As A Sports Fan, I Am Angry

In June 2023, the Indian World Cup winning Team of 1983 issued this statement: “We are distressed and disturbed at the unseemly visuals of our champion wrestlers being manhandled. We are also most concerned that they are thinking of dumping their hard-earned medals into the river Ganga. Those medals have involved years of effort, sacrifice, determination and grit and are not only their own but the nation’s pride and joy.”

On 19 November 2023, Kapil’s Devils, as those champions were fondly called, did not receive even an invitation to watch the final at the Narendra Modi Stadium.

As a sports fan, I am angry.

Grace. Good manners. Gratitude. Too much to ask for from those peddling jingoism in the name of cricket.

Nostalgia, they say, is a good antidote for anger. So let me share with you what I was doing on 25 June 1983. Frame by frame.

I was 22. My two brothers along with four of our buddies (we used to work for a magazine edited by Tiger Pataudi called Sportsworld) decided to watch the Prudential World Cup final together. So we all assembled at the O’Brien family home in Jamir Lane in Kolkata. My ma never ever asked how many were coming for dinner – there were always ‘extras’, cricket or no cricket.

Red ball, white jerseys, 60 over innings. Brand new colour TVs. In the previous two World Cups, India had won only one match (against East Africa) and lost every other match.

Gavaskar out early. Srikkanth played some crunchers, including an iconic on-one-knee square-drive off Roberts. Amarnath hooked Marshall for a four. The swagger of Sandeep Patil. Last-wicket partnership of 22 between Syed Kirmani and Balwinder Sandhu. 183.

Later read that during the innings break, Kapil Dev said, “Team, if this is not a winning total, then it’s definitely a fighting total.”

I can’t remember who it was we 20 something-year-olds hustled to get us a few beers for all of us to share. I do remember the brand: high glycerine content Kalyani Black Label. But dad was drinking Black Label of another kind – whiskey.

Early wicket. Sandhu took Gordon Greenidge’s off-stump when the opener from the West Indies offered no stroke. Viv Richards strutted in, nonchalantly chewing gum. Smashed seven boundaries, including three in an over off Madan Lal. Meanwhile in Jamir Lane, the seating had to be rearranged. Two of us were asked to go stand in the narrow balcony next to the living room. A third was asked to sit on the floor. Just the changes in the field placement needed to take a Caribbean wicket.

At this stage an Indian win looked unlikely. Almost impossible. Little wonder that my dad, who was always miserly about sharing his scotch, made a grand announcement “If we win I will open a new bottle”. I made an announcement as well: “If India wins, I will streak on the main road!”

Kapil Dev was about to take Madan Lal off. Madan Lal asked the captain to give him an extra over. Viv Richards went for the pull. The Indian skipper covered a lot of ground from mid-wicket to take a magical catch. Cricket pundits say this was the catch that turned that match. Travis Head’s catch to dismiss Rohit Sharma did the same in the 2023 final.

Then Larry Gomes and Clive Loyd went in quick succession. A stand between wicket-keeper Jeff Dujon and Malcolm Marshall threatened to get the West Indies back in the game. Man of the Match Mohinder Amarnath snuffed it out. Finally. Michael Holding LBW Amarnath. From 50/1, West Indies all out for 140.

Kapil Dev on the balcony at Lords.

Dad kept his promise and raised a toast. I happily kept my word and became the first streaker (the undies were always on though!) of the neighbourhood in south Kolkata where we grew up. Those were different days. So we don’t have selfies or potentially viral videos as evidence from that evening of June in 1983.

The seven of us who watched that match as twenty-year-olds, are now around sixty. During the final played in Ahmedabad, each one of us were merrily making predictions and passing expert comments on our WhatsApp group. My brother Barry and I live in Kolkata. My brother Andy and David McMahon in Australia. Purvez Captain in the USA. Pradeep Paul in Singapore. Christopher Jones in Hong Kong.

Cricket matches come and go, friendships last forever.

[This article was also published on | Monday, November 20, 2023]