“We here to win. What else we here for?”
“We gained independence 35 years ago, but we have yet to command respect, Captain”
This line from PR Man Singh, Team India’s then team manager and him saluting with pride & teary eyes from the pavilion roof at Tunbridge Wells after Kapil Dev’s game-changing, record & window-smashing 175* summed up this inspiring film for me.
Self respect. Or transmitting one’s self-belief and self-respect to inspire one’s team and a nation of a success starved billions through those 17 days. That’s what the legendary Kapil Dev achieved in 1983.
“We here to win. What else we here for?” ~ that line encapsulated it all, didn’t it?
To have the naive courage to state these bold lines in a pre-match press conference, where even the Indian journalists didn’t think that Kapil & his men had any chance beyond winning a game or two, says a lot about his spirit, optimism, conviction, self-respect and belief.
One can’t say much against the naysayers or the lack of fan support given that in World Cups till then, the Indians had only beaten East Africa, a non major cricketing team till then, albeit by a 10 wicket margin in the inaugural edition in 1975. In the 8 years that followed, they had only won 13 out of their 38 ODI matches.
Heck, even half the squad didn’t believe in themselves or the team and had planned a group trip to the US after the “break journey” in England for the World Cup!
As someone who has followed the game since the mid-80s, this sentiment was both relatable yet it wasn’t. Till I turned an adult in 2001, we lost more ODIs than we won and it was common for India to capitulate despite some stellar individual performances but post the heroic Natwest Trophy win at Lords and the unbelievable turnaround against Australia in the Kolkata Test, Indian cricket transformed for the better and fortunes reversed.
In the noughts, the Indian unit won 55% of their matches; they aced 62% of their games in the last decade and over the last two decades, they have lifted the World Cup once again and have come close on 2 occasions.
All of this was due to inspired leadership, both on and off the field, that helped glue and nurture a successful team out of individuals.
Just the way, a young 24 year old Kapil Dev led his men, most of whom were experienced, senior cricketers from fragmented zones within India.
Not only did he lead from the front with bat, ball & his athletic fielding, but also went out of his comfort zone to inspire his troops with his naive optimism and broken English, despite being ridiculed.
Apart from his own zeal, patriotic sentiments and self-confidence, perhaps his confidence was also founded on the fact that just 3 months prior to the Prudential World Cup, Kapil had led India to it’s first ODI win against the mighty, then world champions in their backyard in Albion, where Gavaskar had scored a brisk 90 and Kapil himself led from the front with a T20-esque innings of 72 off 38.
Pretty much the same unit began the World Cup campaign upsetting West Indies with a similar margin like they had done 3 months prior
and cruised past Zimbabwe with ease in the subsequent game.
Kapil’s leadership through action was it’s best, when the team was at it’s lowest ~ nearly set to be driven out of the tournament after being battered and bruised by Australia, avenged by the West Indies and nearly dethroned by a strong Zimbabwean bowling unit.
One wonders what would have happened if Kapil hadn’t smashed windshields, windows and world records on the 18th of June 1983 and not
inspired Madan Lal & Roger Binny to score patient runs and scalp 5 crucial wickets? Would Indian cricket and the game of cricket itself have globalized and prospered the way it did had it not been for the millions of new fans who began watching and following the game post the 1983 win?
Confidence is a fickle friend and a leader’s job is to flush him team with ounces of it, especially when the chips are down, to spark an infectious, virtuous cycle within the unit. And that win at Nevill Ground at Tunbridge Wells did the trick.
Not only did India go onto avenge it’s mammoth defeat against Australia by a substantial 118 run win thanks to a very well balanced team performance, but one could also see the players backing their skipper and instilling belief in each other as witnessed in the movie by the hilarious yet moving speech delivered by Kris Srikanth in response from a comment from the journalist, David Frith, the then editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly.
Subsequently, David ate his own words post India’s heroics at the tournament, as pre-tournament, not not only did he not fancy India’s chances in the tournament but had suggested that India be made to qualify along with other associate countries.
I was fortunate to be born on the very day India played against the hosts at Old Trafford in Manchester. My Maa, who had just delivered me that morning, has narrated to me many times about the excitement in the Newlands hospital wards, where families, doctors, nurses and administrators gathered around one television set to celebrate each moment as India inched past England to make their way into the historic finals.
I wonder if the audience cheers overpowered the moans and screams of patients that evening when Amarnath got Gower & Gatting; Azad outfoxed Sir Botham; Yashpal Sharma ran Lamb out and when the maverick, Sandip Patil scored a heroic 51 off 32 balls?
The cacophony of the 24,000 plus crowd at the Lords must have definitely been deafening and a sight to behold and experience. The West Indian fans must have been celebrating in anticipation of a hat-trick of World Cups whilst the Indian fans must have been licking their lips and may have had their hearts pounding at the remotest of possibilities of winning their maiden Cup through a repeat performance of how they had begun the campaign on the 9th of June at Manchester.
At mid-point, am sure most Indian fans would have given up on their dreams, just the way couple of the ‘WAGs’, Romi Dev & Anu Mohan, left the stadium in despair despite valiant attempts by Srikanth, Amarnath, Patil, Madan Lal, Kirmani & Sandhu to stabilise the Indian ship.
Once again it was captain Kapil’s confidence-inspiring, mood lightening, ‘Taste the success once, tongue want more’, dressing room speech during half-time that urged everyone to fight till the end and make the most of defending the 183 runs that they had put on board.
As always, the man backed his words with action; supported his ace bowler, Madan Lal’s conviction and changed his team’s fortunes by running back over 30 metres to hold onto a skier from the legendary, Sir Vivian Richards (yet another iconic moment not captured live by the broadcasters!), who was snatching away the finals from the Indians.
That game-changing act saw the World Champions collapse from 57–3 to 76–6 and barring some resistance from Dujon, the rest was cleaned up by the evergreen, omnipresent Amarnath, who went on to being adjudicated as both the Man of the Match and the Man of the Series for his 237 runs and 8 wickets during the mega event.
Although one wonders if Kapil deserved that title given his 303 runs, 12 wickets and 7 catches, including some game-changing moments and most importantly for his self-belief driven, action-oriented, confidence-inducing leadership?
But that’s what good leadership is all about — you share the success but own the failures and am sure Kapil was mighty elated to be at the Lord’s balcony to lift the 1983 Prudential World Cup from the hands of Prince Charles and more importantly to celebrate the joyous moment back home with both the political brass and the common people, for whom Kapil’s Devils had turned into icons and idols by doing the unthinkable and bringing together a fragmented nation, something that cricket has been able to do on many an occasion ever since this historic moment.
Having personally witnessed, experienced and participated in an insane, memorable all-night celebration on Marine Drive after Dhoni & Co. lifted the World Cup after a 28 year gap (and mentally prepared and rehearsed for a similar celebration on Oxford Street in London in 2019), I wonder hoe grand and magnanimous the nationwide celebrations would have been and what it must have meant for our people at that time?
First-times are always special and indelible, especially when it’s an unexpected achievement by an underdog.
1983 was a ‘Roger Bannister’ like moment for Indian cricket, especially the shorter version. We started believing that we could win and more importantly, oppositions believed that we were capable of winning as well.
That led to the famous 1985 World ‘Audi’ Championship win Down Under, a berth in the semis in the 1987 Reliance Cup, the first World Cup that India hosted and inspired a new generation of cricketers to play and win for the nation.
Most importantly, we earned some respect, as desired by PR Man Singh, and that subtle nuanced scene where he finally manages to get his team accredited passes to the Lords so that they can play the finals, something that should have been table stakes but not even considered initially by the hosts, was a goosebumps-inducing, lump-in-throat moment, like many other scenes in the 162 minute show.
A big thank you to Kabir Khan, Ranveer Singh and the entire 83 team for giving us the chance to re-live or experience the euphoria of this historic moment through this awe-inspiring movie that got the characterization, mannerisms and the spirit of the narrative spot on.
It was a ‘moist’ experience through and through and was wonderful to see the audience cheering and applauding time to time ~ a much needed experience during these times.
Hope it is received with the same warmth & encouragement in the 12,044 shows across the 2,094 cinemas it is being released in Week 1 across India.
For now, thanks to this film, I have a 5 year old at home imitating and inquiring about Kapil, Richards, Roberts, Sandhu, Amarnath, Madan Lal & Binny instead of only Kohli, Pujara, Gill, Pant, Bumrah, Jaddu & Rahul whilst humming “Jeetega India” :)