[For detailed reminiscences of the 1983 World Cup, please read this.]
[Update: I was invited to do a much shorter version of the above post for the BBC. It was for their Hindi edition. The article is here. The translation to Hindi was, needless to say, not done by me. Neither did I give the title of “Dekho Maine dekha tha ek sapna”….after all without a “Phoolon ke seher main hain ghar aapna” the words lose much of its meaning.]
Many many years hence when I sit on a porch, rocking on an armchair with a shawl wrapped around me and a cup of tea with thin arrowroot biscuits in hand, I shall , in the manner of grandparents, smile self-contentedly and tell a group of wide-eyed children, voice soaked in trembling emotion —” Yes I saw it. I was there. Sometimes in front of a radio and sometimes a television. It happened right in front of me”.
I shall tell them of a red-handkerchiefed wizard who with bat and ball subdued the most powerful dragons of his time. I shall recount stories of how I, all of seven years, was in drawing class, holding my paintbrush still lest I miss the sounds of the radio and the accompanying cries of “chakka” (six) from the adjoining tea stall as India recovered from 5 down for 17. I shall wax eloquent on Balwinder Singh Sandhu’s magical out-and-in swing delivery and about the arrogance of the most powerful Dragon Viv Richards whose mis-timed pull led to the most memorable catch to be ever taken by an Indian cricket player.
I shall tell them how that victory on June 25, 1983 laid the seeds of a revolution. Of how the World Cup set in motion a sequence of events that culminated in cricket becoming a national obsession and a multi-billion empire within the next twenty years. And how that glorious summer day taught a perennially under-performing nation lacking in self-belief, that yes we “could do it”.
Of course do expect me to embellish my tales—-in my stories Yashpal Sharma will become a powerful bull of a man, Madan Lal a force of nature, Sandip Patil one of the greatest batsmen we had, Balwinder Singh Sandhu an elf. In my yarns, Malcolm Marshall will be hurling deliveries at the speed of sound, Joel Garner would be fifteen feet tall, Clive Llloyd would be wielding a 20 Kg bat and Kapil Dev would have driven a BSA SLR bicycle into Lords seconds before the final. And I would have known all along that India would win.
After all, it is the prerogative of the tellers of history to be able to add something of themselves in the story they tell.
Else how can history become legend and ultimately myth?
I shall of course not explain the sad irony behind the fact that the players who brought India their greatest victory were given 1 lac rupees each for their efforts while their successors ,who would capitalize on the tidal wave they had unleashed, would get more than a million dollars for a month of mediocrity. I shall neither talk about a heartless BCCI, the biggest beneficiary of June 25 1983, penalizing and humiliating those same heroes for trying to make a living by joining an “un-approved” league nor about how I refused to pay up a bet I lost (a Re 1 rasogolla bet I had made with my uncle that India would lose the semi-final)
I shall also decline to mention that with that victory, Indian cricket lost its innocence for ever as bookies and big money came into the game ultimately casting its pernicious shadow on the greatest Knight of the Prudential World Cup and his legacy.
And why would I omit these?
Because grandparents exist only to tell wondrous stories with happy endings.
As for teaching the not-so-pleasant lessons to the little ones—well life, as it always does, shall take care of that.