Till 1983 World Cup Indian team managed to win only 12 out of the 40 ODI matches they played. The previous two World Cups saw India winning only one match and that too against East Africa, the minnows who qualified after playing the ICC Trophy. Cricketers from Kenya,Uganda,TanzaniaandZambia formed the team. That was interestingly also the first win of the Indian cricket team in One Day cricket. In 1979, they even lost to Sri Lanka, the island nation that did not have test status till the time.
India had few ODI moments before the 1983 World Cup. They won against Australia, England, New Zealand and neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and Pakistan. But the biggest moment came just before the World Cup when India won a match against the then world champion West Indies. The 50-over match on 29th March 1983 saw Indian team beating the Windies by 27 runs with Kapil Dev winning the Man-of-the-Match award with an innings of 72 off 38 and scalping two wickets.
Entry to Semi Final
Primarily the contestants in the 1983 WC were divided into two groups. Group A had England, Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. England, as the favourites ended the group stage as the leading team followed by the Kiwis in the second.
Indians began their World Cup journey as a Group B member by continuing their good form against the Windies. They won their first match when they beat the Windies by 34 runs. But the loss was considered as a fluke and in their next match, West Indies proved why they were the world champion. They beat Australia by 101 runs. On the other hand, India won their second group match as well and beat Zimbabwe by five wickets. India’s third match was a reality check for them. Chasing 320 runs, they were all out for just 158 against Australia. The next match was against the Windies which India lost again.
India’s next match against Zimbabwe saw one of the finest innings in the history of the cricket world cup. Kapil Dev led from the front and played the innings of his life. India was struggling at 17/5 and was on the verge of getting eliminated. Kapil took the charge and scored 175 off 138 and that ensured a competitive score of 266 for the Indian team, this was also the first ever century by an Indian in ODIs. India won the match followed by another win against Australia where Kapil took five wickets and became the first ever Indian to achieve that feat. Eventually, West Indies were leading the table with India following them and both the teams qualified for the semi-final. Other two members of Group B Australia and Zimbabwe were out of the tournament.
Welcome to the Finale
Almost everyone expected West Indies and England to be contesting in the World Cup final on 25th June at the Lord’s. Although West Indies went through the semi-final against Pakistan and headed towards the final to defend their title for the third time, for England the case was different.
England elected to bat first but started to lose wickets at regular intervals. Thanks to the collective efforts of Indian bowlers England were restricted to 213. Kapil Dev once again set an example and took three wickets to end English innings. Everyone contributed for India and fifties from Yashpal Sharma and Sandip Patil ensured that they chased down the target in 55 overs to enter the World Cup final for the first time.
So it was kind of a steady good show from the Indian team that helped them to reach the final stage. But still, it was considered to be an upset and West Indies were expectedly the huge favourite in the finale.
The ‘Anti’ Climax
Batting first, India had to face a bowling attack consisted of Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding. Although Kris Srikkanth did produce 38 off 52 with seven fours and one six, that was the highest individual score from Indian batting line up. It didn’t surprise anyone when Indians were all out for 183 in 55 overs. With the West Indies, being the best chasing team at that moment, everyone could predict the result.
But what followed next was nothing short of a miracle.
After a wonderful late outswinger from Balwinder Sandhu helped to get rid of Greenidge, Mohinder Amarnath and Madan Lal created magic with the ball. They ran through the West Indies batting line up and scalped three wickets each. Viv Richards, the best Windies bat could produce the highest individual score of 33 off 28 and was out when Kapil took a magical catch after running backwards for around hundred meters. The scores of top five Windies batsmen in the batting line up read, 1, 13, 33, 8 and 5 and despite a late fight from Jef Dujon and Malcolm Marshall West Indies lost the match by 43 runs.
Yes, it was unexpected and surprising. There are still multiple reasons to term it as a fluke. Before the World Cup, India was only ahead of Sri Lanka in terms of win-loss percentage. In the 1980s this was only one of the six victories for the Indian team in 32 matches played between India and West Indies. In fact in a few months time from this tournament, West Indies toured India and whitewashed the home country in a five-match ODI series. But still, the team efforts and the guts Indians showed in front of a daunting team like West Indies were commendable. This victory was the reason for the growth of cricket in India which changed the game globally in the next 20 years. This was the reason that gave birth to a religion called cricket in India. This day marked the beginning of the rise of Indian cricket as well as the fall of West Indies cricket.