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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fairy Tale is now 25 years old

The buzz in India is around Kapil's Devils - the 1983 World Cup winning team. They are coming together to celebrate 25 years of the historic event, when they did the unthinkable, defeated the Windies team in a World Cup final. The Windies had been undefeated in the previous two versions of the World Cup and no one had even thought in their wildest dreams that it would be possible to defeat them, least the Indians.

What transpired later, is a fairy-tale that rivals the famous Bollywood and recently, the IPL hype. In fact, I would say that it beats the IPL hands down as this was the very moment that made the Indian team realize that they can compete in the ODI scene along with other
countries successfully. So far, they had been the has-beens of the ODI scene - just like the Bangladesh team at present.

What was the reason that this Indian team won? If one looks at the team that competed in that version of the World Cup, most of the players who played in the final, were as successful later in their careers as they were during the World Cup. Of course, one should not consider the greats like Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev. The team consisted of many bits-and-pieces players - not exactly the allrounders like an Ian Botham or Imran Khan. But, they could help with a quick score or a good catch/run-out or couple of vital wickets. That was the beauty of this team.

If it was Yashpal Sharma and Sandeep Patil with their batting exploits during the match against England in the semis, it was the bowling of Mohinder Amarnath in the knock-out rounds. Roger Binny and Madan Lal were the highest wicket-takers in the squad, Binny in fact, leading the bowling pack in the tournament. Balwinder Singh Sandhu is probably known for the one ball he bowled to get Gordon Greenidge early. Kirti Azad's ball to dismiss Ian Botham in the semis was another mystery ball!!! Sunil Gavaskar and Syed Kirmani formed a good pair behind the wickets, snaffling all the chances that came their way. Srikkanth and Sandeep Patil were one of the livewires off the field, who ensured that the Indian team had their lighter moments in the dressing room. Of course, Kapil Dev's 175 not out remains the best innings played by an Indian in ODI cricket.

The strength of the team can be judged by the fact that Dilip Vengsarkar and Ravi Shastri were part of the supporting squad. Sunil Valson was the only player who did not get a chance to play in any of the matches in the tournament. All the units of the team gelled together to get the team to the winning post. Most of the players came from the metros and bigger cities, unlike the team of late. These players had a tough series away in West Indies, which gave the confidence to the team during the World Cup. They defeated the Windies for the first time in Berbice - this would serve as a confidence-booster to their further matches.

This performance enabled the rise of the Indian team in the ODI series - culminating in the 1985 World Series Championship win. This tournament win has not been repeated till date and hence remains a sentimental favorite for all those who not only took part but those who had the fortune to watch it live on television, like yours truly.
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