It was all a matter of chance
It was all a matter of chanceindia Updated: Jan 28, 2003 12:22 IST
That cricketcan be a great leveller and full of unexpected uncertainties dawned upon me during our campaign in the 1987 World Cup. I was only 22 — full of youthful confidence and brimming with exuberance. The tournament was to be played at home and the Indian team was sure that the Cup and they were made for each other.
That we were defending champions was not the only reason for our confidence. We were an extremely talented team and a few of us — Sidhu, Chetan, More, Shiva, Prabhakar —were of the same age group and got along famously. This apart, we had a few all-rounders — very crucial for this form of game — and were led by a man whose immense all-round skills need no introduction.
Kapil Dev is a man who always led from the front and his aggressive methods and attacking instincts gave us an edge over the other teams. That we were favourites was not the reading of the team alone. Critics too backed us to lift the cup at the Eden Gardens on the night of November 8.
Come to think of it, at no time in World Cup history has the Indian team been the odds-on favourite, like it was in 1987. No doubt we won the World Cup in 1983 but that was after upset after upset. The best part of our preparation was that we never came under any pressure — we always believed we would retain the Cup.
After initial hiccups — our preparatory camp at Udaipur did not go off well because of the lack of facilities there — we had a wonderful time at the National Stadium in Delhi.
As I look back at those times, I realise that the money we got was a pittance compared to what today’s players make. And come to think of it, we too had our share of contractual problems with the Board before the Championship began.
The game was not commercialised as it is today and the team did not have an official sponsor whose logo we had to wear on our clothing. Some individual players did find companies who were willing to give money for logos. The Board did not like this one bit and they wanted us to sign a contract that disallowed the wearing of logos. We did not relent but in the end, the issue was amicably resolved.
The money that some of us got for advertising these logos was Rs 1 lakh for the duration of the event but these issues were not uppermost in our minds as we walked into the Chepauk in Madras for our first match against Australia.
Memories of the tied Test were fresh and by strange coincidence, I was there in the end when India required one run to win in the last over with the last wicket pair at the crease. I was the one who got out last to tie the Test and here too, that possibility existed. I remember I was criticised for not going for a big hit in the Tied Test and here, I lost my wicket doing exactly the same. We lost the match by one run and I was told that I shouldn’t have slogged but tried to take a single instead. That is cricket for you.
Despite this one-run loss, we were not demoralised at all and this attitude was reflected in our remaining performances.
When I look back at that tournament, among myriad memories, one that stands out is the batting display by Navjot Singh Sidhu. He was making a comeback to the side after having been dubbed a ‘strokeless wonder’. And it took him no time to erase that impression with his aggressive batting.
Our team spirit was such that against New Zealand, Sunny bhai (Gavaskar) played even though he was running a temperature of 102 degrees and justified his decision by slamming his first ever one-day hundred. What else can I talk about? There was Chetan’s spirited performances, including his hat-trick in the same match and then, there’s that semi-final loss to England.
I know people still talk about that loss and say that we were literally swept away by Gooch and Gatting in that match. I was the villain who was responsible for not changing my line and letting Gooch and England off the hook.
Before I delve into this, let me take you back to our second match against Australia, which we won easily. In that match I bowled like a dream. I had Allan Border misreading me in the air and forced Geoff Marsh to do the same. After I bowled eight overs, Kapil wanted me to finish my spell but I told him to reserve two overs for the slog. I was confident that I would get Jones if he went for the slog against me. Kapil agreed and when I came back, I had positioned Kapil at extra cover near the circle. Jones stepped out for a drive off the very first ball of my ninth over and Kapil took the catch.
I am elaborating on this only to show that on a given day things work your way and on some others, everything fails, like against England.
I was confident that Gooch and Gatting would be unable to last while sweeping against the turn to me but unfortunately, they made big scores before I got them out. Luck too was on their side — on more than one occasion, their top-edges fell in no man’s land.
Still, I feel we should have won the match as we needed 45 runs in the last 10 overs and had five wickets in hand. A relatively easy job but we panicked once Kapil got out, trying to clear Hemmings over deep midwicket. We lost the last five wickets for just 15 runs and with that, a match we should have won. Kapil was blamed for the shot he played and lost his captaincy.
The same Kapil hit Hemmings for four consecutive sixes in England in a Test match three years later. It’s all a matter of luck and chance. Had Kapil cleared the midwicket fence that day in Mumbai, India’s one-day cricket history may have been different. 1983 would have been the watershed and 1987 the beginning of a new era. It was not to be and it still rankles.