There were not many who backed the team. The selectors had picked “horses for courses” and wished them well. “None backed us actually,” remembered Kapil Dev, the captain of the winning team. After all, India had won just one of the previous six World Cup encounters in 1975 and 1979. The win too had come against a nondescript East Africa side.
There was embarrassment in India's debut match in 1975. England amassed 334 in 60 overs.
India's response was appalling with Sunil Gavaskar making 36 not out. In 1979, India lost all three matches. India was just making up the numbers. It all changed in 1983.
“When we arrived in England, there was no pressure on us. In any case, we didn't have a great one-day record prior to the World Cup. We just wanted to enjoy the game. Believe me, this part, enjoying the cricket and each other's company, helped the team to perform collectively and always with a positive mind. We had nothing to lose really,” recollected Kapil.
The team had a glut of all-rounders. “That was our strength,” recalled Mohinder Amarnath, who played a critical role in the semifinal against England and the final against the West Indies. He won the Man-of-the-match award in both the matches.
“We had a strong belief in ourselves,” Mohinder emphasised. He wanted the team to remember this aspect before taking the field in the final against Sri Lanka on Saturday.
K. Srikkanth, the highest individual scorer in the 1983 final and now chairman of the National Selection Committee, had reasons to look forward to the final. “We can relive that great day (June 25, 1983) through these boys. When we played there was absolutely no expectation from us. That was a plus.
“But now we are the favourites. So obviously there will be pressure on the team. But I am confident they'll do well. The team can use the home experience too.
Play your natural game
All I want to tell them is to play their natural game. I am looking forward to a great game of cricket and it is a wonderful feeling as an Indian to see the team win. The Cup will bring cheers to the nation. Such impetus is needed.”
For Yashpal Sharma, the second highest run-getter for India in the tournament, it would be a double treat, like Srikkanth, if India beats Sri Lanka. He was a performing member of the 1983 team and is currently a National selector.
“I am very happy with the way the bowlers have performed. They should give lot of confidence to (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni.
“In 1983, the openers had struggled but the middle and lower order did well. The all-rounders worked really hard. Here, the plus point is that the openers have shone and the middle order has supported them strongly. Yuvraj (Singh) has played to his potential.
I am looking forward to the team winning the Cup. It will be a dream come true and I'll be in the stands to cheer the boys,” said Yashpal.
Madan Lal, who scalped the prize wicket of Viv Richards in the final, wanted the team to remember its best wins. “It helps. They should leave all their worries and memories of any defeats back in the dressing room. The electric atmosphere at the stadium should motivate the team.
“It will be a moment of cherish if it wins the Cup at home. I would want the people to hail the victor but respect the loser too,” he asserted.
“It is a huge opportunity,” said Roger Binny, who took Clive Lloyd's wicket in the final. “The final brings the pressure with it. For us, it was an advantage to be playing away from home.
“Here, the boys would have to remain cool and put their best foot forward. They can do it because India has played better cricket than Sri Lanka.
“Man to man India is a better team. It is good that the team has not had much waiting time between the semifinal and the final.
The waiting time adds to the tension. The boys should go out and just play their normal game,” said Binny.
The 1983 team, some members in TV studios and some in the stands, would be praying for Dhoni's team to make history. No host holding the final has won the Cup ever. As Kapil said, “This Indian team is the best ever. It deserves to win.”
Keywords: Cricket World Cup 2011