1983 was the year of revolution for Indian cricket. The year in which the underdog Indian team humbled the godfathers of the game West Indies to win their first World Cup title. The year that set the course for decades of golden years for Indian cricket. Kapil Dev’s boys played like men to take the trophy home. But, there was an innings played by the then Indian skipper two matches earlier in the series, that filled entire India with the hope for a world cup victory.
June 18, 1983, Match 20, 1983 World Cup: India were to play Zimbabwe and to enter the semi-finals of the World-Cup, they had to win the match. Unlike now, Zimbabwe was a pretty decent team, while India was considered the underdogs despite having legends like Sunil Gavaskar in the team. Skipper Kapil Dev won the toss and decided to set the target for Zimbabwe to chase. The batting line-up that comprised Sunil Gavaskar, Srikkanth, Sandeep Patil, Yashpal Sharma and Kapil himself gave him the confidence that India could set a challenging score on the scoreboard. Sunil Gavaskar and K Srikkanth came out to open for India, and what happened next was a catastrophe. Both Gavaskar and Srikkanth got out for a duck and there was pin-drop silence in the ground as well as inside the dressing room. The responsibility to build the inning was on experienced Mohinder Amarnath and Sandeep Patil. But Indian batsmen probably had bad luck at breakfast. Amarnath got out for five while Patil went back to pavilion after scoring a single. The deadly pair of Rawson and Curran was ripping through the Indian batting line up, and they fell like the bicycles in a cycle stand.
It was when skipper Kapil Dev went out in the middle. Kapil had once shared a story about his iconic innings. After winning the toss, Kapil went to take a shower, given the confidence he had in Gavaskar and others. But it was not their day simply. When the skipper was called to bat, he was still inside the shower, all lathered-up. He swiftly cleaned himself and rushed to the batting crease. By then, Zimbabwe became so confident of a victory that skipper Fletcher relaxed his premier bowlers, and Kapil took the opportunity with both hands. Kapil’s partner at the other end, Yashpal Sharma, got out shortly too after scoring nine runs. But, the skipper finally got some support from Roger Binny. Kapil went berserk that day. Unfortunately, the match could not be telecasted as the BBC was on strike that day. Kapil hit the Zimbabwe bowling line up like a storm and ripped them apart single-handedly. He scored his century in just 100 balls. That was his first century too. After Roger Binny fell for 22, Ravi Shastri too went out for a single. But, Kapil was still there, beating the ball like a monster. Zimbabwe simply had no answer to Kapil’s fury. The Indian skipper again built a partnership with Madan Lal, who added 17 runs to the scoreboard. However, the biggest partnership happened between Kapil and Syed Kirmani. When Kirmani came into bat, the score was 140/8.
Kirmani asked Kapil to play his natural game. Kapil started hitting the ball like there’s no tomorrow. While he scored his first 100 runs in 100 balls, the next 75 runs came in 38 balls. Kapil’s final score was 175 off 138 balls. The Haryana Hurricane smashed 16 fours and 6 humongous sixes. Kirmani added a very useful 24 off 56 balls. The two went on to play all 60 overs without throwing away another wicket and added a whopping 126 runs for the ninth wicket. Although the match wasn’t televised, Kapil’s innings of 175 is regarded as the best ODI inning of all time in world cricket. Several legends of the game have said the same about the blistering knock. With Kapil’s majestic batting, India managed to rack up a score of 266/8 in 60 overs. It was a winning total in those days, but bowlers still had to do their tasks.
When Zimbabwe came out to bat, Indian bowlers made it even more difficult for them with their tight lines and fielding. Barring a 73 by KM Curran, no other batsmen could score enough to help Zimbabwe get a victory. Zimbabwe was bowled out for 235 in just 57 overs. Madan Lal bagged 3 wickets, and Roger Binny scalped two. But the match was all about Kapil Dev and his destructive innings that made him one of the best all-rounders of that time. He was adjudged the man of the match. But the prize was more than that- a berth in the semi-finals of the world cup. The innings inspired generations of Indian players to pursue cricket and play their natural game. The world started to recognize India as a strong force in world cricket. Two matches later, India emerged victorious against the ferocious West Indies and won their first World Cup. 1983 was Kapil Dev’s year. The only sad part is, there’s no recording available of the masterclass that the legend put on the show that day.