1983 World Cup: What Syed Kirmani told Kapil Dev in the middle when India were 17/5 versus Zimbabwe

Kapil’s Devils, in their sixties and seventies now, had a get-together in Mumbai on Wednesday. They were gearing up for the 8 pm premier. Director Kabir Khan’s ’83’ has rewound to Indian cricket’s finest hour, bringing back the memories of India’s first-ever World Cup triumph

Over the phone, Sunil Valson sounded excited. “We are getting ready for the premiere. All of us will go together,” he said. The left-arm seamer didn’t get a single game at the 1983 World Cup. His team-mates ensured that he never felt left out.

The official trailer of the film, available on YouTube, takes the viewers back to June 18, 1983. Tunbridge Wells was the venue and India had been facing Zimbabwe on the heels of their back-to-back losses against the West Indies and Australia. They were playing to survive.

A voice from the dressing-room informs Kapil Dev about a shaky start. “Kaps, it’s two down.” His captain berates him: “Let me shower.” Quickly it was 9/4 and 17/5. India were going out of the World Cup.

A success of that magnitude carries an overload of anecdotes. Syed Kirmani shared one… “I walked up to Kapil, who was standing there, his head down. It was a 60-over game and we still had 35 overs left in our innings. I told Kapil, ‘listen Kaps, we are in a do-or-die situation. We just cannot sit and die’. ‘Maar ke marne ka hai (we will go down hitting)’, he said. I tried to inspire him saying, ‘you are the best hitter in the Indian team. I will take singles and will give you strike. You will try to hit every delivery’. He said, ‘Kiri bhai, humko aur 35 overs khelna hai (we still have to play 35 overs). I will try my best’.”

What followed became a part of folklore. Kapil’s 175 not out remains unarguably the greatest limited-overs innings in the history of Indian cricket. The skipper, though, was still fuming at the top-order’s capitulation. He returned to the dressing-room at lunch, ready to unleash the hairdryer. But the main hall was empty. Hiding in an ante-room was a senior cricketer’s idea and it stymied the captain’s anger. Last week, while on a promo for the film in Kolkata, Kapil admitted that it was a smart call.

He was a young captain who needed the support of his seniors, at a time when Indian cricket was a prisoner of zonal lobbies. Kirmani recalled how the skipper’s first team meeting was a clincher. “On the eve of our very first match we had a team meeting, where Kapil said, ‘listen gentlemen, you are all seven seniors, you don’t need my guidance. You will have to guide me’. It was a big statement which gelled the team. We improved as a team as the tournament progressed, although we didn’t have any support staff (sometimes no team bus even). Of course, we had a bit of luck. But luck only helps you when you do your job with sincerity.”

Cut to Kapil’s team talk after India were 183 all out in the final. Once again, Kirmani is the narrator. “Even after we were all out for 183 in the final, we weren’t looking back. We had nothing to lose. Kapil said, ‘let’s go and give our best’. We had already overachieved. We decided to put our best foot forward.”

Some anecdotes have an overtone of mischief. Grapevine has it that Kapil’s instruction to Balwinder Sandhu was not to bowl an inswinger, with Sandeep Patil manning the fine leg boundary – all light-hearted banters, never to offend anybody.

Dilip Vengsarkar spoke about the post-final celebration. “Fans came and thronged the hotel lobby. They played drums and dholok. We danced to the bhangra beats. Champagne flowed.”

A Malcolm Marshall bouncer that landed on the cheekbone and required eight stitches to fix, had sidelined Vengsarkar for the rest of the World Cup. But on June 25, when Mohinder Amarnath plucked out the last West Indies wicket and ran towards the pavilion, he was on the Lord’s balcony to cheerlead.

India overcame the 66-1 odds to win the 1983 World Cup, at the expense of Krishnamachari Srikkanth’s honeymoon trip to the United States, tongue firmly in cheek. In fact, some other cricketers had booked flights to the US as well. Nobody gave the sixty-six times underdogs a chance. When the unthinkable happened, the first port of call had to be Delhi, with then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi waiting to felicitate the golden boys.

The Ranveer Singh-starrer, 83, has been an ambitious project by Khan, something the whole country is waiting for. “It’s been a labour of love that we have nurtured for years. I cannot wait for everyone to finally watch that come alive on screen,” the director told

India won the World Cup, but the story wasn’t over yet. Denied two extra tickets for the final by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), then BCCI president NKP Salve, in conjunction with his Pakistan Cricket Board counterpart Noor Khan, set out to break the Anglo-Australian duopoly in cricket. Four years later, India and Pakistan jointly hosted the World Cup. The game’s new superpower gradually replaced the old one.

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