SK Elite: When Kapil Dev ran back 20 yards to change the fortunes of Indian cricket
Last month, when the Indian eves were gunning for glory in the 2017 ICC World Cup, the entire nation stood by them, probably for the first time in the history of Indian women's cricket, and prayed for them to clear the 'final' test. Unfortunately, Mithali Raj and co. failed to pass the final hurdle as they lost to England by nine runs at the historic Lord's Cricket Ground.
Turning back the hands of clock 34 years, a similar phenomenon took place in Indian cricket when the whole nation prayed for the Indian men's cricket team, who were up against the superpower that was West Indies in the final of the 1983 World Cup.
You can find a lot of similarities in both these matches. In spite of having the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Ajit Wadekar etc., cricket wasn't taken as seriously in the country. There was no emotional connection between the sport and the fans, no media coverage, no proper contracts etc. Very similar to the circumstances of the women's team before the tournament.
Also, the match was played at the same venue, Lord's, and just like the Indian women, Kapil Dev's men had overcome all odds to make it to the final.
There is only one difference between both these matches. While Mithali's women failed to win the tournament and the future of women's Cricket in the country remains a work in progress, Kapil's Devils won the World Cup and changed things for better in India.
Though I wasn't even born when the match was played, my favourite memory related to the World Cup 1983 final was my father's (who is a die-hard Australian supporter but rooted for India in that match as it would change the future of the sport in the country) narration about an incident, that is one of the most underrated and least celebrated moments in the history of Indian cricket.
But before we get to that, let us recall what happened in the match.
After being asked to bat first, India were off to a disastrous start as they lost the wicket of Sunil Gavaskar early. Kris Srikanth and Mohinder Amarnath tried to pull things back on track and put on 57 for the second wicket before the former departed for 38.
Mohinder followed him soon after for 26 as India were left reeling at 130/7 with Sandeep Patil being the only recognised batsman at the crease.
The last three wickets put on 53 runs with the batsmen batting at 9, 10 and 11 scoring 17, 14 and 11 respectively. Eventually, Kapil and co. set the mighty West Indian batting line-up a target of 184 to win.
At the halfway mark, a target of 184 sounded like a cake walk for the West Indian team that had the likes of Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Sir Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd in the top four.
However, Indian pacer Balwinder Sandhu gave India the best possible start as he double bluffed Greenidge and castled him for just 1.
ENTER VIVIAN RICHARDS, most dangerous batsman then.
This total was so small that Richards could have easily finished off the game in less than 40 overs of a 60-over match. Desmond Haynes was dismissed against the run of play and Richards was joined by his skipper Lloyd at the crease.
My father, just like the millions watching the match, just wanted to see the back of Richards, who looked threatening. He looked in ominous form as he kept hitting boundaries at ease.
When he was looking solid, the channel went off in our locality and my father, along with his friends and cousins, went off for a walk in the streets of Chennai listening to a transistor and all of a sudden, they heard a voice of a man screaming "Yeyyyyyyyyyyyyy, Richards outeyyyyyyyyyyyyy".
They all ran back to our house to catch the match and when they saw the replay of Richards's dismissal, they were all awestruck by the way he got dismissed.
In fact, my father and his gang were not the only ones to miss the wicket live on the television. The official broadcaster in India, Doordarshan had lost its signal from London and not even a single fan in India could witness the historic moment in real time.
CATCHES WIN MATCHES
They say catches win matches but we hardly see a fantastic fielding effort getting credits for turning the match on its head like a batting innings or a bowling spell gets.
Fielding is a very underrated aspect of the game when compared to the other two departments and one such example to back this fact is the 1983 final between India and West Indies.
When Richards was looking dangerous with 33 off just 28 balls with seven boundaries, Madan Lal, who was very adamant on bowling that particular over, bowled a half tracker and the big man from Antigua hooked the ball in air towards the mid-wicket boundary.
As the ball went up in the air, Kapil, who had stationed himself at short mid-wicket, started running backwards, waving his hands to make sure that there is no one around him, and stretched both his arms to pouch the red cherry comfortably twenty yards from the boundary.
Recollecting this incident, Kapil, in his autobiography "By God's Decree" wrote, "Richards swung at Madan Lal and the ball soared over midwicket. It was always going away from me as I sprinted towards the boundary and I overtook the flight path of the ball, twenty yards in from the boundary. I caught a glimpse of it descending over my left shoulder and I was running away from it. I slowed fractionally and managed to hang on to the ball in the tips of my fingers. I knew we had a chance now as I threw the ball into the air. I was almost ecstatic."
When Kapil ran those twenty-plus yards to catch the ball, the whole nation, along with an Antiguan and his teammates in the pavilion, had their hearts in their mouth as Richards's wicket was very crucial considering the context of the game.
When asked about the catch in an interview, Richards admitted that he knew he was out when Kapil started running. "I still don't know from where did he (Kapil) come to take that catch. When Kapil was running back waving to the nearest fielder to get out of his way, I knew my time was over," he said.
When Kapil took the catch, West Indies needed 127 runs in 46 overs to win the tournament for the third successive time. But their skipper Lloyd, who would have been a threat if he was fully fit, came to the crease limping after suffering a hamstring injury.
Eventually, the last eight wickets fell for the next 83 runs as India demolished the Caribbean Empire and became the second team after Windies to lift the World Cup. Madan Lal and Mohinder were the pick of the Indian bowlers as they bagged three wickets apiece.
If we take a close look at how the game progressed, Mohinder was deservingly awarded the Player of the Match for his crucial 26 with the bat and 3/12 in his seven overs with the ball. However, had Richards stayed at the crease for the next 8-10 overs, he would have taken the game away from India.
Richards's wicket was the turning point and Kapil Dev's 20-yard sprint to dismiss the former not only ensured an Indian victory in the World Cup but also made sure that Cricket became a part Indians' lives and a lot of kids, including the legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar, were inspired to take up the sport as their career.
At the end of the day, Kapil's catch should be right at the top of the list of finest performances put on by an Indian in any sport.
Yes, catches win matches, and sometimes, they can change the landscape of an entire nation.