1983 WC: West Indies had best team but they weren’t God: Madan Lal

Madan Lal, who was an integral part of the World Cup-winning Indian team in 1983, on Thursday jogged down the memory lane to recall one of the best wins, not just in the history of Indian cricket but world cricket as well.

India had entered the 1983 World Cup with zero expectations and nobody really considered them as title contenders, considering the inexperience the team had of playing ODI cricket.

“We won one match in 1975 and one in 1979 editions of the World Cup. So, we were underdogs going into 1983. That’s why our victory in England was one of the biggest wins in Indian cricket and also in world cricket,” Lal told IANS in an exclusive interview.

“We entered the World Cup without any pressure. People were thinking that it would be good enough for us if we win one or two games. But as it happens in life, if you put your best foot forward, things fall in place. That’s what happened with us. Everyone in the team wanted to do well for the country.”

With nothing to lose, Kapil Dev and his troops decided to give it their all. They started off their campaign in an emphatic manner, defeating two-time champions West Indies by 34 runs on June 9 at the Old Trafford, which later on became a good hunting ground for the Indian team.

“We had defeated West Indies in an ODI game in 1982. So, we knew we could defeat them. We knew in England, small targets can be defended and so, when we started our campaign and won the first match, it gave us a lot of confidence,” said the 69-year-old.

One of the noticeable things about the 1983 World Cup was the gap between the matches. India had a gap of only a day in between matches and considering they were of 60 overs, fitness issues might have come into play.

However, Lal believes it was not the case. “There was no fitness issue. All the players in the team were extremely fit. We were one of the best fielding sides.”

“A gap of one day was enough for us. It kept us in rythym, it kept us fresh. In England the weather is cold and that’s why you don’t feel that much tired. Our in between journeys were no longer than that of three or three and a half hours. So, fitness and fatigue were not an issue for us.

“In a country like India, you need a gap of at least two days because the weather is hot,” he added.

One of the things which Lal feels went India’s way at the World Cup was the ability of the Indian bowlers to swing the ball.

“In cricket you must know how to bowl depending on the conditions. England is a place where you must know the right length and most of our bowlers knew that. We were very good movers of the ball.”

After winning first two group-stage matches, India lost the other two and many thought that the team would not be able to make it to the last four. However, the Indian team came back strongly and registered comfortable wins over Zimbabwe (June 18) and Australia (June 20) to make it to the semi-finals.

On June 22, the team surprised many as they defeated England by six wickets to make it to their maiden World Cup final.

“It was not impossible to defeat West Indies. They were not invincible. They were not God. No doubt, they were the best team but definitely not God,” Lal sid while talking about the summit clash where India defended a paltry target of 184 and registered their names in the history books.

“And that’s why I say that our title win in 1983 was one of the biggest victories in world cricket because after that teams like Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan also went on to win the World Cup,” the right-arm pacer, who played 39 Tests and 67 ODIs, added.

Lal picked 17 wickets in 8 matches he played in the tournament and played a pivotal role in India’s title win. Asked about his own peformance, he said: “I was very happy with my performance. I picked up wickets at crucial junctures and in turn contributed towards the victory of the team. So, it was a great tournament for me.”

“One thing we all should remember is that it was not a win of Kapil Dev only or of Mohinder Amarnath, it was the victory of Team India — a result of the team effort,” he added.