Kapil Dev's India went in to the 1983 World Cup without expectations. They had won only one match, against East Africa, in the previous two editions, losing even to Sri Lanka, who were yet to be granted Test status. Kapil was 24. Few thought, least of all his team-mates, he was fit to be captain. He had been pitchforked into the job only four months earlier when India lost a Test series to Pakistan and Sunil Gavaskar was sacked.
Kapil was gauche, strategically naïve, and still trying to come to terms with his sudden elevation.
But it was this inexperienced captain who kept India's chin up. Against Zimbabwe in the league stage, he bailed India out with a majestic, back-to-wall 175. Never mind that it was against the World Cup debutants, that innings at Tunbridge Wells stands the test of time. It came on a lively pitch that Zimbabwe's bowlers exploited, and against hopeless odds. His team having been reduced to 9 for 4 when he walked in and it soon became 17 for 5.
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Though his runs came off a mere 138 balls, it was a controlled and calculated innings. Not until reaching his hundred in the 49th did he let himself go. Seventy-five runs came from his bat in the next 11 overs. "... he gave no chance and, indeed, did not mishit a single ball until well past 140, and even then it was only to lob a drive into empty space while he trotted a two," wrote the Observer's John Parker. It was the first century by an Indian in ODIs, and it would be 15 years till an Indian breached the 150-mark.
This article was first published in 2014