Seams like yesterday

Rewinding to June 1983   | Photo Credit: 07dmc worldcup

We were a typically boisterous group of guys. Some were teenagers, others were getting there. Some were Sikhs whose parents and grandparents had been displaced from Rawalpindi at the time of Partition, others were Hindus whose ancestors hailed from Lahore and Peshawar. Mine was the only family in South Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar colony that traced its roots to a small township of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. We often argued about the imagined beauty of our ancestors’ place. Of course, like most youngsters in this part of the world, we all played cricket and in the colony’s park, we imagined ourselves to be Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar and Shrikanth. Nobody was allowed to even try and impersonate a Holding or a Marshall: fast bowling was not allowed! Not that anybody was allowed to hit the ball out of the park. Two such strokes, and you were retired out.

On June 25, 1983, all of us sat around a black and steel grey two-in-one — as the tape-recorder-radio was then called — listening to the running commentary from Lords where India, against all expectation, was locked in a battle for the title with the West Indies, the team that counted the likes of Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner among its bowlers. They put the fear of God in batsmen. Our guys, in comparison, seemed weekend trundlers.

As afternoon gave way to evening, the West Indies began to falter in pursuit of a small total of 183. We became more edgy, more nervous, somewhat irritable. If anybody moved a foot while on the carpet, he was admonished. If somebody so much as coughed, he was advised to step out. Nobody took toilet breaks. It was in contrast to the mood earlier in the day when Kris Shrikanth and company were blasted out by the Windies quicks, the modest total made possible by a fighting innings by Madan Lal, Syed Kirmani and Balwinder Singh Sandhu down the order, after Shrikanth had played in his usual aggressive fashion to make 38 at the top of the order. Gavaskar, bareheaded and all, failed yet again, falling for two to Roberts.

Guys then stepped out to bowl an imaginary bouncer or two at the Windies batsmen, all the time cursing each other. “It is all because of you….you moved to take food from the fridge, and Amarnath got out,” one said. “ Chhor yaar. Let it be. West Indies is a very good team. They won the last two World Cups too,” another consoled us at innings interval.

Then, as the Windies with the awesome batting line-up answering to the names of Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Vivian Richards and Clive Lloyd began the reply, it seemed a matter of time before the World Cup headed to the Caribbean islands. That is when Sandhu, he with not much more than medium pace at his disposal, bowled the ball of the tournament to clean bowl Greenidge, shouldering arms. Having bowled only outswingers to Haynes, he tried an inswinger to Greenidge — the ball, we learnt later, pitched on the seam around the fifth or sixth stump and came in to hit the off stump. As the Hindi commentator screamed, “ Aur Greenidge bowled!”, we were excited.

“At least we would avoid a ten wicket loss,” said a friend who bowled fastest in our team. Sandhu gave us hope. Then went Haynes. Nobody said a word. Just breathed a bit easier.

Lloyd and Richards were still there, the latter in particular threatening to make it a no contest with his aggression. Then came another moment of magic.

This time Kapil Dev plucked a catch out of nowhere as Richards pulled a Madan Lal short ball, the Indian skipper running from short mid wicket to pouch a terrific catch, avoiding a clash with Yashpal Sharma coming in from square-leg. The radio commentator almost lost his voice in excitement. It was but half a minute later that we could make out that Richards was out.

“Richards gone,” boomed the radio, and we all sang in chorus, inviting a curious look from my parents settling down for dinner. We jumped up as one, our arms raised in excitement!

Could this be the day, I wondered. “Shh,” said a friend. “ Abhi Dujon baki hai,” he said. “Bacchus too.” The West Indian wicket keeper was a pugnacious batsman, and Bacchus had style. And 183 was not that many.

Then came another piece of magic. A Sandhu ball was sought to be driven through the cover by Bacchus. He got a nick to that one, and Kirmani, diving full length in front of the first slip, grabbed it with both hands! The last of the specialist batsmen gone. Could this be the day? “Quiet,” the guy on my left said. I, otherwise, regarded to be a strokeless dogged batsman, was supposed to be word-less too that evening. There was pin drop silence in the room. Outside though, some were more expressive. Crackers were burst. Maybe we were on our way.

The feeling did not stay that way for long as Dujon and Marshall, against all odds, put together a partnership. “Bharat ke liye ye jodi khatra ban sakti hai,” said the radio commentator. Dujon had the strokes, if Marshall could just stay there. Then Jimmy Amarnath, the man with the golden arm, came up with his special moment. He took care of both. This time we all screamed, we all clapped, hit each other on the back, hugged, embraced as tears of joy escaped our eyes. Nobody could take it away now. Not even Holding and Garner who showed some application for the last wicket. Nobody did. And India kept its date with destiny.

There were firecrackers all over. It could as well have been a mid-summer Diwali. We asked around for sweets at home. There were none. But there was suji ka halwa. We all took a helping from a common bowl and rushed out into the night.

Next morning, we were all in the park. This time, hitting the ball out of the park did not get you out. Rather, six runs accumulated. As all of us played with new zest. I threw caution to the wind, trading straight drives for pulls and cuts. Cricket was supposed to be enjoyed. It was no longer a game of patience, but a sport of finding fulfilment with audacious shots. Kapil’s Devils had changed the way we looked at cricket. They changed the nation too.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 11:18:24 PM |

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