Thursday, January 20, 2011

World Cup victory in 1983 and all that

The contrast between the India of 2011 and the 1983 side is stark. Yet they won it 28 years ago. So they can do it again. But the deal is that I shall not be eating any unsavoury paper and ink.

It’s time to check out old memories, for another cricket World Cup is approaching. This inevitably brings back some electrifying thoughts of the 1983 event, which will forever stand very high in India’s collective memory.

And not just that. On a personal note, I was vilified for something I wrote about India’s prospects before that tournament, and then subsequently thanked for spurring them to victory.What a conflict of opinion.

So let me state the precise facts. Most people know that in the first two World Cups (1975 and 1979) the approach and the performance by India were dire.

It seemed clear that most of their players objected to the principle of having to hurry things along, in contrast to the measured pace of Test cricket, where time is often of less concern.

This was what actually made batsmen such as Sunil Gavaskar so very difficult to dislodge, and India so difficult to beat over five days.

In the lead-up period to the 1983 World Cup, my preview in Wisden Cricket Monthly included these words: “India can only hope to redeem their dismal record of past World Cup performances. They plodded against England in the most bloody-minded fashion in 1975 and managed to lose to the then-humble Sri Lanka in 1979.

If their pride is not important enough to spur them to whole-hearted effort this time, they might as well give way to other would-be participants in 1987.”

Reel forward three months. India have won the World Cup, to the surprise and delight of much of the cricket world.

The might of West Indies was tossed aside by Kapil Dev’s boys. Today’s chairman of selectors Srikkanth top-scored with a bold 38, “Jimmy” Amarnath (spinal innings of 26 off 81 balls and 3 for 12 off seven overs) received the Man-of-the-Match award.

Kapil’s outfield catch to dismiss Viv Richards (33 top score) was seen as the decisive moment, and that night the hotel across from Lord’s trembled from the rhythm of the dancing in the foyer as Indian fans mobbed their heroes.

The captain did a sinuous bhangra, and I stood in the corner, smiling and tingling with pleasure. What happened next?I received a letter from a mildly irate fandemanding that I now eat my words.

It was alleged that I was “one-sided” in my preview.(Of course, I preferred to see it as an impartial judgment which, if anything, had served as a spur to push the boys to greater effort.)

My correspondent very reasonably pointed out that “this one-day cricket, an English invention, took time to take root in India”. He therefore relished India’s “demolishing” of England in the 1983 semifinal.

But now he demanded that I “be a good sport and swallow the lousy paragraph you wrote”.

Being (I hope) a gentleman (Canterbury Boys’ High School, MCC member and all that), I set about meeting this man’s requirement.In the press-box at Lord’s, having carefully acquired some good wine to wash it down, I duly chewed up and swallowed that paragraph. It was a satisfying experience, though not without a lingering fear of the consequences of downing so much inked paper.

There is no longer any need to goad India into applying themselves to the task ahead.MS Dhoni’s team have won their share of limited-over matches in recent years and now approach the 2011 World Cup among the favourites.

To have beaten South Africa in South Africa is no mean feat, and must push India upwards in the forecasts. The impression given to one so far away is that India now have so many estimable players — for Test and for one-day demands — that they will hold their own against any opposition. And if spin bowling plays a big part in their success, cricket is the winner.

Cricket’s charm is based not only upon its visual appeal and its rhythms. It is one of the most unpredictable of sports.One recent surprise has been the batsmanship of Harbhajan Singh.India’s tail now seems fortified, always important in the shorter game.

Piyush Chawla’s leg-spin is a delight to behold.The fast attack seems in good order, with Zaheer Khan doubtless determined to make amends for India’s defeat in the World Cup final before last, when Australia beat India as well as the rain in the Johannesburg final.

I wrote only a few years back that India’s top six in the batting order was probably as good as any in cricket history.Now Virender Sehwag has added his powers to it. Captain Dhoni has drive and flair, and the contrast between the India of 2011 and the 1983 side is stark.

Yet they won it 28 years ago.So they can do it again. But the deal is that if my prediction (so very different to the 1983 version) fails to materialise, I shall not be eating any unsavoury paper and ink.

1 comment:

nazia said...

great article i really like it and i hope that you will share about the world cup 2011,
thanks to share information with us and keep it up
Cricket World Cup 2011 Teams