When Kapil’s Devils made a scribe eat his words (Revisiting 1983 World Cup)

June 21st, 2008 - 6:30 pm ICT by IANS  

By Avishek Roy
New Delhi, June 21 (IANS) When Kapil’s Devils wrestled down the mighty West Indies for the historic World cup triumph 25 summers ago, many cricket pundits did not know which way to look as everyone had prophesied India’s doom even before the start of the event. But one British scribe ate his words, literally. India entered the 1983 World Cup with just two inconspicuous victories against minnows East Africa in the preceding two editions in 1975 and ‘79. It was enough for cricket experts around the world not to take India seriously.

Famous Cricket historian David Edward Frith, the founder-editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly, went to the extreme saying the teams like India should not be allowed to compete in a prestigious event like the World Cup.

The English writer for good measure declared that if India lifts the World Cup, he would eat his words. Little did Frith realise that his words would fire the underdogs and boomerang on him.

A thorough professional that he was, David kept his promise by swallowing his magazine article, washing it down with wine. The September edition of Wisden magazine that year carried a photograph of David with his own article clenched between his teeth. The caption read ‘India made me eat my words’.

The man who reminded David of his promise was P.R. Mansingh, the manager of the team. In fact, he was all alone managing everything. Today, there is a posse of men accompanying the team performing various chores.

Mansingh recalls that incident with mischievous glint in his eye.

“It was a very nasty piece he (David) wrote about the Indian team in the June issue of his magazine. The piece was a curtain raiser and it said that the Indian team had no standard and such teams should not be playing in the World Cup. It devalues the tournament,” Mansingh told IANS going down memory lane.

“Back home after winning the World Cup I wrote to him: ‘Now what do you have to say Mr David?”

“I was surprised when I opened the September issue of Wisden. It carried my letter and a photograph of David with a piece of paper in his mouth with the caption ‘India made me eat my words’.

Mansingh said one reason why India won the world cup was because no-one expected them to win.

“I remember when we left India there was no fanfare. Nobody gave us a chance. There was no expectation from people and there was no pressure as such on the team.”

Man, as he is affectionately called by his friends and the players, said it was a “happy bunch” who played with unbridled joy and pride, enjoying each other’s success.

“The camaraderie of the team stood out for me. We were a well-knit family. Every player would encourage others and revel in their success. There were no ego hassles and no differences among players. The team spirit was at its best in that bunch.”

“Even when we won the Cup, we didn’t realise the enormity of what we did. It took quite a while to sink in because we made winning a habit in the tournament and winning the final looked like winning yet another match.”

Mansingh said: “Only when we landed in India and saw the huge reception the players got that we realised that we made the country proud.”

Mansingh remembers the only time when he got emotional.

“After coming back to India the team was supposed to meet the prime minister, president and other dignitaries. I was briefing the team about the visit in the hotel room when Kapil came and asked me to leave the team alone for a minute as they wanted to discuss certain things.

“I was part of every team meeting and dressing room discussion and suddenly I was taken aback to hear Kapil’s words. I came out and got emotional, but moments later Kapil came to me and said ‘Man, the team wants you at every discussion and meeting, even though the World Cup is over’.

“Later I got to know that the captain was just making sure if anybody had any reservation about my presence. And the team unanimously wanted me there. I was touched by their affection.”

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