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Vol XXIX No. 7, July 16-31, 2019

Memories of an early win at Lord’s stadium

– Vasanth Manickam

Page 8

Indian team led by Kapil Dev during a reception given to the victorious team that won the World Cup. Picture courtesy: The Hindu.

“Thatha,” my 7 year old cricket-crazy grandson said, “Tell me the story of how you saw the WC 1983. (this was the umpteenth time!) . Everybody, just hear this !” he said turning to his cousins. It was a story, that would assure you of a rapt audience till the very end…. and one I was never tired of narrating.

I was a 37 year old chemical engineer, working in SPIC. Our team of six engineers were sent to Bombay, for the project work of ONGC, URAN. We were stationed in a hotel in Chembur.

It was June 1983! India, the underdogs were playing the semi finals against England, amusing them greatly by their poor performance. But the tides turned and India marched into the last arena, the World Cup finals, surprising the whole cricketing world!

Finals against West Indies- the World Champions, who had won the last two World Cups in 1975 and 1979!

A one-sided game? Or whatever the outcome! How could I miss this! Our hotel in Chembur had a TV but in a small cramped lobby. I was determined to enjoy this eventful match in the best way possible. And what better place than our guest house in Colaba, 35 km away. But distance melted away in the anticipation of good food, great ambience and above all, our guys in the World Cup final!

Of course, no one ever imagined India stood a chance against the ruling giants! Reaching the finals was thrilling enough! So, off I went to our guest house in Colaba.

India won the toss and chose to bat. But the score they notched up?! Only 183 in 54.5 overs! I was quite sure the formidable WI, aiming for a hat trick, would easily reach this total, in much less!

Two wickets down, Viv Richards, the greatest batsman in the world, strode onto the field, in his characteristic style. He alone could reach this small total! The ball went flying all over the field and he steadily notched up 33 off 28 balls. I looked at my watch. The match would be over soon, the way things looked and I would be able to catch my train well ahead of time. I relaxed and sat back.

Madan Lal bowled to Viv Richards, who struck the ball hard, towards mid wicket, over the head of Kapil Dev. Kapil Dev, being an outstanding athlete, ran towards the boundary line, with his back towards the wicket and (as everyone held their breath, eyes wide open) took an unbelievable catch, over his shoulder! VR was out!!! Incredible development! This was the turning point and India, who had no chance, at the start of the game, had some hope to beat West Indies. I had come all the way here to watch, not expecting this totally unexpected turn of events, in India’s favour ! Would I, after all, be missing out on the most exciting part!

The last train to Chembur to my hotel, was scheduled to leave at 11.40 pm from VT. The match was at such an exciting stage that I did not want to miss even a single ball. I decided to stay as long as possible but of course, without also missing the last train.After that, it was edge of the seat viewing !

At 11.20, I had to tear myself away and dash for the station, ten minutes away, by taxi. WI were down for 7 wickets and India had to take 3 more wickets!

I rushed down, all the time wondering what was happening back there and thoroughly disappointed at not being able to see the most crucial part. Jumping into a taxi, I told the driver to zip to the VT station. And lo! Bless him, he had the radio on with the commentary which was sweet music to my ears! Before we reached the station, at 11.35, one more wicket had fallen, leaving WI with two. As I paid him his fare, I excitedly shook hands with him.

I ran to the platform, my head full of “have our boys made it? Are they going to make it?” and to my chagrin, what do I see?! An empty platform with the stationary train! What had happened? How would I get back to my hotel?

Suddenly I saw the TC running in the distance. Sprinting up to him I called out,” TC Saab! Train??! Signalling to me to follow, he ran to the SM’s room. What the —- !! It was filled with wide-eyed passengers and the railway staff, all glued to the TV! He then asked, “Arre Bhai ! Pehle World Cup ! Baad mein train !”

Meanwhile, one more wicket fell to the utter delight of the crowd, now fervently praying for the last to go down!
The ball went hurtling out of M Amarnath’s hand, felling the last wicket! India had won by 43 runs!! The station erupted in a thunderous cheer! It was euphoria all around!

I had witnessed India’s first World Cup 1983 victory, in a different city and in three different unexpected venues! Guesthouse, Taxi and the Railway station! With the train out there, waiting patiently for this cricket crazy euphoric crowd!

At last the train left at 12 pm, late by 20 minutes. The only time when I was thankful and happy at the delayed departure of a train !!

The next day I read the most inspiring words, which pumped up the team’s sagging spirits, by the lion-hearted skipper, Kapil Dev, “Team, if this is not a winning total, it’s definitely a fighting total !” Tremendous daredevil confidence, in all its rural sincerity and simplicity.

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