'1983 was the biggest disappointment of my career'

Tony Cozier
Small chases are always tricky - even for two-time world champions against a team of no-hopers, as Joel Garner found out

An "overconfident" West Indies went down against India in the 1983 final © AllSport UK Ltd

It was a strange conversation.

As Joel Garner strolled off the Lord's outfield after India had been bowled out for 183 in the 1983 World Cup final, he asked an odd question of his fast bowler pal Malcolm Marshall. Marshall's reply was odder.

"I turned to Malcolm and said, 'Do you think you'll have to bat today?'" Garner recalls. "He came back with, 'Yeah, and you too.'

"I think he saw the look on my face. After all, he would bat at No. 8 and I was No. 10."

Marshall's explanation was straightforward: "You know when we chase small totals, everybody looks to the next person to finish the job," he reasoned. Marshall's forewarning and Garner's response - "In that case, well then, we've got a problem" - were prophetic.

Both did bat. Marshall was eighth out for 18, Garner was left unbeaten on 5. West Indies, champions of the first two tournaments, in 1975 and 1979, were all out for 140, a result that sent Garner and the last man, Michael Holding, dashing to the sanctuary of the dressing room to escape the jubilant swarm of onrushing Indian fans across Lord's hallowed turf.

It was a monumental upset, more staggering than any others in the ten World Cup finals. India had not made it past the group stage in 1975 and 1979; West Indies' only defeat in 17 previous cup matches was against India.

That it was in their first match of the tournament should have been cautionary. West Indies were 157 for 9 going after India's 262 for 8 before Garner and Andy Roberts saved some face with 71 for the last wicket. Even then it was regarded, not least by West Indies, as a mere blip on the record of the most formidable team in the game, especially after they won the return group match by 66 runs.

"Overconfidence is a hell of a thing," Garner says. "It was just that they took it for granted that they would make the 183."

"They" were the batsmen who fell one after the other to the underestimated Indian bowling - captain Kapil Dev, supported by a group of medium-paced swingers: Balwinder Sandhu, Madan Lal, Roger Binny and Mohinder Amarnath.

Fulfilling Marshall's prediction, Garner entered at 124 for 8, passing Marshall on the way back in, caught off Man of the Match Amarnath.

The outcome had a profound effect on West Indies players. Marshall wrote in his autobiography that they "had paid the ultimate price for an act of complacency". Captain Clive Lloyd acknowledged afterwards that his team had approached the small target "in a complacent manner", conceding that India had played better on the day. "They were perhaps mentally stronger," he said.

Garner was especially livid. In the victorious 1979 final, his 5 for 38 had followed Viv Richards' unbeaten 138 and Collis King's swashbuckling 86 from 66 balls against England.

"Afterwards, I went into the dressing room, packed my bags and went to the presentation," he relates. "I then went into the Tavern, had a few drinks and went back to the Westmoreland hotel that was just across the road."

"There must have been 5000 Indian fans there in the lobby with their cowbells and their music, taunting 'We beat you.' I said to myself, 'You mean I've got to put up with this?'"

I could empathise with him. It was close to 11pm when I filed the last of my reports back to the West Indies papers. The only place I could locate for a meal at that time was an Indian restaurant, by then raucous with the joy of the victory. When I did manage to get a table, Farrokh Engineer, with whom I had shared commentary on BBC's radio coverage, was a few feet away with his entourage. I couldn't escape the same taunts to which Garner was subjected at the team's hotel.

Fans swarm on to the ground after the World Cup final © PA Photos

In his disappointment, Lloyd held himself responsible. There was a feeling that he should not have played after pulling a muscle that kept him off the field for much of the semi-final against Pakistan three days earlier. He aggravated it once more batting in the final, requiring Desmond Haynes as his runner. He chose the after-match function, prearranged by the West Indies board, certainly in the expectation of a celebration, to announce his resignation as captain.

The occasion had already been transformed into a wake. It was the second shock to the players within a few hours. It took persuasion from board president Allan Rae, the opening batsman of the 1950s, and some of the senior players for Lloyd to reconsider his decision. He changed his mind the next day.

No one on the team was more crestfallen than Garner, who returned to his English county, Somerset, and brooded over the manner of the loss. "For a long time, two or three months, I wouldn't talk to any of my team-mates," he admits. "I would say that the World Cup 1983 was the biggest disappointment in terms of my cricket career."

The full tour of India at the end of the year went some way to avenging those embarrassed by the World Cup defeat. They won all five one-day internationals, by then 50 rather than 60 overs an innings, and the six-Test series 3-0.

There was a solitary sorry exception. Garner couldn't get his own back. He was injured and had to follow the series from back home in Barbados. By the time the next World Cup came along, in India and Pakistan four years later, he had retired from international cricket.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for 50 years