World Cup

Srikkanth reminisces vignettes of 1983 World Cup

K. Srikkanth drives Andy Robers in the Prudential World Cup final at Lords on June 25, 1983. Srikkanth's 38 was the highest score of the final.  

Those World Cup memories from the summer of ’83 will never fade away.

Krishnamachari Srikkanth remembers vignettes from the competition like yesterday. Those were the glory days.

The script was astonishing. From being no hopers, Kapil’s Devils, after a sensational run, bested the formidable West Indians in the final. All of India celebrated.

“That triumph gave us the belief that we could be the best. That India could conquer the world. It was a very important result for Indian cricket,” said Krishnamachari Srikkanth to The Hindu in Chennai on Wednesday.

An attacking opener in his time, Srikkanth had this ability to alter the course of matches in a matter of a few overs.

He often provided the Indian innings momentum, disrupted bowlers’ length, and dented the opposition psychologically with his early onslaught.

Srikkanth, now 55, was also among the most successful Indian batsmen of that era in the ODIs with 4091 runs from 146 matches.

Travelling back to the World Cup, Srikkanth said, “It was the first match against the West Indies at Old Trafford that instilled confidence in us.”

He continued, “The West Indies was a phenomenal side then. It had great batsmen in Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Clive Lloyd, some very good players in Desmond Haynes and Jeffery Dujon and four menacing fast bowlers. And we stunned them in the first game. It gave a tremendous fillip to our campaign.”

Srikkanth said that Indian team was a versatile one with depth and options. “We had pace bowling all-rounders in Madan Lal and Roger Binny. Their bowling was ideally suited for the English conditions and Binny ended up as the highest wicket-taker in the tournament. They could also bat. Then, we had Mondinder Amarnath, a solid batsman whose seam bowling proved valuable. Kirti Azad who played in the crucial knock-out games could also bat and bowl.”

He added, “Above all, we had Kapil Dev who is the best all-rounder I have seen. He was brilliant in all three departments. Kapil was a wonderful swing bowler, an aggressive batsman and a fine athletic fielder, who could do the job in any position. During the second phase of his career, he took some stunning catches at slips. Even Imran Khan had a weaker flank, he was not a very good fielder but Kapil was terrific in whatever he did.”

Kapil’s inspirational 175 lifted the Indian spirits in a situation of adversity against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells. “We were in doldrums at 17 for five. But Kapil, instead of being defensive at the start like most batsmen would be at that stage, struck the first ball he faced over the infield. He proceeded to play a sensational innings which, rather unfortunately, was not televised because the BBC was on strike that day.”

Here, Srikkanth recollects a fascinating nugget. “There are a lot of superstitions in cricket. Kapil was batting well when I was standing with my wife Vidya outside the dressing room. And throughout his innings, I was asked to keep standing there because of a feeling that if I moved even an inch, Kapil would get out. It was a cold, windy day and things were not easy for me or Vidya. But Kapil’s innings made us forget the ordeal.”

Srikkanth spoke about Kapil stringing together vital partnerships with Madan Lal, Binny and Syed Kirmani during that heroic essay. “We really batted deep. Kirmani was a superb wicket-keeper and a very useful batsman who never really got the credit he deserved. He pulled his weight for us in the tournament.”

The dasher from Chennai remembered his first meeting with his cricketing hero, Vivian Richards, during the event. “It was at the Queen’s reception for the teams at the Buckingham Palace. I introduced myself and then Viv said to me, `Very good maan, good luck maan.’ I cannot forget that.”

In fact, Srikkanth came face to face with his three cricketing heroes during the competition. “I caught up with Richards, batted against Dennis Lillee and spent time with Gundappa Viswanath, who had come to watch the World Cup.”

In fact, Viswanath was following the action from the Indian dressing room when Srikkanth top-scored with 38 in the final at Lord’s on a green, seaming wicket. “Joel Garner was unplayable. The pitch was slightly damp and there was considerable bounce and movement for the pacemen. Things were tough, we lost Sunil Gavaskar early but Mohinder Amarnath’s words to me gave me confidence. When I square drove Andy Roberts, I thought of Viswanath, who used to play that stroke like an artist.”

When India was dismissed for 183 in the final, skipper Kapil said to his men that they should make the West Indies earn every run, give it their best shot.

Srikkanth cannot quite forget Kapil’s spellbinding catch to dismiss a rampaging Richards on the chase. “The way Richards was striking the ball, we thought the match would be over by tea time. The ball from Madan Lal, it was short, but Richards miscued it. It was travelling high and Kapil was running back but sideways. Only he could have kept his balance moving like that. The ball came down somewhere in deep square-leg. Yashpal Sharma, from square-leg, was also near the ball but Kapil shouted `It is mine.’ And he held one of the greatest catches under pressure. It was a World Cup winning catch.”

The celebrations after that historic triumph continued late into the night. “We had people of the Indian origin dancing and singing to the beating of the drums in the hotel lobby. It was an unbelievable feeling.”

Talking about the World Cup team, Srikkanth said, “That side was a compelling fielding outfit. Throughout that tournament, we missed only one catch. Mohinder Amarnath put down Michael Holding at square-leg in the first match. After that we did not miss anything, created chances with bright fielding. I enjoyed myself at cover and cover point.”

Srikkanth also dwelt on the strength of the side. “We were so well settled as a unit that towards the end of the competition, even accomplished players such as Dilip Vengsarkar and Ravi Shastri could not make the eleven.”

Proving the World Cup victory was no fluke, the Indian team came up trumps in the World Championship of Cricket down under in 1985. The tournament was a mini World Cup with all the Test playing nations participating.

Srikkanth excelled in the competition, repeatedly hitting over the top in the early overs when the field would be in. In several senses, the intrepid Srikkanth was a path-finder in ODI cricket in the manner he approached his innings in the initial overs of field restrictions.

“In Australia, I could drive on the up since the pitches had bounce. I could also cut, pull and hook. I relished batting out there,” he said.

He won several battles in the tournament, including seeing off a torrid first spell from the mercurial Imran Khan in the final at the MCG.

When he talks about those moments, Srikkanth still has laughter in his eyes.

Those memories…they will never fade away.


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