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    Books Miracle Men: From underdogs to world champions, the 1983 World Cup journey...

    Miracle Men: From underdogs to world champions, the 1983 World Cup journey of ‘Kapil’s Devils’

    Nikhil Naz takes the reader to a walk down the victory lane when India lifted its first World Cup and ended West Indies’ hegemony.

    India need four wickets, West Indies 108 runs. Sandhu bowling. Kapil shouting instructions from  mid-on after every ball.  Jeff Dujon and Malcolm Marshall are adding some important runs to the board. They’re playing each ball on its merit.

    Dujon whacks a short-pitched ball  for 6 over square leg. The West Indian 100 comes up on the old, manual scoreboard. The subdued Caribbean crowd comes alive. Kapil is feeling the nerves. His instructions to the bowler have now mutated into imprecations – spelt out in chaste Punjabi. Sandhu isn’t pleased. He complains to the vice captain. Amarnath intervenes, sends Kapil to square leg and stands in his place instead.

    But the game isn’t changing. A quick single here, a streaky double there, and the 7th-wicket partnership has got the West Indies within 76 runs of the target. Kapil’s anxiety levels are spiking. Every few deliveries he can be heard screaming,

    Judd jaao, jawaano – Come together, soldiers’ in an effort to inspire his 10 men on the field.

    The three others –  Shastri,  Vengsarkar  and Valson – reserves for this game, can’t bear to watch. They reckon the uninvited party that has bulldozed their way into the dressing room has brought them bad luck. ‘Boss, ask these people to leave; else we will lose,’ they ask Man Singh to do the needful. But the team manager can’t help them. Dictating anything to the BCCI officials is above his pay grade.

    Keeping up with Indian superstitions, Jitu and Rajdeep have decided to leave their seats and walk along the periphery of the ground. Mintu and friends aren’t leaving their seats. They’ve had a pint too many to be able to walk straight. Jiten Bhai hasn’t left his seat since he entered the ground. Not when Viv was caught, nor when Lloyd  fell. A man of phlegmatic temperament, just being able to watch his team play a World Cup final is contentment.

    Dujon and Marshall seem content picking up easy runs. Just 65 needed off 114 balls now. An emergency meeting is convened. The team’s think tank – Gavaskar, Kapil and Amarnath – come together in the middle of the ground. The BCCI officials have dispersed. They’re back in their VIP seats. Gavaskar reckons Amarnath deserves another over or two. ‘He’s been inexpensive; I think they aren’t finding him the easiest to play,’ is the Little Master’s rationale.

    On cue, Amarnath bowls a sedate, innocuous-looking delivery. The ball pitches outside the line of the off stump. Dujon, at first, wants to play it. Then he wants to leave it. He can’t do either. The ball hasn’t reached him. W hen it eventually does, he chooses to leave it. A decision, taken after a fair amount of indecision, has resulted in a deflection off his bat. So agitated is Dujon watching his stumps disturbed that he’s slapping the ground with his bat, well aware of a third world title slipping away from the Windies’s grasp.

    The death knell rings in the last ball of the 52nd over. Michael  Holding,  caught plumb in front,  off Amarnath. Umpire Dick Bird has his finger up in a flash. The West Indies have fallen 43 runs short. Pandemonium follows! Crowds invade the ground, Rajdeep and Jitu amongst them.

    Miracle Men; by Nikhil Naz; Hachette India; Rs399.
    Miracle Men; by Nikhil Naz; Hachette India; Rs399.

    Amarnath runs and picks up a stump. Dickie Bird picks one up too. Not as memorabilia, it’s serving as his weapon to chase away the swarming fans running on to the centre of the pitch. Gavaskar has pocketed the ball and is running the fastest he ever has, towards the safe confines of the dressing room. They are all running. The magnitude of their achievement, yet to sink in.

    David Frith swallows his pride. The Wisden editor gets up from his seat in the press box, raises his right arm in acknowledgement of underestimating the Indians, and, with his left hand, makes a gesture of eating his words. Ayaz stands up and applauds. The rest of the room follows suit.

    ‘Kapil, the Curry King’, reads a poster in the stands.

    The curry king of Southall, Mintu Bhatia, is emotional. Standing on the ground, arms around his friends Saran’s and Kulwant’s shoulders, gazing at their heroes waving to them from the dressing-room balcony, they are slurring their way through their favourite song, ‘Yeh dosti, hum nahi chodenge – We’ll never part with this friendship’.

    Inches away from them stands Rajdeep. The just-turned 18-year-old is sipping a beer. Not bought, but discovered. Thrown on to the field by a disgruntled West Indian fan. Half already had.

    Half a sip is what the Indian players are getting. There aren’t enough champagne bottles in the dressing room. Kapil brought the only one. Smuggled in his bag. Quietly confident of causing an upset.

    More than a few upset faces sit in the opposition dressing room. That hasn’t deterred Kapil  from  walking in, and requesting for the chilled bucket of champagne  lying there. Lloyd lets him take it.

    In the VIP stands is a certain Sir Gary Sobers. Hordes of fans are seeking his autograph. ‘Not today, this is India’s day,’ he tells them.

    The day is over in India, but the night is still young. Sachin and Co. are dancing away on the streets of Bombay.

    The test and County Cricket Board, the organizers of the tournament, has finally sent across half a dozen bottles of bubbly to the Indian dressing room. But with over 100 people packed in – from board members and their friends, to friends of players, to random fans – a sip or two is all one is getting at best.

    Clive Lloyd, the losing captain, is asked for his opinion.

    ‘Indian cricket has arrived. And it’s here to stay.’

    Kapil Dev holds the trophy aloft. At the Home of Cricket. His mind flooded with thoughts. The controversy over the captaincy… The team selection drama… The worst-possible warm-up… The put-down by the pundits… The resurrection against Zimbabwe… The misunderstanding with Gavaskar… The snub by the hosts… The miracle at Lord’s… The Miracle at Lord’s!

    Jiten Bhai has left the stadium. Overflowing with unbridled joy. His feet moving briskly, guiding him to his shop. Not ready to celebrate yet. Not until he can embrace his daughter. The pink-coloured ticket, crumpled, letters printed in black, held tightly in his closed fist: Win: India; Odds: 66:1.

    (Excerpted with the permission of Hachette India)

    Also Read: The making of a champion: Skipper Virat Kohli’s story from gully cricket to India cricket team

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