’83- A Historic Year For Indian Cricket

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Ever since a film was announced which would narrate the fairy-tale like story of India winning the Cricket World Cup in 19’83, the buzz keeps perpetuating as the filmmakers release more details about the film. Rishi Kant talks about ‘83 and what to anticipate.

 Cricket and film aficionados all over were taken by surprise over the weekend as the first look of ‘83 was unveiled on YouTube. It chronicles the triumph of India winning the 1983 Cricket World Cup. Ever since the film was announced, it probably is the most-awaited film of the new decade. Directed by Kabir Khan, ‘83 has managed to put up a grandiose show in promoting its release, even involving the original members of the team. Images have regularly surfaced online where veterans including Kapil Dev— the captain of that victorious team, along with star-batsman of that era, Krishnamachari Srikanth.

The camaraderie between Dev and Srikanth is the latest addition to a series of pictures, which included the cast training extensively in Dharamshala to learn the nuances of the game. Lead by Ranveer Singh, who plays as Dev, ‘83 has an ensemble cast— Harrdy Sandhu, who formerly was a fast-bowler himself, plays Madan Lal. Tamil actor Jiiva plays Srikanth, along with Saqib Saleem as Mohinder Amarnath. Apart from this, Deepika Padukone, the real-life wife of Ranveer plays his wife on the silver-screen. Boman Irani plays Farokh Engineer (A bit stereotyping here, though) and Pankaj Tripathi as PR Man Singh, who managed the team in ‘83.

Veteran actress Neena Gupta also makes a cameo appearance, playing Dev’s mother. The cast helps enunciating Kabir Khan’s style of direction— making a flamboyant, dramatic film, no less than a saga. The historical provenance of this film suggests that a similar style should be expected in ‘83. After all, cricket only picked up to the exclusive apogee it enjoyed for years after 19’83. The World Cup win helped Indian cricket in more ways than one.

In order to understand why the World Cup win in ‘83 was such an epochal moment for cricket in India, it is imperative to understand how cricket was before the tournament. The Indian team had enjoyed moderate success in test matches, with Sunil Gavaskar being India’s top-rated batsman, who had a legendary tour of West Indies in 1971. Gavaskar helped India overcoming the lethal fast-bowling attack of West Indies by smashing 774 runs in the series. However, a new, shorter format of the game posed a far greater challenge to the team.

Needless to stay, India struggled in the first two World Cups in England. Even the mighty Gavaskar made a paltry 36 runs off 174 deliveries (which is equivalent to 29 overs!) as West Indies dominated this new tournament by winning back-to-back trophies under Clive Lloyd. India went in ‘83 with a reinvigorated spirit as the team was now led by a 25-year-old, all-rounder (a term which was almost unheard of in India), Kapil Dev. With his aggressive batting instinct and effective fast-bowling, India was confident enough to make a mark.

It would be really interesting to see how all of this shown from a cinematic perspective. It is really imperative for the premise to be set in such a way that makes the audience feel the effort and struggle that it took to bring that coveted trophy home. One highlight of the World Cup in ‘83 has to be Kapil Dev’s inspirational, unbeaten knock of 175 against Zimbabwe, when Indian top order collapsed to a score which read 17/5. It is often considered by cricket experts and pundits as one of the greatest batting knocks in the history of the tournament.

Cricket purists would be looking forward to its cinematic re-enactment eagerly, as it is common knowledge that the match against Zimbabwe was not broadcasted because BBC organised a strike on the same day. Remember, this was ‘83, a time before the liberalisation of the Indian economy— when there were no broadcasters apart from Doordarshan, which too, took the live feed from the BBC. Even the Kevin Packer era of tri-series tournaments was at its infancy. Consequently, those who watched the match could only remotely tell how Kapil Dev stole the show with his batting.

Of course, the climax of the film has to be the final, played on that fateful day, the 25th of June, ‘83, where India announced itself on the global stage. The fierce West Indian bowling attack reduced India to a measly 1’83, somewhat of an easy target for a side which had defeated India earlier in the tournament and had Viv Richards, who was, at the time, one of the most dangerous batsmen in the world. Alas, West Indies did not make it through.

Even Richard’s dismissal was one worth remembering and one of the most iconic footages of the tournament, Kapil Dev running to a catch the ball lofted by Richards. Nothing could have stopped India’s indomitable spirit that day and Michael Holding being dismissed by Mohinder Amarnath changed Indian cricket forever. India were champions of the world and had beaten all odds. Kapil Dev lifting the trophy at the iconic Lord’s Stadium has to be one of the most recognised images in Indian cricket.

India’s triumph meant a shift of power— India had emerged as the newest force in international cricket and as part of it, brought the next edition away from England to the subcontinent, sponsored by Reliance. But India would have to wait for another 28 years to lift the trophy again in 2011, this time led by an exceptional player in his own merit- Mahendra Singh Dhoni. BCCI also became the richest cricket body in the world and IPL became the most popular T20 domestic tournament in the world. All of that was possible because of Kapil Dev and his team conquering the tournament in ‘83. Hence, it is not surprising to see Bollywood, another important facet of the Indian way of life, picking this event up for a cinematic depiction. ‘83 is all set to release on April 10, 2020.


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