With ’83’ ready for its worldwide release on Friday, there has been a renewed interest in India’s first-ever Cricket World Cup triumph. One of the main turning points from that triumphant campaign was Kapil Dev’s herculean knock of 175 against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells.
It was a do-or-die match for India, because if they had lost it, they would have crashed out of the mega event. Things didn’t go as per plan as India were reduced to 17/5 when Kapil Dev came in to bat and smashed 175 not out off 138 balls, slamming 16 fours and six sixes.
There are still some unknown facts about that innings, the first century by an Indian in One Day International (ODI) cricket, and wicketkeeper-batter Syed Kirmani, who was supporting Kapil Dev from the other end, revealed some of them while going down memory lane recently.
“That (Kapil’s 175 not out) cannot be forgotten. Unfortunately, BBC went on strike, for whatever reasons. They thought we (India and Zimbabwe) are the two weakest teams in the competition (1983 World Cup) and why should we give live coverage to these guys. This was the real reason that we got to know later. They gave the excuse that the BBC was on strike. That is a story by itself,” Kirmani was quoted as saying by Asianet Newsable.
Kirmani was his usual relaxed self on the morning of the match. But the relaxed mood took a different turn. “Within 30 minutes or so of our innings, one of the players, I don’t know who it was, shouted, ‘Kiri, pad up’. I was thinking that someone was pulling my leg, trying to fool me. I did not take it seriously.
“Then, a minute later, the same voice said, ‘Kya kar raha hai yaar, pad up (What are you doing, pad up?)’. This time, I went near a window and looked out of the dressing room, the scoreboard read 17/5. Seeing this, my eyes popped out, and my towel fell. Luckily, nobody was around to see what I was wearing under the towel. Then I rushed into the washroom, took a quick shower, and soon found myself walking in to bat. It was 140/8.”
At 140/8, Kirmani arrived at the crease to join Kapil Dev. What did the keeper say to his captain?
“When I walked in, Kapil was batting on 50-plus,” Kirmani remembered in his conversation with Asianet Newsable. “I said to myself, it is the time that I should prove why I am called ‘crisis man’ and teammates also believed that ‘this guy will save the Indian team’. They were confident that I could hold one end up.
He continued: “I went up to Kapil Dev. This was a crucial match for us to qualify for the semi-finals. I told Kapil, ‘We are in a do-or-die situation. ‘Humare ko aise hi marna nahi hai, Kaps. Maar ke marna hai agar marna hai to’ (If we have to die, let’s fight to the finish and die).’ I then told him not to worry, ‘I will give you maximum strike’.
“Kapil said, ‘Kiri bhai, we have to play the full 60 overs, there are still 35-plus overs to go.’ I replied, ‘Kapil, you are the best hitter in the Indian team, I will take a single off the first ball, the rest five, you have got to hit, either four or a six, ‘maaro’ (hit).’ The first two deliveries I faced were both bouncers, went past my nose. The third delivery, I whacked it for a four. It must have boosted the confidence of Kapil.”
Delving deeper into Kapil Dev’s historic knock, Kirmani remarked: “What an innings from Kapil Dev! In that situation, at 17/5 and later 140/8. And to qualify we had to win that game. There was pressure on us. Considering the situation, Kapil’s 175 not out cannot be compared with any innings in the history of ODI cricket.
“Even M.S. Dhoni has not played an innings under such pressure. Kapil’s superlative innings is the best-ever I have seen in my entire career. Hats off to Kapil Dev. Till date, I have not seen any batsman play such a knock in such a situation. It was a great innings. This match was the most memorable in ODI history.”
After Dev’s unbeaten 175, Kirmani’s 24 was the second-highest score in India’s 266/8 in 60 overs. Eventually, India won the match by 31 runs.
“At the end of the match, everyone was happy,” Kirmani said. “If we had lost, it would have been a disastrous feeling. When you are happy, you enjoy the moment, other things are shelved. I was very happy that I could bail the team out of a crisis. They also came very close to the target. It was a brilliant comeback to qualify for the semi-final and meet hosts England. Then we went on to defeat the mighty West Indies.”
–By Niharika Raina