Lords of Lord's gather for silver jubilee reunion
It was a journey down the memory lane as India's 1983 World Cup heroes relived the historic occasion by walking down the pitch and then victorious captain Kapil Dev opening a champagne bottle from the hallowed balcony of the Lord's pavilion on Wednesday night, as he did exactly 25 years ago.
"It (the 1983 victory) was one of the greatest moments in history," both Kapil and BCCI President Sharad Pawar said.
Later at a dinner hosted in honour of the 15 men who had created history, Pawar, along with liquor baron Vijay Mallya, presented a replica of the Prudential Cup to each one of them.
Mallya, whose UB Group sponsored the event, unveiled a cricket bat adorned with 25-carat diamonds and a specially designed ball, encrusted with diamonds, which would be auctioned by Sotheby's with the proceeds to be presented to the 15 heroes equally.
Noting that the 1983 World Cup victory had given "self-belief" to all the Indians, Pawar told the packed gathering that both M S Dhoni, captain of the victorious World Twenty20 Cup team, and Virat Kohli, who led India to Under-19 World Cup title in Malaysia, were inspired by 'Kapil's Devils'.
Pawar said though an Indian team first visited England in 1932, "history was created by Kapil and his teammates by winning the World Cup in 1983".
Kapil, who has fallen out with the BCCI after joining the 'rebel' ICL, thanked Pawar for honouring the cricketers. "We are honoured and we would like to honour you with the same respect for looking after cricketers," he said, while also thanking Sunil Gavaskar for conceptualising the silver jubilee celebration of India's victory on Thursday.
Pawar, on his part, praised Kapil for leading from the front to win the World Cup. "Kapil really changed everything," pointed out Pawar, who said he had watched both India's matches against Zimbabwe and final against the West Indies.
Noting that cricket is a religion in India, Pawar said, "Today the major news in my country is the silver jubilee celebration of India's World Cup victory, though there is a political crisis in the country."
Gavaskar, who booked the venue of the celebrations at the Lord's after learning a year back that no cricket match was being played on June 25, was all praise for Kapil Dev's leadership. "He showed how to play a captain's innings and rescue the team."
As in the celebrations in India, Kapil was the star attraction at the Lord's function also.
Asked when the team started believing that they could win the World Cup in 1983, Kapil said, "When we beat West Indies, the twice Champions, in Manchester in the league stage. It was then that we started believing in ourselves."
"The credit for the victory should go to everybody including the media," he said, adding that nobody gave India any outside chance to win the World Cup in 1983.
Asked about the prospects of India winning the next World Cup in 2011, the legendary all-rounder said, "Why not. Now we start believing that we have that capacity."
"India's victory also inspired Sri Lanka and Pakistan," he said, adding, "Today, we are much more closer to winning the Cup again."
Gavaskar concurred with Kapil saying, "Yes, We have plenty of options now. In 2011 India will be able to break the jinx of host countries not lifting the trophy."
Asked what he thought when he went to bat with India five down for 17 in their match against Zimbabwe, Kapil said, "I went in with the thought 'let me stay here'."
"Once we started getting runs, we consolidated our position and in the last 5-6 overs scored about 70 to 80 runs. India won the match by 31 runs."
Kapil revealed that he was reluctant to take up the captaincy at that time as there were other senior and worthy players. "Besides, because of lack of proficiency in English I was reluctant to face the media."
He said he was sorry if he had "disturbed anybody's peace of mind" as captain of the Indian team. "I remained cricket captain on the field. If I said anything which has disturbed anybody's peace of mind, I am sorry."
Asked whether there was any room to end rivalry between ICL and IPL, Kapil Dev, who is Chairman of the 'rebel' ICL group, quipped, "Let's see. Our job is to promote the game."
Kapil regaled the audience with a series of anecdotes about each of his teammates.
Introducing Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Kapil praised him for knocking down the wicket of much feared Gordon Greenidge early in the final match against the West Indies.
"Later when Malcolm Marshall bowled a bouncer at Sandhu, the normally quiet umpire Dicky Bird shouted at Marshal 'You can't bowl like that to a 11th batsman'," Kapil remembered.
He said Dilip Vengsarkar had scored three centuries in his three matches at the Lord's but he was not in the final because of an injury. "Otherwise, our score would have been 283."
"Kirti Azad and Mohinder Amarnath bowled 24 overs giving away 53 runs. How can England win if they could not face India's part-time bowlers," Kapil said of the heroics of Azad and Amarnath.
"Mohinder Amarnath was truly a champion alrounder, totally underestimated by a lot of batsmen."
Kapil described Roger Binny as a "lovable character" who would do anything for the captain while introducing Sandeep Patil as a great cricketer and entertainer.
The legendary all-rounder wondered how Yashpal Sharma proved himself a strong cricketer despite being a vegetarian.
As for wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani, Kapil said, "He (Kirmani) was always late but was never late to take catches. He is one of the best wicketkeepers India has ever produced."
He described Madan Lal as hardest and toughest cricketer and Krishnamachari Srikkanth a great character.
"With a little more talent, Ravi Shastri, cricketer of the cricketers, would have been one of the best cricketers in the world," was how Kapil described the Shastri.
But, the best accolade was reserved for Gavaskar, whom Kapil said he was not qualified to describe.
"He played for India when there were hardly any pace bowlers at home. But he went to the West Indies and pulverised their pacers, scoring hundreds after hundreds without wearing a helmet. He taught us how not to lose a match. We love and respect each other. He is the most straightforward cricketer I have known," Kapil said of the legendary opener.
"We may have differences of opinion. That does not mean I don't respect him. I respect him more than anybody else."
Kapil did not forget then manager Peter Mansingh whom he thanked for "all good and bad things" he had done and described him as one of the finest men. "He looked after every needs of every team member."
As for Mallya, who financed the event, Kapil said, "We sportspersons are proud of you and what you have done to sportsmen in the country."
At the dinner, Mallya said, "It was truly a memorable occasion to honour 1983 World Cup heroes. The UB Group has a long and symbiotic relations with many sports for decades and we have had the opportunity to be part of many milestones."
"The 1983 win was a special moment for India and this is our tribute to these cricket icons and millions of cricket fans in India."
The business tycoon invited every cricket aficionado in the world to participate in the auction of the rare memento and make the silver jubilee celebrations of India's World Cup "truly memorable".
Mehul Choksi, Chairman Gitanjali Group, co-sponsor of the event said, "Kapil Dev and his team created history at the Lords in 1983. It was a match on which legends are written even today. They are the gems in the truest sense."
Referring to the recently concluded IPL, Mallya said, "Sports is integral part of the world and we would like to promote the spirit of the game. With that in mind I bought the Royal Challengers and hoped we will do better. I never gave up. But nobody compliments me for sponsoring the Rajasthan Royal Challengers which ultimately lifted the trophy."
He said, "We are proud owners of F1 and two leading football clubs in India including Mohun Bagan." He also thanked the MCC for making available the spectacular venue for the celebrations.
Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Delhi and District Cricket Association President Arun Jaitely was also present on the occasion.
On the High Commissioner's presence at the dinner, Ravi Shastri said Mukherjee was the High Commissioner of India when MS Dhoni-led side won the World Twenty20 Cup in South Africa and "there is some good luck straightaway."