1983 will always be a special year. It was the year I turned of voting age and the year that Indian cricket came of age. By happy coincidence, I was at Lord’s on June 25th 1983 to celebrate the moment.
I was playing club cricket in England at the time and when England lost the semi-finals, suddenly tickets for the finals were available. Joining me at the ground were old friends from Mumbai, including the former Test cricketer, Yajurvindra Singh.
We were in a stand surrounded by joyful West Indians in party mood. This was the high noon of West Indies cricket. The Windies had won the first two World Cups with some ease and, if anything, their team in 1983 was even better than the 1970s side.
Few expected India to win: the Windies were the overwhelming favourites. We had gone to the ground more to just savour the idea of India being in the final than any grand expectation of victory. The West Indians in the crowd, by contrast, were already dancing to the Calypso beat, convinced that a third triumph was a mere formality.
Certainly for the first three hours, the script went to plan. The four West Indian fast bowlers were formidable and with every passing over and falling wicket, the crowd around us was getting more boisterous. By lunch time, India looked well and truly buried, bowled out soon after for just 183.
Yes, there had been the odd stroke of defiance, most notably from Krish Srikkanth and Sandeep Patil, but the morning had belonged to the men from the Caribbean. The alcohol was flowing in the stands, a Bob Marley lookalike in our stand was playing reggae music, and there was a general air of festivity.
By contrast, we quietly munched on our sandwiches and sipped Coke. 1983 London was a bit different to the sights and sounds on English grounds today. Indian spectators tended to be more timid than they are today, conscious not to be seen to be overly aggressive in any manner.
Yes, there were tricolors at the ground but nowhere near as many as you will find today. Some of us had already given up any hope of victory. Yajurvindra Singh, in fact, decided that an afternoon spent shopping was probably a better option than watching the game. It’s a decision that I am sure he regrets to this day.
That afternoon, a game of cricket was turned on its head in truly remarkable fashion. When Balvinder Sandhu bowled Greenidge shouldering arms, we thought it was an aberration, a brief respite for an Indian team struggling to compete.
When Viv Richards set about displaying a glorious array of strokes, we thought normal order had been restored. Till Kapil Dev plucked that catch running backwards and let off an infectious smile.
Suddenly, a relatively innocuous bowling attack acquired a fearsome edge. The reggae music began to ebb, the Bob Marley lookalike was looking somber and there was a stunned silence in the air. We were nervous: it couldn’t happen, could it, we asked ourselves almost incredulously.
When Marshall and Dujon stuck around for almost an hour, we felt that the game was turning once again. Jitu Parmar, another old cricket friend from Bombay Gymkhana, and I decided to go for a walk to the Nursery End of the ground to ease the tension.
We were close to the sightscreen, when Dujon played on to Mohinder Amarnath. “Let’s not move from here,” said Jitu, “This could be a lucky spot”. And so it proved. In the next half-hour, victory was, quite incredibly, India’s.
Then I did something I have never done before or since. Leaving aside all my inhibitions, I ran on the ground with a loud “we did it” yell. A West Indian didn’t take too kindly to my sudden bravado and a beer can was thrown in my general direction.
The Bob Marley look alike was more gentle: he smiled at me: “Hey maan, you know we can’t win every time, can we. And I’d rather India beat us than England maan. Enjoy the moment!” Am not sure what time I got back home that evening but it was a long night.
Indian cricket would never be the same again: a new generation of cult heroes had been created that day. Its 30 years now: the hair has greyed and the memories are beginning to fade.
I watch cricket mainly on television now since it’s a more middle-aged thing to do. Yet, whenever the 1983 final is replayed, a tinge of excitement creeps up on me and a little voice whispers: “Hell, I was there!”