The day Indian cricket found its voice

A look back at the 1983 World Cup semifinal that gave Indian cricket wings.

Sandeep Patil en route to an unbeaten half-century against England in the 1983 World Cup semi-finals.


Mumbai, June 22 -- HT looks back at the 1983 World Cup semifinal that gave Indian cricket wings. A journey began that day which helped the nation acquire its sporting identity.

Duncan Fletcher is a key witness to Indian cricket history. When he walks out with the Men in Blue as their coach on Sunday, he will be seeing a completely different face of its cricket to the one he had known when he took on India as the Zimbabwe captain in the 1983 World Cup.

The Indian fans who turn up for the game against England at Edgbaston will have war paint on their faces, screaming and dancing without inhibition.

A throwback on that moment of brilliance
They were already thinking how to play WI in the 1983 final: Azad

They would be unrecognisable to Fletcher from how he had seen them thirty summers ago. There were a few hundreds who had made it to the Old Trafford on June 22 for the 1983 World Cup semifinal, but their presence in the stands was almost negligible.

It was also for the fact, that their team was then seen as making up the numbers. In the two earlier World Cups, India had won just one game - against the lowly East Africa.

Red-letter day

A lot changed during the game against the hosts on June 22 though. If the sharp bowling performance lifted the Indian supporters' morale in the first half of the semifinal, Mohinder Amarnath and Yashpal Sharma's solid batting gave them confidence, and when Sandeep Patil started to pound the England bowlers, emotions couldn't be kept in check.

It triggered impromptu bhangra circles in the Indian section of the crowd.

"It was not like what is happening now (how the Indian fans celebrate). They were sedate and quiet, but at the end of the game there were big celebrations," recalls PR Mansingh, the 1983 India team manager.

"Incidentally, we played the semifinal against England on June 22 and this time we play them in the final on June 23," he adds, happy to be reminded of the game.

The world took notice of Kapil Dev's team when they beat the West Indies in the final, but for the Indians it was the semifinal that was the defining moment - they had upstaged England on their home ground, the country which invented the game and ruled them for long.

Till then, the India players were not known to look the opponent in the eye. It was this batch which started to act with confidence on the field - Sunil Gavaskar first and then Kapil Dev.

An indicator is in the change of attitude and the Champions Trophy final will be witness to it. Kapil and Madan Lal would celebrate a wicket with a gentle smile, the current generation of Kohlis, Rainas, Karthiks are brash, their body-language gung-ho.

"Cricket picked up in popularity and importance after the 1983 victory. It became an ambition of boys to play the game, a classic example was Sachin Tendulkar, who has mentioned many times that he was inspired by the victory," says Mansingh.

Overflowing coffers

Today, Indian cricket is identified by the wealth of its Board, but it was Kapil's Devils who gave the belief to our administrators to go ahead and deal with the traditional powerhouses of the game - England and Australia.

Before that tournament, BCCI mandarins sat in International Cricket Council meetings as timid participants. Its coffers were empty and to reward their World Cup-winning heroes they had to hold a Lata Mangeshkar musical night.

The event kick-started an Indian cricket revolution and led to a shift in power. The World Cup was taken out of England and with it went control of the game.

The happenings of this week in England will give a great picture of how Indian cricket has come along in these 30 years.

In the final at Birmingham on Sunday, Fletcher will be amused to find his team draws as much support as the home team.

On the sidelines, there is the ICC conference where the Indian cricket board will be flexing its muscles. The 1983 performance gave Indian cricket its identity. It helped it realise its worth.


Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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