How a running catch changed a World Cup final, and possibly even the game
In 1983 India had already surpassed expectations when they made it to the semi-finals of the World Cup. And even though they had beaten West Indies twice in their last three matches, once at Berbice and then again in their first group encounter, most Indian supporters were grateful for their mere presence in the final; they would happily have settled for an honourable defeat. But even that didn't seem likely when they were dismissed for 183.
Balwinder Sandhu sparked slender hope by getting Gordon Greenidge early, but when Viv Richards began to dismantle the bowlers, even the Indian players started preparing for a finish before the tea break.
Then it happened. Madan Lal, about whom it was joked that Richards had time to play two strokes by the time the ball reached him, bowled one slightly short around the off stump and Richards set himself to deposit the ball into the stands behind midwicket. He played a touch early and only top-edged it. The ball went miles up in the air, and when Kapil Dev, who was fielding at mid-on, began to run towards it, all of India waited. Few gave him a chance though. But Kapil glided on, head turned over his right shoulder, eyes fixed on the ball, taking the catch comfortably in the end, both hands cupping the ball. It was a perfect exhibition of graceful athleticism, belief, and coolness under pressure.
"They [India] brought warmth and excitement in the place of dampness and depression. In the early years of limited-overs cricket no one, themselves included, took India seriously. Their strength lay much more in waging battles of attrition. Now, on pitches which had had no time to quicken up after all the rain, their lack of fast bowling was not the hindrance it might have been."
- John Woodcock in the Wisden Almanack
What happened next
It gave India belief. And West Indies panicked. Larry Gomes, usually a man for crises, edged Madan Lal to slip. The next big wicket was Clive Lloyd, who drove airily to mid-on. Jeff Dujon and Malcolm Marshall put on a fight, but Mohinder Amarnath winkled them out with his dibbly dobblies, and in no time, the greatest upset in the history of the World Cup had happened. In hindsight it can also be said that the catch changed the way cricket would be played, for it awoke India to the possibilities of the one-day game.