Believing in ourselves won us World Cup, Kapil reminisces

June 25th, 2008 - 9:41 pm ICT by IANS  

By Venkata Vemuri
London, June 25 (IANS) “Nobody believed in us when we landed in England in 1983, so we decided to believe in ourselves and went on to win,” reminisces Kapil Dev Nikhanj of the World Cup victory 25 years ago to the day. ‘Kapil’s Devils’ are back in England, this time the cynosure of all eyes, to re-live the summer days of June 1983.

Kapil took time off Wednesday morning for a personal pilgrimage to Tunbridge Wells, a small, county cricket ground in Kent where he single-handedly carved an impossible win against Zimbabwe to let the world know “we have it in us to make it to the final”.

India were down at 17 for five and it was Kapil’s unbeaten knock of 175 that saved the day for the team and put it on the path to the finals.

“It was the turning point. As I returned to the pavilion after the match ended, we were telling ourselves that if we could win here we can win in any situation,” he recalls.

Kapil spent an hour at the Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club. It was a walk down memory lane as he walked up to the pitch, as he made his way back to the pavilion past the stands and into the dressing room where, as fellow team mate Sunil Gavaskar recently recalled, “there was nobody in the dressing room when Kapil came… we were all hiding our faces because our captain had showed us how to bat”.

The Club officials and the media were at hand to welcome the former Indian captain.

All they would do after the handshakes was look at him and try imagine him as a 23-year-old, nervous youngster on whose shoulders rode the fate of his country.

They had only heard tales of how this man, essentially a strike bowler, wielded the bat that day - June 18, 1983 - as if there was no tomorrow. A genial smile is all the modest Kapil has for them in return for their compliments.

Are the memories of that summer afternoon still fresh in his mind? “The memories are hazy. I really don’t know what was going on my mind when I came in to bat. We were 17 for five then. Forget a victory, I was just thinking of somehow coming out of the ordeal respectably.”

Alas, only memories remain of that memorable game: There is no footage of that innings.

Kapil remembers how, when they landed in England for the World Cup, the Indians were the underdogs, with betting agencies giving them a 66:1 chance of making it to the final.

“Initially we never thought of the finals. But after beating the West Indies (in a league match) we realized we had it in us. Ham par junoon sawar tha jeetne ka (we were in a frenzy to win). After the semi-final victory, we were confident of making it to the top.”

Mohan, who runs a fashion business in Southall, is a close friend of Kapil and he recalls of the World Cup final: “There was a West Indies woman sitting next to me who would jig her backside in my face every time an Indian wicket fell. She stopped doing that once the West Indian wickets started falling.”

He recalls seeing a poster on a newspaper stand at the entrance of the stadium which read: “Lloyd heads for treble.” As he walked out of the stadium after the Indian win, “I saw someone had struck off the word, treble, and instead scribbled, trouble.”

The most important incident of the final? “When Viv Richards fell, there was a sudden silence. We were all looking at one another in the stands. You can’t imagine. It was really pin-drop silence. The West Indies weren’t sure of victory any longer and the Indians weren’t still confident of it either.”

The next thing he remembers is going to the hotel where the Indian team was staying. “The sound of Punjabi drums was ear-shattering. None of the players was saying anything. I think the victory really sank in only the next morning.”

Mohan, however, has a regret, even 25 years later.

“I did not go to Tunbridge Wells. I thought it would be a one-sided affair and expected India to win. So I gave my ticket to someone else. How was I to know that the turning point was out there?”

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