There is a common thread weaving two immortal days in Indian cricket — June 25, 1983 and April 2, 2011.
The image of a scintillating Krishnamachari Srikkanth going down on one knee and square-driving the menacing Andy Roberts to the fence on a green, seaming track at the Lord's is etched in memory. This was picture perfect.
And 28 years later when the explosive Mahendra Singh Dhoni wristed seamer Nuwan Kulasekara for a booming blow over long-on, India had reclaimed the Cup that matters on a luminous night of celebrations in Mumbai. Once again, the picture was perfect.
Srikkanth was among the principal protagonists of the summit clash in the Old Blighty when his innings of 38 emerged the top score of a low-scoring face-off in bowler friendly conditions. India floored the formidable West Indies.
In the triumphant 2011 edition, Srikkanth's role has been vital as the chairman of the selection panel that includes another member of the victorious 1983 side, Yashpal Sharma. The wise men have made the right moves.
Talk to Srikkanth about him being the lucky charm and he laughs. “I thank the almighty. God has been kind.”
India's eventually spirit-lifting campaign in the World Cup was meticulously planned. As Srikkanth reveals, “the selection panel was in constant touch with the captain, the rest of the team-management and a few senior cricketers from about 20 months ago.”
Srikkanth says some crucial decisions about rotating a few players and resting some others were taken with the long-term objective of winning the World Cup.
“We had to factor in several things, including injury concerns. We wanted to test new faces in international cricket, build depth and bench strength. The selectors shared an excellent rapport with the captain and the team-management.”
During the tenure of the present selection panel, India has risen from an uncertain period to become the No. 1 team in Tests and is now the holder of the World ODI Cup. Dhoni and his men are at the acme.
The BCCI has acknowledged the role of the selectors. Each member of the panel will receive Rs. 25 lakh following India's remarkable triumph at the Wankhede Stadium.
Sharing his thoughts on the two World Cups, Srikkanth says, “In 1983 it was Kapil Dev who inspired the team. In 2011, it has been Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin really deserved to be a part of a World Cup-winning side.”
Srikkanth shares a special bond with Tendulkar. After all, Srikkanth was the first Indian captain that the maestro played under. India was touring Pakistan in 1989-90 and Tendulkar was only 16.
The former India captain is captivated by the Tendulkar-Virender Sehwag pairing in the ODIs.
“They might have been dismissed early in the final, but the starts given by Tendulkar and Sehwag were very important for India in the other games.”
Srikkanth believes India peaked at the right time.
“The fact that we met the stronger teams in the second half of the tournament helped. We settled down as a unit before taking on the bigger sides, coped well with the tremendous pressures of playing at home. And our fielding improved dramatically.”
The former India captain congratulated skipper Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir for their match-winning innings in the final.
“Dhoni led well. And both Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir batted tremendously under pressure against Sri Lanka. Dhoni came up with some amazing shots. And Gambhir, who has been consistent in the tournament, played the sheet-anchor role to perfection.”
Srikkanth was also delighted with the sense of responsibility shown by Yuvraj Singh in the competition.
“We missed an all-rounder but Yuvraj filled the breach. He showed great maturity in batting and stayed till the end.
“Yuvraj was our finisher. And he has really improved as a left-arm spinner. Not just in the ODIs, but he could have a useful role to play as a bowler in Test cricket too.”
The lively Srikkanth was impressed by the craft and control of Zaheer Khan.
“He had been impressive throughout. He has bowled at different stages of the innings and with the old and the new ball. He gave thrust to the Indian attack.”
The selection panel chief stressed team-work.
“Harbhajan, Raina, Ashwin, Munaf, Kohli or Nehra, everyone contributed at one time or the other. I think Raina made a difference to the side in the knockout phase. This side is not dependent on one or two individuals. It has several performers.”
Srikkanth added, “Over the last two years, this Indian team has shown that when the chips are down, it can come back. This is a terrific quality and I had belief in the side at all times.”
He said the prayers of a nation of more than a billion people contributed immensely to the Indian success. “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be transferred or channelled. The positive energy from the countless people powered the side.”