Aside from lifting the World Cup at the famous Lord’s balcony in 1983, Kapil Dev also raised the spirits of the Indian team and injected confidence in them. Since then, they have entered every international event not as mere participants but as possible contenders.
In the 1985 World Championship, India were closely followed from the beginning and were considered favourites unlike in 1983 when they mere underdogs. Hence, the task for them to live up to expectations was massive.
India began their campaign confidently by defeating arch rival Pakistan in their first match. Azharuddin’s 93 not out made headlines but the bigger positive for India was the discovery of the ideal pace bowling pair for Australian conditions.
Roger Binny and Kapil Dev tormented with the new ball and made a habit of picking early wickets. In their second match, India registered a thumping victory over England and this set the tone for the rest of the tournament.
Srikanth’s aggressive start with the bat was complimented by the skilful and crafty spin bowling of Laxman Sivaramakrishnan and Ravi Shastri.
India’s toughest challenge came in the third match when they locked horns against the hosts, Australia. On a grassy Melbourne wicket, Gavaskar won the toss and asked the Australians to bat first.
What transpired next was one of Indian cricket’s proudest moments. The Indian bowlers exploited the conditions effectively while the Aussie batsman failed miserably. India gave Australia a taste of their own medicine as the Aussies were bundled out for only 163 runs. Shastri and Srikanth’s opening partnership of 124 ended the Kangaroos’ challenge and India produced one of the most dominating victories by a visiting team ever in Australia.
Riding high on confidence India then crushed New Zealand in the semi-finals. Kapil Dev got the big wicket of John Wright in the very first ball of the match and Madan Lal demolished the lower order to restrict New Zealand to 206. Shastri bowled tidily in the middle overs to pick three wickets and then scored a vital 53 which laid the platform for the veteran duo of Vengsarkar and the World Cup-winning captain to finish off the chase.
Thus, India booked a place in the finals with four consecutive victories and with all their players in good nick, they were the clear favourites going in to the title clash. However, they lined up against a dangerous Pakistan side with mavericks like Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Saleem Malik.
On 10 March 1985, the day of the finals, India were dealt a massive blow even before the match; Binny was declared unfit to play due to a virus. He was a key bowler for the Indians as he was the one to get the early breakthroughs and hence his injury was a cause of concern. However, Kapil Dev ensured Binny’s absence was not felt and Chetan Sharma, Binny’s replacement, also made the most of his chance.
The duo won half the battle in their first spell as they reduced Pakistan to 4 for 33. This disastrous start was too much to handle for Pakistan although Miandad and Imran Khan steadied the ship. Imran Khan’s run out and failure of the lower order further added to the misery and Pakistan managed only 176 runs in their 50 overs.
Miandad, the skipper, batted with his trademark determination and attitude of not bowing down to the opposition. On 48, he looked a serious threat but Sivaramakrishnan produced a bit of magic to have Miandad stumped.
The flight forced Miandad to come down the track and then the vicious turn squared him up. As Viswanath completed the stumping, Miandad was standing on the pitch still figuring out what actually happened. In his short international career, Siva bowled 756 deliveries and produced 15 wickets but that ball and that wicket was his biggest contribution to Indian cricket.
Chasing 177 was not a daunting prospect, but the Indians were fully aware of the dangers of small totals and knew that chasing in big games would be tricky. However, they responded with a brilliant strategy.
Shastri was asked to steady one end which prevented Pakistan from getting early wickets while Srikanth was given the license to play his natural brand of aggressive cricket.
The result of this perfect blend of aggression and defence was an opening partnership of 103 runs. Srikanth’s 67 runs came from just 77 balls and it was enough to demoralise the Pakistani bowlers.
Azharrudin entered at the fall of the first wicket to further capitalise on the start and scored a brisk 25 from only 26 balls. He was dismissed after getting India close to the finishing line. Vengsarkar then prevented any further hiccups and completed the chase with a calm head. Meanwhile, at the other end, the flamboyant Ravi Shastri had tempered his natural instincts to score 63 runs from 148 balls.
Every big victory has a cover poster. The 1983 World Cup has Kapil Dev on the Lord’s balcony with the trophy in his hands and a wide smile on his face. The 2007 T-20 World Cup has a young and long-haired Dhoni wearing a sleeveless Indian jersey and flaunting his muscles along with the trophy.
Similarly, this World Championship of Cricket 1985 had Team India sitting on a brand new Audi presented to Ravi Shastri. Waving to the crowd with champagne bottles in their hands, the Indian players having a ride on the Melbourne ground is how this victory is inked in fans’ memories.