhanger.
It was an eventful World Cup in many ways. Gavaskar scored his first hundred in one-dayers, Viv Richards notched up the highest score in a World Cup match, Chetan Sharma performed a hat-trick and Steve Waugh emerged as the ‘Ice Man', cool under any situation, even when he was bowling the last over.
Both India and Pakistan were expected to meet in the final at the Eden Gardens, but flattered to deceive. The Aussies stopped Pakistan in its tracks before a shell shocked Lahore crowd and India was ‘swept' away by Graham Gooch.
And in the final Mike Gatting's reverse sweep off his opposite number Allan Border separated the victor from the vanquished. The result had greater ramifications. Australia from there on went from strength to strength, while England and Gatting entered a nightmarish phase.
The Reliance World Cup was the last such event to be played in whites. In the 1992 edition Down Under, the teams sported colour outfits. The format too was changed, there were no groupings this time. India once again went down to Australia by one-run and despite a victory over Pakistan, gradually lost its way. The pre-tournament favourites
New Zealand was on a roll, but ran out of gas in the semi-final against Pakistan. Imran's men started sluggishly but fought back like 'cornered tigers,' and a new star Inzamam-ul-Haq was born. England, professional as always, made it to the final only to see Wasim Akram produce a match turning spell to shatter its hopes yet again. And Imran too realised his life ambition.
Who will rule the world this time? Will we see a new team emerging on top?
Fasten your seat-belts and let the action begin.