Quite frankly, I do not have very fond memories of the second edition of the World Cup in England. As captain of the team, leading the country in the second successive Prudential Cup, I will be the first to admit that our performance in 1979 was not up to the mark.
At the outset, we were an inexperienced lot with the youngsters in the squad, not completely comprehending the nuances of one-day cricket in the 60-over format. Kapil Dev, Yashpal Sharma and Brijesh Patel were just blossoming to their full potential. And how the Indians developed into a World Cup-conquering entity in the next four years is best exemplified by the triumph in 1983.
That we lost all three group matches — to the West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka — is now history. But you must understand that the West Indies team, whom we played in the opening match, was a remarkably talented squad under the dynamic leadership of Clive Lloyd.
What really cost us a place in the semifinals was the poor showing against New Zealand. Our fielding let us down; I distinctly remember the catches that were dropped. That dashed our hopes. Also, we did not have enough runs on the board to make a match of it. The next match with Sri Lanka was a mere formality.
Looking back, I can still say without fear of contradiction that the team was just shaping up to challenge the rigours of this version of the game. True, we had a few seasoned stars such as Gavaskar and Viswanath.
I still remember the classic 75 Vishy made against the West Indies. Eventually, it was our lack of experience that proved a deterrent.
World Cup 1979 on the whole was a re-assertion of the Caribbean dominance at that juncture. There was none to doubt the credentials of Clive Lloyd's men to retain the Cup.
Etched in my memory is the innings that Vivian Richards (138 not out off 157 balls) played in the final. Incredible is the right word to describe that knock.
Viv played as though it was a Twenty20 competition, when that idea had not struck the imagination of the cricketing public. One shot that I wish to recall was the glorious six over square-leg off Mike Hendrick off the last ball of the innings.
In my assessment it was Collis King (86 off 66 balls) who set the tenor for the Caribbean Calypso when the team was struggling at 99 for four. Then it was Vivian Richards's symphony that echoed across Lord's. England, then regarded as the past master of one-day cricket, was blown away like a straw in the wind to lose the final by 92 runs on June 23.
The Aussies were relatively weak under Kim Hughes because of the Packer effect. But they managed to climb to the top in 1987 when the World Cup was played in a totally different format.
(S. Thyagarajan in conversation with S. Venkatraghavan)
Tomorrow: Kapil Dev on 1983