Final of the 1983 World Cup: The day that changed Indian Cricket forever
“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps,India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to new, when an age ends,and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”
These were the words of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in his famous freedom speech - Tryst with Destiny. Well, if someone had to give a speech on the morning of June 26th, 1983; the words would have been no different. Like the morning of 15th August, 1947, this morning was also special. The reason for this was that the Indian Cricket Team had lifted the Cricket World Cup by defeating the defending champions West Indies.
Lifting a World Cup in itself is no mean feat, but what made it even more special was the fact that India had entered the tournaments as underdogs. Even Indian Cricket Team’s staunchest supporter would not have given them a chance and definitely not against two-time world champions West Indies. Even today, that match brings back fond memories for those who were fortunate enough to witness the historic moment. Indian cricket had changed forever.
It happened 33 years ago at Lords, the mecca of cricket and I was not born then. But whenever there’s a discussion on India’s greatest sporting moments then June 25th, 1983 finds a place at the top. To put things into perspective for those of you who were not born or were very small to understand the meaning of this victory, I would just say that the 1983 World Cup did to us Indians what the 1996 World Cup did to Sri Lankan cricket.
A victory which inspired a generation of Indians
The image of the then Indian skipper Kapil Dev holding the World Cup trophy at the Lord’s balcony is engraved into every Indian’s memory. It inspired a generation of Indians to take up the game of cricket seriously. Former batsman Sachin Tendulkar has gone on record to say that it was the 1983 World Cup victory which had inspired him to take up cricket.
It was not that India had not won any major series prior to the 1983 World Cup. Indian cricket had seen some great moments like the victory in 1971 series in West Indies or the victory in England in the same year. But these victories were few and far between which came due to individual brilliances of the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev or the spin quartet of E Prasanna, B Chandrashekhar, Bishen Singh Bedi & Venkat Raghvan among others.
Also, these were mainly in test matches. In One Day Cricket, India was still a minnow. In the first World Cup in 1975, Gavaskar had infamously batted for 60 overs scoring a painfully slow 36 off 174 balls. But all that changed in the 1983 World Cup. Here was a team which did not depend on individuals, but performed well as a unit.
The final match
The final match of the 1983 World Cup in itself was a story of ultimate courage and fightback. Having restricted the Indians to just 183 runs, the West Indies team would have fancied a hat-trick of World Cup victories. Even at 57-2 when Sir Vivian Richards was going great guns, an early finish in favour of the favourites West Indies seemed eminent. That’s when came the moment of the match. Kapil Dev ran backwards and took a brilliant catch to dismiss Viv off Madan Lal. And the rest, as they say, is history. It triggered a batting collapse and the West Indies were bowled out for 140 runs.
Thus, the Cricket World Cup had a new champion. For the first time since its inception in 1975, the West Indies were not the winners and instead Indians were crowned as the world champion. That day changed cricket forever in India. Today, India is a super power in the world of cricket. But back then we were the team which came in the category of “also ran”.
And just as Nehru had said in his speech - “A new star rises, the star of freedom in the east, a new hope comes into being, a vision long cherished materialises. May the star never set and that hope never be betrayed by!.”
The star has indeed been shining since that day in 1983. Since then, we have become World Champions twice, once in 2007 (in T20 format) and then in 2011 (in ODIs). Today, the Indian Cricket Team is a force to reckon with. Indian cricket’s journey which interestingly also began on June 25th, 1932 when India played its first test match against England at the Lords has come a long way but it may not have reached that place without the heroics of Kapil’s devils in 1983.