A black hole in my memory of India’s 1983 cricket World Cup triumph

Mayank Chhaya-

Mayank Chayya

India’s iconic victory in the 1983 cricket World Cup is a strange black hole in my memory. I remember almost nothing of that spectacle. It is particularly weird for a lifelong cricket aficionado and a player. I had already been a journalist for two years in 1983 when India won but I have next to no memory of the historic triumph. It is almost as if that might as well have not happened.

If all this was not strange enough, I remember filmmaker Kundan Shah’s 1983 black comedy ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’, now a cult classic, more vividly than India’s captain Kapil Dev raising the World Cup trophy at the Lord’s cricket ground. I do remember though what Kapil Dev told me in an interview in the early 1990s about that moment. I had met him at his stylishly decorated New Delhi home then. He welled up a bit and said, “Jaadoo tha woh.” (It was magic.)

I was thinking about my personal black hole in time for the December 23 release near my home of director Kabir Khan’s much anticipated movie ‘83’ about that very cup. I could have easily falsified my personal history and filled up that black hole with misty nostalgia accompanied by soaring background score to fall in line with the excitement being built up around the movie’s release. I could have built a compelling narrative based on watching excerpts from the final game between India and the West Indies. I could have knowingly written about how Krishnamachari Srikkanth scored 38 from 57 balls and Mohinder Amarnath 26 from 80 balls. I could have frothed at my mouth in faux rage at how the great Sunil Gavaskar truckled for just two runs because of an outside edge to a beauty by Joel Garner to be caught behind.  I could have faked any number of very detailed and specific memories.  Being painfully honest, I won’t.

This morning I watched some of the highlights of the final against the West Indians to get a measure of how it might have felt watching the game live in 1983. It was thrilling. When Srikkanth was out LBW to the right arm fast bowler Malcolm Marshall, I did curse even while watching the highlights this morning, 38 years after the fact. Watching Sunil Gavaskar getting caught behind to a delivery from Andy Roberts, I shouted “damn!” Again, 38 years after the fact.

I am going to try hard to dredge my memories to see what I was so preoccupied with at the time that I do not remember India’s incredible victory in any significant detail. Once again let me cite what Kapil Dev told me about a decade after it. “Pataa nahin mujhe kyun aisa yaqeen tha ki hum jeet sakte hain. (I don’t know why I was confident that we could win.)”

I also remember asking Sunil Gavaskar barely a couple of years after the win about how he felt getting out at just 2 in that decider. I met him with dear friend and great cricket fanatic and writer, Shireesh Kanekar at his then office at office ‘Nirlon’ near Worli in Bombay. Gavaskar thought a bit and said, “It was one of those days, I suppose.” In a separate context, I had also asked him about his much-reported differences and even tensions with Kapil Dev, saying “There is no smoke without fire.” To which he had replied, “There is no smoke.”

The 1983 World Cup final was played on June 25 at a time when the violent separatist Khalistan movement was at its peak. It was in a sense in the run-up to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi eventually ordering the military to storm the Golden Temple complex between June 1 and 8, 1984, in Amritsar where Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the supremo of the Khalistan movement was holed up heavily armed with his cohorts.

I am not sure if I would go to a theater nearby where ‘83’ is being shown. My being unsure stems from two reasons in that order: 1) It costs and 2) With the Omicron variant raging again, is it worth being inside a theater with an exultant crowd? I have never been an enthusiastic theater goer. In fact, I mostly cannot stand it. I have never considered watching movies a communal, collective joy. I like to watch movies and shows alone with no one making those horrid popcorn smacking sounds or slurping every last drop of sodas from cups which are almost completely empty.

Coming back to the 1983 win, let me end with what Kapil Dev said to me in the mid-1990s when I asked him if he ever felt that high again. He thought about it a bit and said, “No.”