It is hard to believe that it has been 30 years since we won the World Cup. It seems like it was only yesterday that we went with absolutely no expectations of winning the tournament. We were mere participants—a team ranked below Zimbabwe.
ODIs were different then—white jerseys, red balls, two breaks, 60 overs. I was already playing in England and had been knocking on the doors of Team India when Kirti Azad called. He, too, was playing in England at that time. Kirti told me that the Indian team for the World Cup was about to be announced. It was a very pleasant news that I had been selected.
I was asked to report at the team hotel on time. While checking in, I was told I had messages from three senior players. I thought, 'wow, it's nice to be so popular'; but then I realised there had to be a catch. I thought it better to call the team manager and ask whom I was sharing my room with. Eventually, I shared a room with Kirti and Roger Binny by turn.
It was terrific to be part of a bowling unit that consisted of Kapil Dev, Madan Lal, Jimmy Amarnath and Binny. I was the only left-arm medium pacer in the side and got to play in the side games. Since I was used to the conditions, I did well. But there were more experienced players ahead of me, and I knew it.
I did come close to playing some matches—the second group game against the West Indies, for instance. While warming up in the morning, Binny, I was told, was not feeling well. In those days, we did not have a coach or support staff. We had only a manager. After warming up, a player had to decide for himself whether he was fit enough to play. Binny felt fine after warm-up, so I could not play. I was never made to feel like I was not part of the unit, though.
One thing I remember vividly is our match against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells. It was a sunny morning and the ball was seaming around quite a bit. Kapil and a few of us started to take a walk around the ground while the others went to bat. We were confident that the top order would see through the initial stage. But before we could complete the round, we had to rush back, as half the team was back in the dressing room!
Peter Rawson and Kevin Curran were bowling. No one had expected Curran to move the ball the way he was doing. He was squaring up everyone, and we were surprised. When Kapil went to bat, he played his natural game and steadied the innings. Anything over 250 was a winnable score; we scored 266 and won the game.
The semi-final against England, too, was unforgettable. A day or two before the match, there was a discussion on BBC. The panel had Ted Dexter, Ray Illingworth and Brian Close. In a typical show of English arrogance, they were actually discussing how England would fare in the final. After the match, I spotted Dexter and Illingworth sneaking away as we walked towards the team bus.
Again, in the final, we were written off, as we had scored only 183. We were in a superstitious mode. Those who were outside remained there; those sitting were asked not to get up. Greats like Tiger Pataudi and Gundappa Viswanath were in the dressing room, ordering everyone not to move. No team had won in the tournament scoring such a low total. As Clive Lloyd later said, had India scored 200 or more, the West Indies would have won. The low target made the champions lower their guard.
After the win, the Lord's was like a mini India. When we reached the hotel, the party was already on in the lobby.
As told to Neeru Bhatia