The World Cup is almost here. Time for seasoned cricketer Madan Lal to recount that heady summer of 1983 over lunch at Crowne Plaza's Seven restaurantHis measured run up and that final leap before the delivery presented Madan Lal as an athletic cricketer, an image that is relived time and again, especially once in four years when suddenly the country remembers its World Cup heroes of 1983. And that unforgettable ball that triggered off the West Indian collapse at Lord's on June 25, when Kapil Dev and his men gave the nation its most fascinating feat on the cricket field. And behind that grand success was a silent man, undemonstrative and most humble when discussing his own contribution to the team's dream comeback after being skittled out for a mere 183. "Ït was a collective effort," Madan murmurs modestly as we are ushered into Seven, a compact Indian restaurant at the Crowne Plaza in South Delhi. "Welcome, Sir," smiles Rakesh Kumar, the Executive Chef. Of course, there are plenty who recognise Madan and literally compete among themselves to serve him and grab his attention.
Chef's choice"It was a fantastic day. Unforgettable. I have never seen the ball move so much," Madan recalls as he eases into the chair. A sip of fresh orange juice and Madan leafs through the menu. He is not able to decide."Leave it to me please," offers Rakesh. Madan has no issues and quickly returns to Lord's when none gave India a chance. How wrong they were. "Honestly, I won't blame anyone for not backing us. The West Indies was a strong side and we had a poor target to defend. It was disheartening to begin with but we were bent on putting up a fight. We owed it to our supporters and the nation," Madan savours the gilouti kababs that have arrived with Bhatti ka murg and some anjeer ki tikki. Madan confesses to being a great fan of home food. "I don't eat much outside. I am not at all fussy about food. As a youngster I would polish off curd and ghee anytime. I loved my daal and roti but today I relish Italian, Chinese, Mexican. On tours I avoid non-vegetarian stuff."Viv Richards was on a rampage that day. Just as we were with such lovely stuff spread in front. "Viv was in a murderous mood. He was belting every ball, but believe me, he was also offering us a chance. He was arrogant. We were waiting. And when the moment arrived, it changed the course of the contest, and the face of Indian cricket," Madan's face lights up, and the kababs finish in quick time. Back to Lord's. There was a moment of apprehension as far as skipper Kapil Dev was concerned. Should he toss the ball to Madan or not? Richards was unrelenting and Madan appeared to be wilting. But Kapil stood mutely as Madan demanded one more over. "Yes, I asked for the ball," Madan confirms. The table is filling up now. There is meat beliram and paneer ka subz mela. We return to cricket as Madan tastes dal makhani. "I would say it was one of my best moments. The ball was slightly faster and slightly short of length. Richards was committed and swung at it, only to miss-time. As the ball soared I saw Kapil getting under it. I knew I had my man. Kapil took a great catch and actually made it appear easy. The same over I got Larry Gomes and the rest is history."
Glorious daySo are meat beliram and vegetarian biryani. That glorious day had been relived countless times by the media. Every four years the nation recalls that great feat and expects an encore. "To tell you the truth none of us thought we could become the champions. But beating the West Indies in the opening match set the trend. It was West Indies' first defeat in the World Cup. But the turning point was the match against Zimbabwe when Kapil produced an unbelievable innings."What, in his opinion, was his best?"Ägainst Australia (at Chelmsford) when I took four wickets (for 20 runs)." And what of the forthcoming World Cup? "We have a very good side and I expect India to win. They need to show more responsibility and not leave the job to the other. The team is capable of returning with the Cup." We sign off with rasmalai. It has been an enjoyable journey into back time, courtesy Madan Lal, an important performer on that captivating day at Lord's in 1983.VIJAY LOKAPALLY