India v West Indies. A World Cup in England. It’s 1983, it’s the final at Lord’s and one of the most stunning upsets in ODI cricket. For the West Indies side in their pomp – with Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Sir Viv and Clive Lloyd at the top of the order, and the fearsome bowling foursome of Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding – this was their third consecutive World Cup final and they were widely expected to see off a an Indian side that had won just one match in their previous two World Cups. In fact, prior to the tournament India had played a total of just 40 ODIs and were 66-1 outsiders to win the whole thing. “We didn’t take the game seriously,” said India’s first ODI captain, Ajit Wadekar, “We had no idea of field placings or tactics.”
The Indian team were criminally underfunded by their own board. Mohinder Amarnath taught Kapil Dev to wash his own clothes on tour to save money – “actually showing me the tub in the bathroom” – a process that damaged Kapil’s hands so much, he was unable to bowl the next day. But things were changing. The Asian Games in Delhi the year previously had meant many households in India now had a colour TV. Most of the country was now glued to the screen. Rahul Dravid, then ten years old remembers “watching that final in Bangalore. That win inspired a lot of young kids to take to the game.” It would prove to be a turning point for Indian cricket.
After coming through their group as runners up, and squeezing past an underwhelming England in the semi-finals, India had made it to the final. West Indies put India into bat, swifty removing India’s best batsman, Sunil Gavaskar, for just one run. A excellent partnership between Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Mohinder would see India reach 59 before a middle order collapse and a strong showing from the tail saw them reach 183 all out.
“If this is not a winning total it’s definitely a fighting total,” Kapil would remark at the end of the Indian innings. And so it proved, with arguably the best batting line-up of the era falling for just 140 runs, with Mohinder and Madan Lal each taking three wickets. But the highlight of the day was undoubtedly Kapil’s catch to remove Sir Viv Richards, the captain scampering backwards towards the boundary and taking a superb grab over his right shoulder. “No one but Kapil Dev would have taken that catch,” Sir Viv would say later.
Things have changed a little since then. There are 50, rather than 60 overs. A score of 183 probably won’t win you the match these days. India are, of course, now a ODI superpower and have the best two ranked ODI batsman in the world in Virat Kohli and and Rohit Sharma. The West Indies are not what they were, but have come to England with a fine team, and were unlucky not to pull off a magnificent win against New Zealand in their last match.
This is a huge game. Let’s hope it’s half as entertaining as the 1983 encounter. History tells us that the underdogs are not to be underestimated.
First ball: 10.30am BST.