It is moments like these that every sportsman strives for during the course of his career. But glory is something that embraces only a few. Ask the South African cricketers what it means to be left in a lurch especially after doing all the hard work at ICC events. Ask the Netherlands’ footballers what it means to be called ‘the best team never to have won the World Cup.’
It is the memory associated with such historic triumphs that provides players the oxygen they need long after they have hung up their boots. The story is no different with the Indian team which emerged victorious at the 1983 Prudential World Cup.
There are endless tales that players belonging to that enviable squad have recounted over the past 30 years, but fans just can’t have enough of those recollections. It’s the scent of success, you see! “25th June, I can never forget this day. How time flies,” remarks Dilip Vengsarkar as we sit down for a chat at his Dadar residence.
The former India captain reveals how Kapil Dev & Co helped several ticketless Indian supporters get inside the Lord’s for the final. “A lot of Indians wanted to watch the match, but many of them couldn’t get tickets. So, we accommodated almost 70 to 80 of them in our team bus. They were ready to pay any amount of money to get a ticket, but nobody was selling.
“They were desperate to get into the ground. So those we knew, we took inside the bus and that’s how they managed to get inside the ground. Never before had I experienced such a thing (a jam-packed bus heading for a match),” he recalls. The veteran of 116 Test matches gets nostalgic recalling another special moment.
“After the win, we partied till late in the night. We did not have any food. We went searching for it, but all the restaurants were shut. Only a few Indian restaurants were open as they were also celebrating. And that is how we managed to get some food. It was a crazy night.” Vengsarkar’s eyes light up as he describes Team India’s journey to the final.
“There were some great sides competing in the World Cup. Nobody gave us a chance. We had a very poor one-day international record.” India was pitted against two-time defending champions West Indies in their Cup opener at the Old Trafford. But before talking about it, Vengsarkar stresses on the win against the mighty Windies during a three-match ODI series in the Caribbean, which came just before the World Cup.
“We beat them in the second match at Berbice (Guyana). The Windies were invincible. You had to play extraordinarily well to beat them, which we did.
“So, before our first match (June 9-10), at the back of our minds, we knew we had beaten the West Indies before. There was a feeling that if we bat first and put up some runs, then we could put them under pressure. We also had to get early wickets as that was our only hope.
“On the other hand, the West Indies never knew what it meant to play under pressure. We batted first, scored some runs (262-8), got early wickets and we won the match. It was a big thing for us.” India then beat Zimbabwe in Leicester, but lost back-to-back games to Australia and the West Indies. Vengsarkar’s World Cup campaign ended at the Oval after being hit on the chin by Malcolm Marshall.
“It required seven stitches. The marks are still visible,” he says before adding, “I do regret it (of not being part of the final). I was fit for the final but did not expect to be picked as others in the team were scoring runs. Sandeep Patil, Yashpal Sharma, Mohinder Amarnath and Kirti Azad… all were doing well.
Since we kept winning, they did not want to change the combination which is quite obvious. It is a part of the game. You have to accept it. But I enjoyed every moment.” Coming on the back of two consecutive losses, the magnificent win against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells was just the kind of turnaround the Indian team was looking for.
“It was a great win. Kapil played an excellent knock (of 175 not out to help India post 266-8 after being 78-7 at one stage),” Vengsarkar says. India was now in the knockout stage for the first time in World Cups. “We were in the quarter-final, facing Australia. We did not expect anything. We once again surprised everyone by beating them.
“We came to Old Trafford to play England in the semi-final. It was a full house. The English crowd thought it would be England versus West Indies in the final. But once they lost, they started selling their tickets.” Underdogs India did the unthinkable by reaching the final. “We batted badly. We only got 183 and West Indies had a great batting line-up.
The way Viv Richards started, I thought the match would be over in less than 40 overs. But once he got out, they kept losing wickets.” From 57-3, the Windies folded up for 140. “Skipper Kapil made this win possible. He led from the front and was outstanding in batting, bowling and fielding,” concludes Vengsarkar.