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World Cup 1983

How India did the impossible, as remembered by those who watched the 1983 World Cup final

Forty years on from a momentous day, My Kolkata looks back at the legacy of Kapil Dev’s team

Ananya Kesh | Published 25.06.23, 05:01 PM
India beat West Indies by 43 runs in the 1983 Prudential World Cup final, enabling Kapil Dev to lift the trophy at Lord’s

India beat West Indies by 43 runs in the 1983 Prudential World Cup final, enabling Kapil Dev to lift the trophy at Lord’s

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In the summer of 1983, a remarkable moment etched itself into the annals of Indian sporting history, forever altering the story of cricket in the nation. A time when dreams converged with destiny, and an underdog team wrote their names in golden letters. As India clinched the prestigious Prudential World Cup (currently known as the ICC Cricket World Cup) trophy at Lord’s on June 25, 1983, an unprecedented surge of euphoria washed over the nation, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of millions. Every corner of India was swept up in a tidal wave of cricketing fervour. The nation stood united, basking in the glory of victory and making the sport a religion in the country ever since.

On the 40th anniversary of this historic triumph, My Kolkata relives the emotions and revels in the stories of a victory that still resonates across generations, reminding us that dreams, indeed, do come true.

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‘I was fast asleep when a huge roar from the common room woke me up’

Indians rush to celebrate after the West Indies lose their final wicket in the final

Indians rush to celebrate after the West Indies lose their final wicket in the final

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As we go down memory lane, Satyajib Bhattacharya, a professor based in Assam, recounts how, like many others, he had given up hope after India had posted a low score of 183 in the final and the West Indies (then two-time defending champions and overwhelming favourites) got off to a strong start. Disheartened, he had retired to his room and drifted off to sleep, thinking that the match was slipping away from India’s grasp. However, a few die-hard supporters in his Delhi University hostel common room stayed back and continued watching what at that moment felt like a “lost cause”. Soon enough, the tables had turned and it did not take long for Satyajib to find out: “I was fast asleep when a huge roar from the common room woke me up. We all ran down to the common room and were lucky to witness history being made.”

Abhay Kumar Gupta, at present a retired civil servant in Kolkata, was also in his Delhi University college hostel on that momentous day. “It was the first time India had reached the World Cup final and the atmosphere resembled that of a festival. Back then, radios were the primary medium for live cricket commentary and all of us huddled around the radio to catch every word from the match. Some fortunate ones had television sets and naturally became the centre of attention! Regardless of the medium, we were all rooting for Team India,” recollects Abhay.

“Nobody thought that India could lift the Cup before the match with Zimbabwe (where Kapil Dev had starred),” observes Chandan Goswami, a Kolkata-based professor and guest lecturer. Goswami shed light on how the doubts and uncertainties surrounding India’s chances made the eventual victory all the more crucial. “What’s important to remember is that before 1983, cricket was more than just a game. It was a colonial relic, a pastime that belonged to the elite, a sport that bore the echoes of foreign prowess,” explains Goswami. However, the unlikely heroes of the Indian cricket team, against all odds, created a new narrative — one of resilience, audacity and determination to challenge the established order.

‘The victory made Indians believe that…we can rule the world of cricket’

It took India 28 years after their victory at Lord’s to once again become world champions in ODI cricket, something they achieved in Mumbai in 2011

It took India 28 years after their victory at Lord’s to once again become world champions in ODI cricket, something they achieved in Mumbai in 2011

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The victory brought about a seismic shift in the perception of cricket in India. It was a watershed moment that forever altered the nation's relationship with the sport and catapulted cricket to unprecedented levels of popularity and significance. Reflecting on its impact, Goswami says: “The victory made Indians believe that ‘yes, we can’. We can rule the world of cricket.”

While cricket had its relevance in the country even before the 1983 win, it was largely overshadowed by sports such as hockey and football. The Indian cricket team had struggled to make its mark on the international stage, leading to cricket's relatively lower standing among the sporting hierarchy in India. However, the victory in 1983 transformed the perception of cricket in the nation. As Abhay states, “India's triumph over the mighty West Indies team, arguably the greatest team in the history of the game, elevated cricket from being just a popular sport to a national obsession, and transformed it into one of the biggest money spinners in the country."

Satyajib, however, has a different take on what changed following the win, apart from an increase in confidence among cricketers and the sport gaining thousands of fans. He says: “Until 1983, India never fared well in the shorter version of the game. Hence, there wasn’t much interest in that form of the game in India. All that changed overnight.” Today, Indian cricket enjoys unprecedented popularity and has produced some of the world's finest players, not least in limited overs cricket.

‘There would not have been a Sachin Tendulkar or a Virat Kohli if there was no Kapil Dev’

Kapil Dev en route to his iconic knock of 175 not out against Zimbabwe at the 1983 World Cup

Kapil Dev en route to his iconic knock of 175 not out against Zimbabwe at the 1983 World Cup

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Even for those who did not witness the historic event first hand, the tales of India's triumph have been passed down, creating a lasting connection and a shared sense of pride.

Ananya Magarde, currently a college student in Bengaluru, recalls how, being just eight years old in 2011, she had no idea that India had already won a World Cup when Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Co. were crowned champions in Mumbai against Sri Lanka: “The first time I heard about the 1983 World Cup was when I was sitting with my parents and watching the 2011 final. The moment we won, everyone was so happy, and my father told us that it was our second World Cup, 28 years after we had first prevailed as underdogs in the tournament.”

Personally, I believe that the story of the Kapil Dev-led team and their victory is now a family heirloom for all Indians, who transfer it from one generation to the next. My father, an avid cricket fan, was the one to share the 1983 story with me, showing me countless reruns of the matches, while also narrating anecdotes about the atmosphere around cricket at the time. All these tales have reaffirmed to me that there would not have been a Sachin Tendulkar or a Virat Kohli if there was no Kapil Dev, the man who had unwavering faith in India’s ability to do the impossible.

Last updated on 25.06.23, 05:01 PM
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