Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reliving June 25, 1983: when a nation fell in love with cricket

By John Cheeran
What was I doing on the night of June 25, 1983?
Where was I? In our haunt at a village in Kerala, southern India, there was no television set. The only link to the wide world was an old Murphy radio, and getting right the frequency for the BBC World was an arduous task indeed.
In a land of footballers, cricket was almost a stranger in Kerala of 1983. Still we had followed with avid interest when Keith Fletcher’s MCC side toured India for the Test series in 1982. I can still recall the garlanded image of Gundappa Vishwanath that Malayala Manorama published after the Bangalore batsman hit a brilliant double century in front of his home crowd at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
One had to depend on BBC radio and reports that Manorama carried to follow the 1983 World Cup.
What I remember the most about that time was how torrid the monsoon that year was. When Kapil Dev came out that astonishing rearguard 175 against Zimbabwe my heart was in mouth, but mainly thanks to the fact that the roof of our was cracked open by a falling coconut tree from our own courtyard. Through that hole in the cloudy sky, I imagined the carnage at Turnbridge Wells, where Zimbabwe mocked India by uprooting the first five Indian wickets for less than 20 runs.
For me 1983 World Cup was all about the match against Zimbabwe than the final at Lord’s. Kapil’s daring at the batting crease, when the chips were down, was enough to fire any boy’s imagination.
We were no hopers; but that act of sublime daring told me at least certain things were possible, if not everything.
Compared to that, the final on June 25, 1983 was a tepid affair. We all were disappointed at the 183 India posted but then who had expected India to come so far, barely six years later when the country awoke from the internal emergency that then Prime Minister Ms Indira Gandhi imposed on a another milestone day in Indian history – June 25, 1975.
Ms Gandhi had returned to power in 1983, and was one of the earliest to bask in the reflected glory of Indian cricketers that summer.
It was not just Romi Dev who had little faith in Kapil by the time Viv Richards tore into Indian attack. We had switched off our Murphy radio, leaving Kapil and his Devils to their own devices.
But there was a strange light next morning, when we woke up. World had turned upside down. India had won the World Cup. India had won a famous victory on the turf their former masters.
It was only years later that I read Nick Hornby on football. But what he wrote about football and himself was absolutely true in case of cricket and me.
“I fell in love with football as I was later to fall in love with women: suddenly, inexplicably, uncritically, giving no thought to the pain or disruption it would bring with it.”
Yes, the pain and disruption was not far.
Within months of India’s glory moment at Lord’s, an enraged Clive Lloyd stormed through India, much like a modern Mahmud Ghazni, crushing the world champions in all the five one-day internationals played and in three Tests.
But Clive Lloyd and his vengeful band of fast bowlers could not douse the flames of my romance with cricket, and in fact, India’s romance with the sport.

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