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38 years… How Kapil Dev stirred India to World Cup glory

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Two days after a star-studded Indian Test team came a cropper against New Zealand in the World Test Championship (WTC) final, members of the 1983 World Cup-winning team, who defied odds to win the title, gathered here for the launch of Opus, a luxury limited book that captures the greatest sporting achievements in the world. Friday marked the 38th anniversary of the World Cup triumph.

The current Indian captain Virat Kohli, who has failed to inspire his team to cross the final hurdles in the last three International Cricket Council (ICC) tournaments – losing the 2017 Champions Trophy final, the 2019 World Cup final and the WTC final – would do well to seek inspiration from Kapil Dev, who led a team of underdogs to upset one of the greatest teams to have stepped on earth, the Clive Lloyd-led West Indies.

Prior to the 1983 World Cup campaign, which started against defending champions, Kapil Dev had given a stirring speech that fired up the team that went on to beat West Indies by 34 runs in the tournament opener.

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“Kapil’s speech was inspirational. He told us in the dressing room before the very first match of the World Cup that if we could beat West Indies in West Indies before, why can’t we beat them again,” recalled Kirti Azad, a member of the squad.

India had beaten West Indies in an ODI months before the World Cup in the Caribbean. Although they lost that bilateral ODI series 2-1, the win gave them inspiration.

However, the warm-up to the World Cup was poor. The Indians played four practice matches and lost three of them, including one to Minor Counties XI.

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The team had self-belief, nonetheless.

“We had in-form [Mohinder] Amarnath, gutsy [Dilip] Vengsarkar and there were seamers in our side who were suited to the conditions. More importantly, it was the bonding that mattered in the end,” said Azad.

India then repeated the act in the final, beating the men from the Caribbean by 43 runs.

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Former India all-rounder Madan Lal, who picked three wickets in the final, said that being underdogs helped.

“I think it helps being an underdog,” Lal had said on Thursday while comparing the 1983 win to the recent losses India have suffered in crunch games in ICC tournaments.

The then skipper, Kapil, had famously said before the start, “We have nothing to lose, let us give our 100 percent.”

Kapil, known for his determination, had already done the unthinkable by becoming a fast bowler in a country that was known only for spinners after independence. Exactly 38 years ago, he took the team to a title win that no one had predicted.

He led from the front, like in the match against tournament debutantes Zimbabwe – hammering 175 not out after India had been reduced to 17 for five. India won that match.

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