While watching the 1975 inaugural Cricket World Cup final being contested between the West Indies and Australia at Lord’s, London, from the stands, India’s Mohinder Amarnath told his team-mate Anshuman Gaekwad, “Anshu, it would be great if one day we played the final.”
Amarnath’s dream did come true eight years later, when on June 25, 1983, he was a part of the Indian team that took on the mighty West Indies, then two-time World Cup champions, at the Home of Cricket, Lord’s Cricket Ground, for the coveted title.
The then 32-year-old Amarnath played match-winning roles for India in the semifinals against England and then in the final against the West Indies. His gentle medium-pace suited the English conditions as he took eight wickets at 22.25 and scored 237 runs at 29.62. Amarnath won the man-of-the-match awards in the semifinal for his contributions of 46 and 2/27 against England and in the final for 26 and 3/12.
Amarnath trapping Michael Holding to signal India’s win by 43 runs and dashing to the striker’s end to pick up a bail as a souvenir, even as his team-mates rushed to pick up a stump or a bail, and sprinting to the pavilion even as the spectators began to invade the ground from all directions seemed to have happened recently.
This day, 38 years ago will remain etched in every Indian’s memory.
Amarnath’s close friend and India team-mate, Gaekwad missed out on the 1983 World Cup, but figured in ODIs before and after the quadrennial event.
Gaekwad was following India’s progress from India and was thrilled when he won, sending congratulatory messages to captain Kapil Dev and his friend Amarnath besides others upon their return.
Gaekwad told News18.com while reflecting upon the quadrennial event that saw India emerge triumphant for the first of their two World Cup titles: “What went right or wrong, Sunil Valson was considered as an alternative for me. Being in England and a left-arm seamer, a pace bowler, who helped the team, that’s how he figured and I missed out. That was the only time I missed. Otherwise, I played before and after that World Cup.”
Until the 1983 World Cup, Gaekwad, now 68, played in all the previous six matches that India figured in the mega tournament – 3 each in 1975 and 1979.
“It was a fantastic win,” Gaekwad said, reflecting on this day exactly 38 years ago. “Nobody thought we would win. At one stage, it looked like it was all over. Suddenly, everything was revived and it was a pleasant surprise to see the Indian team win the World Cup. We enjoyed it, we were jumping with joy when we won. Though I was not part of it, it was a big thing.”
“After they came back, I spoke to Kapil, congratulated him and also Jimmy (Amaranth). Jimmy and I were very close. It was an all-round performance from every member of the Indian team. Mohinder was very hardworking, very sincere. Though he was not as quick as the others, he had subtle variations with his own medium pace. His control was very good. Line and length was extremely effective. He was an ideal bowler in England. Jimmy, at that time, was playing every season in England. He knew very well what line and length to bowl. And he did the job. He was well aware of the English conditions, be it in batting and bowling. He was also a safe fielder. Keeping everything in mind, he richly deserved man of the match awards in the semifinal and the final,” Gaekwad said.
The former right-handed batsman also complimented all-rounder Roger Binny, who emerged as the highest wicket-taker with 18 scalps in that tournament. “Roger relied a lot more on the movement. That’s where he was effective. He did not have the pace like the West Indians but had greater control and knew what he could do. And the conditions helped him, as well. He made good use of them. And that was why he was successful.”
Gaekwad said that it was a total team effort that helped India win. “Looking at the entire World Cup, nobody came up with great performances individually, whether it was batting or bowling. Everybody chipped. Except for Kapil Dev’s 175 not out against Zimbabwe, there was nothing glaring, big performance by anyone. It was a team effort.”
Gaekwad, who often opened with the legendary Sunil Gavaskar, paid rich tributes to skipper Kapil Dev. He said: “Kapil was a fearless youngster. Winning and losing were part of the game, there was no pressure. That particular time, India were not tipped to win the World Cup. They were all the underdogs. As the tournament progressed, that was when we saw India getting closer. This was like India’s win in the Trinidad Test in the West Indies, 1976, when we chased a 404-run target. When it began, we never thought we would be chasing 400. But as the game progressed, we came closer and closer, and then we achieved it (India won that Test by six wickets). Similar was the 1983 World Cup.”