INDIA are the favourites to lift a third World Cup, but a star of the country’s 1983 breakthrough triumph has warned of the threats posed by cricket’s “glorious uncertainties”.
Rohit Sharma’s side have cruised into the semi-finals, where they will face New Zealand in Mumbai on Wednesday (15), with nine wins from nine matches in the group phase.
Now, Syed Kirmani, who played a major role in the 1983 title victory which set India on the road to becoming the sport’s financial powerhouse, has warned against complacency undermining the nation’s hopes.
Kirmani, 73, believes the West Indies, who arrived at the 1983 World Cup as two-time champions, paid the price for under-estimating India.
“Superb,” Kirmani said when asked for his thoughts on the 2023 World Cup side who are looking for a third title and first since MS Dhoni’s team triumphed at home in 2011.
“They are playing like champions, like the West Indians did.
“Nobody is going to think India is going to lose and I am very positive that India will win this World Cup.
“But with the glorious uncertainties of this great game, you never know. You cannot take things for granted like the West Indies in 1983.”
India had shown an early sign of things to come at the 1983 tournament when they beat the West Indies in their opening match.
Kirmani said that win was a “shot in the arm” to their confidence, and India “capitalised on the complacency” of the bigger teams.
The Kapil Dev-led squad went in as underdogs but also defeated Australia and then England in the semi-finals.
In a low-scoring final at Lord’s, India won by 43 runs despite defending just 183. Madan Lal dismissed Viv Richards for 33 with Dev running back to take a stunning catch which turned the tide.
“All along we played good cricket as a team,” Roger Binny, now the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), told reporters.
The key for Binny was the 118-run win over Australia in the group stage, before a six-wicket victory against England in the semi-final.
“We just started to play well. We had beaten Australia in the game before the semi-final. Before the tournament they were tipped to win the Cup,” recalled Binny. “Then onwards our game changed gears and we started to play better. We won the semi-final very easily.”
Binny played a key part in the 1983 victory, taking 18 wickets with his medium-pace to finish top of the bowling charts which included Richard Hadlee (New Zealand), Malcom Marshall (West Indies) as well as Kapil Dev.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however, when India faced elimination from the tournament in a must-win league game against Zimbabwe.
Dev’s memorable innings of 175 from 138 balls not out famously saved India after they had slipped to 17-5 and 140-8. He took India to 266-8 and the team then bowled out Zimbabwe for 235.
“I have never seen such a blistering, devastating knock from any cricketer,” wicketkeeper-batsman Kirmani, who shared a 126-run unbeaten stand with Dev and made 24, said of the epic innings.
“From 22 yards I saw the most memorable and the best innings. And from there it was history.”
Dev was part of an Indian team with many all-rounders including Binny, Lal, Balwinder Sandhu and Mohinder Amarnath, who took three wickets in the final to be named of the match.
Veteran sports journalist Ayaz Memon says the 2023 team and their 1983 predecessors have one key factor in common – deadly bowling attacks. “The only parallel that we can draw is how well the bowlers have performed,” Memon said.
“India’s bowling was never renowned – in 1983, certainly not. “The bowlers have done extremely well this time, when everybody thought that on India’s flat pitches, it would be the batsmen who would dominate. “They (batsmen) have done that but the bowlers have been equally good. As the cliché goes, ‘batsmen who would dominate.
“They (batsmen) have done that but the bowlers have been equally good. As the cliché goes, ‘batsmen win you matches and bowlers win you tournaments.”