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World Cup 1983: 25 years on

It began at Berbice

Before they beat West Indies in the World Cup, India had the perfect dress rehearsal in Guyana

Siddarth Ravindran

June 23, 2008

Comments: 8 | Text size: A | A



Sunil Gavaskar didn't hang about at Berbice, unlike in his infamous World Cup innings in 1975 © Getty Images
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Twenty-five years on, it still remains a source of wonder how Kapil Dev's bunch of no-hopers managed to capture the 1983 World Cup. India's showings at the previous World Cups had made for sorry reading: no wins against significant opposition, and Sunil Gavaskar's tedious, unbeaten 36 off 174 balls in 1975 was perhaps the only talked-about individual contribution.

The foundation for the success was laid not in a high-profile match at one of cricket's marquee venues but in an inconspicuous one-dayer tucked away in the middle of a Test series, at the humble Albion Sports Complex in Berbice, Guyana.

A few months before the World Cup, India had embarked on one of cricket's toughest assignments - a tour against Clive Lloyd's West Indies. Apart from having to line up against a veritable who's who of one-day batting greats backed up by what is widely regarded as the most fearsome bowling combination in history, the Indians had several other issues to contend with: their long-standing captain, Gavaskar, had just been sacked after a disastrous tour of Pakistan, there was talk of a rivalry between West Zone and North Zone players in the team, they had an non-threatening bowling attack, and were missing the big-hitting Sandeep Patil - their best ODI batsman on the Pakistan tour.

Having lost the first Test and ODI and drawn the second Test, they came to Berbice, where there were some factors in their favour. Firstly, the pitch was flat. "In fact, Lloyd was rather unhappy about this," recalls Ashis Ray, a veteran commentator and writer who covered the tour. "But in those days, the West Indian quicks used to mow through any batting line-up even on a slow track." Also, Berbice, where the great Rohan Kanhai was born, was home to thousands of Guyanese of Indian descent, who turned up in large numbers to support the visiting side. "Temporary stands had been erected to accommodate the spectators," says Ray. "It was Holi [an Indian festival], and therefore a festive atmosphere existed among the Indo-Caribbeans in the crowd."

After India were sent in by Lloyd, Gavaskar conjured one of his finest one-day knocks. His performance in the World Cup would be dismal, but he expertly handled the West Indian pace quartet in this game. With Ravi Shastri, who was opening for the first time in an ODI, holding firm at the other end, Gavaskar's wonderfully paced effort ensured the scoring-rate remained above five. He fell short of becoming India's first one-day centurion, run-out for 90 off 117 balls but left India at 152 for 2, primed to exploit the one chink in the opposition bowling - their feeble spin department.

That weakness was exposed by Kapil in a hurricane knock of 72 off 38 balls, carving three sixes and seven fours on the way and lifting India to 282 for 5 in 47 overs, their highest score till then in ODIs.

He then came back with the new ball and, along with Balwinder Sandhu, got rid of the dreaded opening pair of Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge early. Still, as it would be in the World Cup final, the match seemed to be slipping out of India's grasp as Viv Richards tore into the bowling.



Kapil Dev starred with ball and bat - a precursor of his World Cup performance © Getty Images
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Richards crashed a manic 64 before being bowled by Madan Lal, but India faced some more anxious moments as wicketkeeper Jeff Dujon and Faoud Bacchus made tenacious half-centuries. Shastri then chipped in with three wickets and Kapil and Sandhu wrapped up the tail. It was a collective bowling effort - foreshadowing the performance at the World Cup - that helped India to a 27-run victory.

It was a landmark win - India's first ODI victory against the West Indies, and the first time a full-strength West Indies had been beaten at home. However, due to the low-profile nature of one-dayers then and the defeat in the Test series that followed (India lost 0-2), the Indian public didn't really pick up on the win. "I don't think many people realised the enormity of the win straightaway," says Ray. "But the Berbice victory lent the team massive self-belief, which they quietly carried into the World Cup - only 11 weeks later."

The players, especially Kapil, were keenly aware of the importance of Berbice. "We learnt quite a few lessons on this sunny day and our confidence started building up right away." Kapil wrote in his autobiography Straight From the Heart. "It's this particular win that helps convince many of us that we may well be able to pull our weight together as a team."

The other members of the squad were also buoyed by Kapil's confidence. "Looking back, I can vividly recall the talk Kapil Dev had with the team before the World Cup started," Kris Srikkanth, the former Indian opener, wrote. "He made us believe that the West Indies were beatable. We had got a win a few months earlier and Kapil said if we could do it once, why not another time." That belief burgeoned as an unfancied but upbeat India kicked off an unforgettable campaign by vanquishing the favourites, West Indies, at Old Trafford.

Siddarth Ravindran is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo

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Posted by GauravGoel on (June 25, 2008, 19:49 GMT)

I was not aware of the victory before i read this article .. nice to learn about this particular game and hence its importance ...

Posted by R_Raja on (June 25, 2008, 10:48 GMT)

I remember that historic match at Berbice. The match literally ended with a thunderstorm if my memory serves me right. In hindsight it was prophetic, as if foretelling India's great win in the 1983 world up.

Posted by mtrocks on (June 24, 2008, 21:46 GMT)

As a young kid to cricket - I was not even born when India won the world cup, its intriguing to hear more about the way Kapil Dev's team went onto win the world cup. It felt really nice watching that match as well. Its been one of my all time favorites. Nice article!

Posted by ashwin_547 on (June 23, 2008, 18:21 GMT)

amazing, if only west indies were this remotely intimidating today, it would make for better cricket, come on guyana produce more clive lloyds and those greats, trinidad - another lara, barbados another sobers and many more, west indies could once again dominate!

Posted by mafiasam on (June 23, 2008, 17:54 GMT)

i agree with you partly ICF_lurker, Kapil Dev was not the best all rounder of his era.. he has been the best all rounder ever so far. and i know people will be quick to pull out the stats and compare him with imran khan or jacques kallis. but think of the no. of situations when kapil has pulled India out of the hole, he has been the Iceman of Indian Cricket. Probably the best allrounder India could ever get.

Posted by KishoreSharma on (June 23, 2008, 15:04 GMT)

Absolutely, it was a crucial win. I was living in the UK then and, aged 17, was an avid cricket fan. By the way, I also read Jamie Alter's article on the Tunbridge Wells game where Kapil hit that amazing 175. I was actually at the game. I gather that Jamie struggled to find people to speak to who were actuually there. If he wants first-hand information, he is welcome to contact me at sharmak@juno.com. It was a truly amazing game. Zimbabwe had good bowlers (Curran and Rawson) who exploited the seaming conditions perfect to reduce India to 17 for 5 after ten overs. We were somewhat embarrassed. But after that....we were absolutely engrossed and somehow ended up in the Indian dressing room after the win! Cheers, Kishore Sharma

Posted by ICF_Lurker on (June 23, 2008, 14:34 GMT)

About time someone wrote about this otherwise less known game. Thanks Siddharth.

This game is a landmark for many a reasons. India showed that West Indies could be beaten, even at home. When critics consider Indian win in 1983 finals as a "fluke" they should check out the game at Berbice where it all started. From the game at Berbice to 1983 finals India played West Indies 5 times and beat them in 3 of them. Yes West Indies were awesome team but the Indian team of 83 were more than capable of beating them.

Kapil Dev's performance should show what an awesome player he was, and why many(including me) consider him the greatest all-rounder of his era. 72 off 38 deliveries@strike of 190 was insane in 1983. That combined with the fact he took 2 wickets at measly economy and led Indian team to beat West Indies in their backyward. Which other all-rounder of his era can boast of similar performance?

Posted by LANKALOVER on (June 23, 2008, 11:13 GMT)

Yes,Siddarth is spot on..! Before this match, it RAINED Haynes!

I still remember this game in Berbice and without any doubt this victory paved the way for India's performance in the WC'83. This victory also instilled the confidence in a team they can perform better and become world-beaters.

The present Indian team pale in comparison with that of the mid80s. They have won just two tournaments - the Natwest Trophy against England in 2002 in a feather-bed pitch and the recent one in the VB Series against Australia - in TEN years after defeating Australia in Sharjah in 1998.

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