Friday, July 25, 2008

The Class of 1983!

by Murali Gopy

June 24, 2008

Dad said, "Let there be Television". And there were grains! The most watched programme, in those days, was the one that starred these pre-telecast granules. The howling color-gradation barcode was the next in popularity. And the third place on the TRP charts went to the "Rukawat ke liye Khed hai (Sorry for the interruption)" slide!
The Doordarshan buff's evening started with a poorly made Signature film that boasted of the most depressing tune on earth! On the terrace stood a towering antenna that almost flirted with the clouds.
Into this black-and-white world descended the Prudential Cup Final of 1983.
Vada Paav was the dish of the day; platefuls were served with amazing regularity by a dutiful mom. Cousins, all 11 of them, had arrived for the event. And Joel Garner lumbered in to deliver the cherry to Sunil Gavaskar, who seemed to mourn his scorecard for the series – it looked like the figures on a back bencher's progress report: 19, 4, 0, 11 and 25! Srikkanth snorted nervously, at the other end.
The most respected one in the drawing room, that night, was my uncle, who was accorded a special seat on the sofa in acceptance of his cricketing acumen and for owning an imported Slazenger willow. He gave us a brief lecture on "Why we should hate Sunil Gavaskar?" and wrapped it up with a "Hail Richards". He predicted Sunny would score just 2. And Lo! Gavaskar played into the scheme. He shuffled across to an Andy Roberts out-swinger, misread it, extended a hesitant bat, and sent it right into Jeffrey Dujon's gloves. The ordeal had begun!
Obviously, no one in the crowd expected India to win that day. All we prayed for was an honourable exit. The crackers had all gone up in the air, three days back, when India had beaten the English. Only Mom believed that India would lift the Cup. I invoked the 'Deewar' dialogue: "West Indies ke paas Richards hai, Llyod hai, Marshall hai, Roberts hai… Kya hai humare paas?" Mom said: "Hamare paas Kapil hai!"
The well-oiled Windies juggernaut started moving, and heads began rolling one after the other. Amarnath trudged in and connected a massive hook off Marshall. The angry Barbadian took revenge by trapping Srikkanth plumb in front of the wicket. Yashpal Sharma took his customary 'gilli-danda' stance and smacked one right through point; Amarnath opened his gates to a Michael Holding in-cutter that set the off-stump on a gymnastic floor-routine; Sandeep Patil seemed to walk in with a match plan, but couldn't do much.
When Yashpal fell prey to the deceptively effeminate Larry Gomes, there was dead calm, followed by a roar. The room erupted in applause, as the Hero of Tunbridge Wells walked in.
Kapil Dev immediately put himself to the task of inventing cricket shots. He jumped down the pitch and cross-batted Gomes for a huge six, following it up with an awkward swipe that went for a four. He, then, tried to loft Gomes over mid-on, and paid the fine for being overambitious.
Indians were bundled out for a paltry 183, and it was unanimously decided that the television set should be rested for the lunch break. The elder one among the kids went to the terrace to “strengthen” the antenna against a possible granule invasion. Dad smoked up five Gold Flake sticks, and nodded in agreement to my uncle's observation: "Now, they will show us what batting is all about!" Patriots—the cousins and I—fumed at the treacherous snub.
Deep within, we knew that 183 would be chickenfeed before the Caribbean cannon, but to accept it was heresy! Mom was no ally, and she was too cricket-illiterate to be pessimistic.
The second half opened to a stunner. Balwinder Singh Sandhu hurled an inswinger with the fervent hope of getting knocked away to the extra cover fence; instead, he saw Gordon Greenidge raise his bat in respect and let the ball brush off the bails. God had started padding up for the Indians.

The applause in the room was deafening. But Uncle Slazenger smirked and rolled his eyes in derision. His solitary clap, even after we had stopped celebrating the wicket, was not in appreciation of Sandhu's feat but in anticipation of his hero. We watched with bated breath as Master Blaster the First walked in. The Richards swagger was enough to make us desperate. His gum chewing was the kinesthetic equivalent of "Who are these morons out here?"
The score skyrocketed to 35 for 1, in no time. Kapil's rabbit-grin was gone. Madanlal and Binny looked flustered. Sandhu was happy that his opening quota was over. Gavaskar squatted nonchalantly at the slips.

Stop Press!!!
A Bang and Thud, and the screen went to the grains!!! Doordarshan had staged a coup!
A few minutes of mental agony, and the monitor blinked back to Lord's. Uncle Smug looked terrified at what we saw on the screen. It was Kapil Dev, in slow motion, running backwards in chase of a huge loft. Someone was Out.
We longed for a shot of the scoreboard. We waited for the commentator to speak, and finally, he spoke: “Vivian Richards Caught Kapil Dev bowled Madanlal 33!” The repressed crowd of Generation W sprang up and danced around the crestfallen Richards fan. Mom came in with a Vada Paav reinforcement, and the rest of the match was just YUMMM!
India had never before or have never after played the way they did that afternoon in Lord's. The fall of Richards was the "sign" they were looking for. Post the Richards wicket, it was a Windies landslide. Skipper Cool hunched his way back after a tough time at the crease. Gomes and Bacchus looked clueless. Dujon and Marshall looked serious, but then, God had already spoken: "Inner edge is mine!"
Andy Roberts held the willow as if it was a school foe he had just met at the café. We enjoyed the Garner walk, for no one had seen him padded up, till then. Not even in stills! Holding hid his face in the greens of Lord's and we saw "the green bottle fizz". "It's champagne", said my uncle. Enlightenment!
The sling of David did the unthinkable, and Goliath came crumbling down. Never ever have I experienced the kind of elation I had on that humid June night. How we wished we could end it there and put up the slide "And they lived happily ever after"!

A quarter century has gone past, since those unforgettable hours. We sold the TV, five years later. Uncle Smug migrated to Australia, and is now an avid Punter fan. All 11 of my cousins are spread out on the globe like the 11 apostles. Dad is gone.
India survived the Revenge Series to tell the tale of the 1983 wonder. Heroes rose. Heroes fell. And cricket changed garbs from time to time. Generation X took the baton from us, and Y grabbed it halfway on.
To the 2008 fans of Twenty20 and IPL, 1983 might look like Jurassic age, where the white-and-white game was like a tussle involving 20 widowers. Prudential Cup might look like a midget world cup fought for by 8 Test playing nations in absolute idyllic bliss. "What is the big deal?" they would ask.
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind!
Source: India Syndicate

That glorious afternoon of June 25, 1983 at Lord’s


Blogger Gopikrishnan T said...

simply nostalgic !

10:22 AM  
Blogger Sreejith Raman said...

glad to see u in Gadhama song... looking forward to see the movie.... hope it comes in nearby theatres in USA

12:49 PM  
Blogger Aneesh Yashodharan said...

That's a fabulous account of the match. You should write more often in this space.

4:47 PM  
Blogger mathew said...

What a trip down nostalgia...thoroughly enjoyed reading this especially!!

12:55 PM  
Blogger Merry said...

Awesome piece of writing straight from heart and tinged in humor, that no doubt would seamlessly reach the reader's hearts. Though I was just about 2 years old when the whole drama was unfolding, the "running commentary" you provided from the inner recesses of your emotional memory, let me experience the event to a great extent, making me hark back on the laid back, contend & joyous lives we used to lead, years back - sweet Nostalgia.

3:22 AM  
Anonymous Ramdas Iyer said...

When you are able to write so well why don't you write anymore? Your movies are lovely of course, but your writing is lovelier. Do keep writing Murali, though it be once in a while. In the end only our writings remain.

4:58 AM  

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