From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.32 :: NO.42 :: Oct. 17, 2009
Cricket pictures from my playing days adorn the walls of my office (in south Delhi). These pictures are a pleasant reminder of those glorious days and carry some fond memories that I love to relive time and again. I have also placed a portrait of my late mother. It ensures that I keep my feet on earth.
I have time always for my old friends, especially from the days when I travelled on a rickety scooter with Ashok Malhotra and Sushil Kapoor to reach far flung grounds…They are very dear to me. Just like the memories of those fascinating days when India emerged as a force to reckon with in international cricket.
I love to talk about matches that India won when I was playing. We all know that victories were rare until Ajit Wadekar’s team showed the way with series wins in the West Indies and England in 1971. Twelve years later came an epic feat at Lord’s when India made history by winning the World Cup.
That glorious day — June 25, 1983 — remains close to my heart the most. There have been some other great deeds too, but nothing to match the feeling of holding the World Cup in my hands. Sometimes I feel it is yet to sink in even today. That day will always be the most important day of my cricket life. Personally, I can’t forget the day when I was chosen the Indian Cricketer of the Century by a galaxy of former cricketers. That was a very special day too. But the one that stands out keeping in mind the cricketing fraternity of India is the day we won the World Cup.
People have asked me this question a million times: How was the day? I always tell them the same thing. It was a normal day. Just as any other day! Only, the pressure grew as the day wore on. The expectations from the people made us a bit nervous but then the match had not begun yet. I have experienced some grand moments before and after that match, but nothing can match the magic that the Indian team created to flatten the West Indies. Few gave us a chance. And we shocked the then best team in the world.
The entire World Cup journey was unforgettable. How can you forget the ball that (Balwinder) Sandhu bowled (to get Gordon Greenidge)? Clive Lloyd getting out was no less important. And Mohinder Amarnath snaring Jeff Dujon. Of course, my catch (to dismiss Viv Richards). How can one forget Krish Srikkanth getting down on one knee to square drive Andy Roberts or Yashpal (Sharma) flicking Bob Willis for a six (in the semifinal)? And Sandeep (Patil) hitting the winning runs on the same side (off) where England had placed nine men?
I know you would want to know about that 175 against Zimbabwe. It was just a part of the team’s journey. The World Cup win was not about my innings. And actually I don’t remember how it happened. There is no television footage of that knock. Wish I had some recording but then what mattered most was that I could play a winning role for the team.
The final is still vivid. It was a big day for us for the simple reason that we were playing the final of a tournament where, we were told by many before a ball had been bowled, we did not belong. We were just happy to be there and I had slipped in a bottle of champagne in my bag. Whether we win or lose, we were going to celebrate. The dressing room was crowded after the victory with more than 100 people. We didn’t know many of them, but then it hardly mattered. We had won the Cup. Sunil Gavaskar raising my hand was a special gesture that I will never forget.
Close to that day at Lord’s was July 23, 2002, when I was chosen the Indian Cricketer of the Century by a panel that included some former greats of the game. To be picked as best by some of the finest cricketers of all time was really special. I still remember in detail the day I made my Test debut, the day I hit my first Test century, the day I got the World record for highest Test wickets and the Rothman’s Cup (in 1985) when we beat Pakistan after making just 125. Also the World Championship of Cricket triumph that proved the World Cup victory was no fluke. The Tied Test against Australia in Madras was unforgettable too. The 1981 Test win in Melbourne was a sensational team effort. There are many, many moments I can’t forget, but Lord’s, 1983, will remain the best.
I have also had a most forgettable day in my life. The day of the last-ball six that Javed (Miandad) hit off Chetan (Sharma). It happened in Sharjah (on April 18, 1986) when we lost a match we should have wrapped up comfortably.
Every sportsman does something extraordinary, a superman-like act at least once in his life. Javed did it that day. We did not have match-finishers those days. If only we had someone with the attitude of a Sehwag, Yuvraj or Dhoni, we would not have lost that day. But full credit to Javed. He was too good.
It was again a normal day and India was expected to win without fuss. It nearly did but for Chetan not landing the ball in the right area. Hundred times out of hundred I would have asked Chetan to bowl that last over. And hundred times out of hundred I would have asked him to try a low yorker. That is what Chetan tried, but then it was Javed’s day. I will never hold Chetan responsible. As the captain, I took the blame. If I could take bouquets, then I should accept brickbats too.
The six by Miandad gave a great impetus to the game in Pakistan. Very similar to what the 1983 World Cup win did for India.
As told to Vijay Lokapally
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