Three World Cups and almost 13 years later, the 1983 final at Lord’s and the scenes that followed its end remain vivid in the mind’s eye.
As, on that June morning, I went through a reporter’s pre-match routine of preparing the note book and scrolling a sheet of paper on the typewriter, I hardly imagined that the task ahead would entail recording the events of a day that would usher in a new era in the history of Indian cricket.
When Clive Lloyd won the toss and put India in, it would have been fanciful to visualise Lord’s being swamped at the end of the day by jubilant Indian supporters rather than those of the West Indies, beating out the rhythm of the Calypso with tin cans and dancing to it as they had done in 1975 and 1979. The reigning champions were clear favourites. The team that Lloyd led out that day was the strongest ever assembled for a limited-overs contest.
Odds on a West Indian victory became even shorter after the toss for, in most instances, its loss in a Lord’s final has proved tantamount to a death warrant. To have surmounted this initial setback and successfully defended a meagre total was a miracle and nothing less.
At this distance of time, the scorecard does not reflect batting of much distinction by India. But Srikkanth’s innings of 38, if not impressive for substance, remains unforgettable for flair and daring. All but four of Srikkanth’s runs came in boundaries. Twice he hooked Andy Roberts, then the purveyor of the meanest bouncer in the game. Forcing him thus to pitch the ball up, Srikkanth folded his legs into a near-kneel and square-drove the mighty fast bowler with stunning ferocity.
Unquestionably, this was the shot of the match. The Indians in the crowd, depressed by the swift exit of Gavaskar, were stirred. Mohinder Amarnath, composed and brave, was the perfect foil to Srikkanth. His brief was to hold the fort through Garner’s spell and he staunchly delivered the goods, playing an innings worth more than his 26 runs.
The dismissal of Kapil Dev for only 15 would have proved a mortal blow but for the spirited wag of the tail. But the cheering from the crowd as the last three wickets added 53 runs, which more than accounted for the margin of victory, was muted and appeared forced. It seemed to spring more from loyalty than hope or conviction.
Despite the modest total, India took the field in buoyant spirit which made itself manifest in the summary dismissal of Greenidge. His opening partner, Haynes, was also denied a notable contribution but, by the time he was brought to book, the total had reached 50 for King Viv was batting in all his pomp.
The ball was swinging and deviating off the seam and yet it never failed to locate the middle of the great man’s bat. Richards was in the mood in which he would recognise only his own genius, taking no cognisance of the situation or the fact that Lloyd, no sooner had he arrived, incurred a major hamstring injury.
Richards stormed his way to 33 off only 28 balls, with seven fours, and aiming for another with a contemptuous swing at Madan Lal, lofted the ball to mid-wicket where Kapil Dev, running back withthe ball coming off his shoulder, took a magnificent catch.
The excitement over Richards’ dismissal had barely died down when Madan Lal struck for the third time in a span of 19 balls, removing Gomes and reducing the West Indies to 66 for four. Lloyd’s footwork was too impaired and an attempted drive at Binny proved fatal. Bacchus followed his skipper and with 108 runs needed, the West Indies had only four wickets left. With enough overs to go, Dujon and Marshall applied themselves, putting on 43 with relative comfort.
However, with the departure of Dujon, whom Amarnath caused to play on, the West Indies subsided without further resistance. Match winner in the semi-finals, Amarnath had done the trick again. He deservedly won the Man of the Match award. Also in the reckoning was Kapil Dev’s forthright, charismatic leadership. It is hard to think of another captain who could have seen India through the defence of a total as modest as 183.