This was the quintessential One-day innings. As India found themselves in deep trouble against a razor-sharp Zimbabwe side, skipper Kapil Dev strode in and played one of the greatest knocks in the history of One-day cricket. Kapil Dev ranks among the best allrounders the game has known. Yet he was a far more talented batsman than his records indicate. This innings showed exactly why.
It was a lively wicket at the Nevill Ground and the Zimbabwean pacemen Peter Rawson and Kevin Curran exploited it to the hilt. Sunil Gavaskar was leg-before to Rawson for a duck: zero for one. Krish Srikkanth was caught by Iain Butchart off Curran, also for a duck: 6 for two. Mohinder Amarnath was taken behind off Rawson for 5: 6 for three. Sandeep Patil was dismissed similarly off Curran for 1: 9 for four. Wicketkeeper David Houghton completed his third consecutive dismissal as he caught Yashpal Sharma off Rawson for 9: 17 for five; and it was an unprecedented calamity for India.
Roger Binny now joined Kapil Dev, and the skipper decided it was no time for half-baked measures. He launched a blitzkrieg. Binny was a resilient partner, and he helped his captain add 60 for the sixth wicket. Binny fell leg-before to John Traicos for 22. It was now 77 for six. Ravi Shastri scored only 1 before Duncan Fletcher had him caught by Andy Pycroft. India were precariously placed at 78 for seven.
Madan Lal came in now, and his role was limited to keeping his wicket intact while Kapil Dev was on the rampage. Kapil attacked in his inimitable style, hitting the ball to all parts of the ground. He drove, off the front foot and the back, through the gaps into the fence. Anything short was cut ferociously. If the ball was anywhere near, or outside, the leg-stump, Kapil would swivel in a flash and, as was his won't with his left leg bent in the manner of Lord Shiva, smite the ball anywhere in the region between mid-wicket and fine-leg.
Kapil Dev was a master in the art of lofting the ball out of the ground. One step forward - and bang - with perfect timing and the ball would next be seen sailing high up in the distance. It was Kapil at his swashbuckling best. Madan Lal, no mean hitter of the ball himself when the bowling was less than genuinely quick, was left applauding for the most part. Madan Lal scored 17 before he was caught by Houghton off Curran. He had helped Kapil add 62 for the eighth wicket.
Syed Kirmani came in at 140 for eight, and now Kapil really let himself go. There was a shower of fours and sixes. Kapil blazed to his century off 100 balls. The pair added 126 runs before the overs ran out. Kirmani's contribution was 24 not out. Kapil remained undefeated with 175 off a mere 138 balls, which broke Glenn Turner's World Cup record score of 171 against East Africa in 1975.
Kapil had batted for a mere three hours and hit 16 fours and 6 sixes - around 100 runs in boundaries - in a stupendous inning which will never be forgotten. Zimbabwe, as they often did, went down fighting. But Kapil Dev had obliterated everything in the blazing morning's play. It was an innings of rare brilliance, the like of which is seen perhaps once in a decade. After this, Kapil's team never looked back and went on to wrest the title, creating one of the most stunning upsets in history. Hail Kapil Dev.
India 266 for 8 wickets (60 overs), Zimbabwe 235 all out (57 overs) (CWC 1983)