Disappointment is an unwanted yet frequent companion of all sportsmen and we all walk hand in hand with it at some time during our careers. I certainly came to know it well several times but never as intimately as in the World Cup final of 1983.
What many people overlooked, including many of our players, was the unpredictability of the one-day game. This was immediately evident in our first match at Old Trafford. We played badly and lost by 34 runs against the same Indian team we had beaten so easily a couple of months earlier in the Caribbean.
The Indians had a very modest one-day record and did not get past the first round of the two previous World Cup tournaments but they completely outplayed us. They batted consistently to total 262 for eight off their 60 overs and took advantage of our careless batting against their mainly medium-pace attack to have us 157 for nine before Andy Roberts and Joel Garner saved some of our embarrassment with a last-wicket stand of 71.
We put that behind us as a one-off and romped through to the finals without any further complications, including a second round victory by 66 runs over India at The Oval in which Viv Richards made 119. Perhaps we should have paid a little more attention to how India reached the Lord’s final in the first place.
They not only defeated us in that opening match but went on to qualify for the semi-finals with a crushing win by 118 runs over Australia in the second round. They then swept past England by six wickets in the semi-final to set up their appointment with destiny. We could hardly have made a better start to the final.
The weather was grey and overcast in the morning, we had the advantage of bowling first on winning the toss and Roberts quickly removed India’s most dangerous batsman, Sunil Gavaskar, who edged an outswinger to Dujon with only two runs scored. They never picked up after that and were all out for 183.
This should not have been a total to tax a good batting side over 60 overs, especially as the weather had turned bright and sunny. Pakistan had mustered 184 for eight in our semi-final which we knocked off for the loss of two wickets, and even when Australia piled up 273 for six in beautiful batting conditions at Lord’s in an earlier match, we lost only three wickets in making them.
So victory now was treated as a foregone conclusion and each batsman seemed to go out with the attitude that if he didn’t get the runs, someone after him would. They played a lot of airy-fairy shots, trying to get the runs in quick time instead of just batting normally until the Cup was secured. In short, we made the cardinal mistake of underestimating the task.
We lost quick wickets at the top of the order and just couldn’t come back so that we were all out for 140 in 52 overs. Greenidge was bowled offering no shot to the inswing bowler, Sandhu. Haynes drove on the up and was caught at mid-off. Gomes and Bacchus edged wide ones and Lloyd, struggling with a muscle he damaged in the semi-final, needed a runner and was caught at mid-on for 8.
The decisive wicket was Viv Richards. He was in great form throughout the tournament and looked as if he would win the final on his own with a succession of brilliant shots. He kept on hitting boundary after boundary, seven in all and there in three in Madam Lal’s first over. Suddenly, he top-edged a hook off Madan Lal and Kapil Dev ran back from midwicket to take a well-judged catch.
You could hear the road from the Indian supporters in the crowd all the way to Bombay. The silence of our supporters was equally deafening although, when the end came, a few phrases issued in our direction about our performance were clear and caustic. Defeat was unthinkable to the thousands of West Indians in England who came with their posters prematurely proclaiming: ‘The Cup is ours’. They were very upset now that it wasn’t.
We had thrown away our world championship and missed out on the hat-trick we were aiming for. There is no shame in being beaten by a better team while you’ve tried your best but the disappointment of that sunny Saturday afternoon is still vivid in my memory. There were sharp recriminations afterwards in our dressing-room as players started apportioning blame.
When someone said the batsmen had let us down, one of the batsmen retaliated with the ridiculous comment that the bowlers should have dismissed India more cheaply. There were charges and counter-charges and emotions ran hot. There was also misunderstanding. When Andy Roberts said it was a shame we had lost especially since some had gone out and given their all even though half-fit, he was referring to me as I had a cracked bone in my instep.
But the captain took it as a jibe at him for his decision to play in spite of the doubt over his hamstring muscle and he reacted heatedly. We had a pre-arranged function for friends and supporters at the nearby Westmoreland Hotel after the match and it turned out to be a very sombre occasion, especially when Clive Lloyd publicly announced his resignation as West Indies captain.
The defeat was a devastating blow for him most of all. He cherished the goal of leading his team to the Cup for the third time and his decision to quit was obviously brought on by frustration. The next morning, the team broke up as most of us had to get back to our county and league teams and it was left to Allan Rae, then president of the West Indies Board, to sum up the feelings of the players when he persuaded Clive to think over his decision more dispassionately. Thankfully he did, and he was back at the helm when we set out for India later that year to avenge ourselves. But, I’m sure none of us will ever get over that World Cup final in 1983.
Reproduced with permission from Michael Holding whose book, Whispering Death – The Life and Times of Michael Holding was published by Andre Deutsch in 1993.
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