If the COVID-19 pandemic had not been there, then ‘83,’ a much-hyped sports drama celebrating India’s historic World Cup triumph in cricket in 1983 in England would have hit the theatres last April. While I am not a big fan of the biopic genre produced out of Bollywood (for it very often glosses over the grey shades in the protagonist’s character), it could have added a new dimension to the signficance of June 25 in the country’s sporting history.
It’s 37 years to the day when Kapil Dev held the Prudential Trophy aloft at the Lord’s balcony - a scene unanimously regarded as the most iconic moment in Indian cricket. It took India 28 years to regain the game’s biggest prize in 2011 at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, but by then, the Men in Blue were a superpower in the game - both on and off the field.
Yes, there were fleeting moments of glory for India in Test cricket before that - the two most standout ones being their overseas series triumphs against the West Indies and England, respectively. However, they were complete novices in the art of limited overs cricket (then 60 overs-a-side) and made a hash of their campaigns in the two preceding editions of the World Cup in 1975 and 1979, managing only one win - and that too against the esrwthile East Africa.
It was no wonder then that despite boasting of proven customers in the side like Sunil Gavaskar, Kris Srikkanth or Mohinder Amarnath among the Kapil’s Devils, they started the tournament with a staggering 66-1 odds. The bookies in England, they say, know what they are doing and hence the 43-run win against the mighty West Indians is regarded as one of the biggest upset wins in the history of cricket - apart from setting the foundation of cricket eventually becoming a religion in the country.
What does the ‘83 triumph mean to the stars of the current generation, who are not often known for their sense of history? Leading off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, one of the articulate characters, put things in perspective when he tweeted: “Today 37 years ago, changed the cricketing landscape in India. Thank you @therealkapildev and team for making the game a career for many of us today. Deeply indebted,”
The details of how the match panned out is still etched in the memory - though there are some standout moments which have stayed on for a lifetime. Srikkanth going down on his knees for a nonchalant square drive off the fearsome Andy Roberts, the turbaned Balwinder Singh Sandhu leaving a batsman like Gordon Greenidge flummoxed with his off-cutter or Kapil running backyards to complete the most difficult of catches to send a menacing Viv Richards back - a dismissal regarded as a defining moment of the game.
When Amarnath took the final wicket of Michael Holding and dashed for the pavilion, the hallowed turf soon turned into a sea of Indian supporters - ushering in an era where cricket would soon enter the kitchen and drawing rooms of every Indian household.