Amiable, apologetic, lazy, relaxed - Mohinder Amarnath was all of those, yet put in a Man-of-the-Match performance in the 1983 World Cup final
26 and 3 for 12 v West Indies, 1983
In a team full of unlikely heroes, he was the unlikeliest; his batting was workmanlike, his bowling innocuous. Yet till this day, Mohinder Amarnath's name is a metaphor for the spirit and commitment of India's 1983 cup-winning team. Much of that was due to his work in the final, yet first there was his all-round performance in the semis, which won him the Man-of-the-Match award. Against England at Lord's, he took 2 for 27 off his 12 overs, the vital wickets of Gatting and Gower when both were looking dangerous, and followed it up with 46 before he was run out.
That took India to Lord's and up against twice-winners West Indies. Lloyd won the toss and put India in, and 55 overs later his pace quartet of Roberts, Garner, Holding and Marshall had done its work: India 183 all out, kept in the contest thanks to Srikkanth's incandescent 38 and Mohinder's "composed play against pace" - as Kapil Dev put it - in scoring 26.
Indeed, by the time of this match, Amarnath had established quite a reputation for standing up to the West Indies attack; the moustache he sported through the World Cup was to hide the remains of the 25 stitches he'd required after being hit by a Marshall special on India's tour of the Caribbean weeks earlier.
At the innings break, the hoots of West Indian supporters ringing round the ground, Kapil did his Agincourt bit: we have nothing to lose, but remember we've scored 183 runs, they are yet to do so, so make them fight for every run.
The next couple of hours turned on two moments of sheer brilliance, unscripted and on the fly. First, Balwinder Singh Sandhu's inswinger clipped Gordon Greenidge's off bail and West Indies slipped to 5 for 1. Next, Kapil's catch to dismiss a rampaging Richards, running backwards for 20 yards to pouch the ball just in front of the deep midwicket boundary.
From 50 for 1, West Indies were reeling at 66 for 5, then 76 for 6. But then the tail began to wag as Dujon and Marshall strung together a healthy partnership. Enter Mohinder and his dibbly-dobblys, and he removed both batsmen to leave West Indies at 124 for 8. The writing was on the wall, and soon Mohinder made sure it was indelible by removing Holding. West Indies were all out for 140, India won by 43 runs.
Mohinder's contribution may seem less consequential when compared to the relative pyrotechnics of Sandhu and Kapil but his figures - 7-0-12-3 - speak of how he choked off West Indies' relatively sober fightback after the big guns collapsed under the weight of hubris. "Mohinder has the laziest, relaxed way of bowling, as if he's jogging," his captain wrote, years later. "But these are deceptive moves as he trips them by making the ball wobble and induce all kinds of indecisiveness in batting."
Amarnath's achievements through 1983 led to his being named one of Wisden's five cricketers of the year. This was what the Almanack said in its commendation: "He stood firm while the West Indian bowling was at its most hostile and Srikkanth went for his ebullient shots at the other end. Together they shared the highest partnership of the match. Finally his amiable, almost apologetic medium pace finished off three of the last four wickets for 12 runs."
Amiable, apologetic, lazy, relaxed. On that mad, typically chaotic Indian summer's day, Mohinder Amarnath turned those adjectives - and the bookies' odds - on their collective head. Cricket has changed so much we probably won't again see such an unassuming performance to win a World Cup final.
Jayaditya Gupta is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo in IndiaFeeds: Jayaditya Gupta
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