Going into the World Cup, we were apprehensive because we hadn’t done well in the two previous editions in 1975 and 1979. But we went in with a positive approach and wanted to give it our best shot. Then things started just going our way and there was no looking back.
Beating West Indies in the first game gave us a lot of confidence – we knew that if we could beat the world champions, we could do well in the forthcoming matches as well. A victory like that works wonders for your mindset and attitude. We knew we had a good chance to beat Zimbabwe in the next game and then we beat them again when we faced them later on. Once you have a good start to your campaign, it boosts your morale. There is an air of positivity around.
In the first match against Zimbabwe, we had cruised to victory very comfortably. The next time we faced them we were in deep trouble at 17 for 5. I was just looking to stay around with Kapil Dev and get a target that we could defend. Kapil was doing really well so my strategy was to just hang in there. Not just me, even Roger Binny and Syed Kirmani shared crucial partnerships with Kapil trying to take some pressure off him. And Kapil was in such form that he went on to score one of the most brilliant centuries of that era.
Australia had beaten us badly in the first match even after Kapil’s heroics with the ball. But the second victory against Zimbabwe proved to be a blessing as it motivated us ahead of the virtual quarterfinal against Australia where Binny and I got four wickets each to bowl them out for just 129.
In the final, each one of us, not just me, wanted to be a hero. We were not favourites against the mighty West Indian line-up, but each one of us had the belief that we could pull it off. We were a bunch of deeply religious people and knew such opportunities came only once in a lifetime and we had to make the most of it.
Each one of us strived to make important contributions and every match had different heroes – that was the best part of our World Cup. I had dreamt before the final that I would do well since it was the biggest stage of my life. I gave my 100% on the field after that, but luck favoured me – that catch Kapil took to send back Viv Richards off my bowling was amazing. Richards was doing just what his team wanted him to, he was being destructive. He went after me as he hit three boundaries in my first over. So Kapil wanted to take me out of the attack for some time. I was not supposed to bowl that over but I knew that I could get Richards. Even after he beat me in the first couple of overs (he hit me about 20-25 runs), I knew that when the batsman is on song there are chances that he might make a mistake.
But though Richards was the main wicket, with the small total we had put up, every West Indies wicket was valuable. They had a team full of match winners and if they hung around they could easily get to the target. But we kept getting wickets every alternate over and then started building pressure.
Clive Lloyd was still batting and had he batted for long it would have been a different result. But we managed to get him. We were so engrossed in the game that we realised that the World Cup was ours only after the last wicket had fallen.
The victory completely changed the landscape of Indian cricket. Millions of people started following the game. The Board also started growing and taking the game seriously. After our victory, every country, which had not made a mark in the game till then, started taking it seriously. Especially the Asian counties – Sri Lanka and Pakistan – who went on to win the World Cup later on. Whatever stature cricket enjoys today, a major part of it is because of the 1983 victory.
(As told to Disha Shetty)