Balwinder Sandhu, a medium pacer for India was playing at No. 11. Playing at Lord’s in England, in the 1983 World Cup final, the stakes were high for both India and West Indies. Malcolm Marshall bowled a bouncer and hit him flush on the flap of his helmet. Although th crowd were very vocal in their disapproval of bowling a bouncer at India’s No. 11, Sandhu, who was in pain, decided to not show it – to win the mental match against Marshall.
37 years to the day, re-living the moment, Sandhu says, “It was like somebody had given me a hard slap. All I could feel was that my ears had become hot and that there was this whistling sound in my left ear. But I also knew one more thing – I had to show them I was feeling no pain. The moral victory had to be mine. I did not even rub the area that was hurting, I turned and faced Marshall as if nothing had happened.”
Not only he did not want to win against Marshall, he even refused to admit being hurt to the West Indies wicketkeeper Jeffrey Dujon who had run up to Sandhu to check on him.
Sandhu’s grit was not a secret for West Indies. Sandhu continues:
“West Indies knew I could be a stubborn No. 11. I was holding one end up and frustrating them. They wanted to get rid of me. Not only Marshall, but all of them were also digging it in at me. But that blow to the helmet made me even more stubborn. ‘Now I’ll show you!’ I thought.”
Winning the mental fight comprehensively, Sandhu not only managed to have a clean strike at the next ball and the batsmen scampered through, adding three important runs to India’s modest total of 183, but showed Marshall he could not be scared off the fight. In the end, India scored 183 and Sandhu remained not out at 11 with one 4 in his innings.
The last-wicket partnership between Sandhu (11*) and Kirmani (14) of 22 important runs was a significant contribution from the bowler who also took two important wickets in India bowling the West Indies out for a meagre 140 and winning the World Cup by 43 runs.
Although it has been 37 years to the day when India became the World Champions, there has always been a friendly argument between Kapil Dev and Sandhu as to whose contribution was the game changer moment for the World Cup win for India.
Bowling to Gordon Greenidge, one of the West Indies opener, Sandhu clipped his wicket only 5 balls into the match. Kapil Dev believes that was the game changer for India.
On the other hand, Kapil Dev took the catch on Madal Lal’s bowling to dismiss Viv Richards – the heavy hitter of West Indies. That wicket, knowing Vic Richards is considered to be most important one for India. That was the third wicket for India at 57 balls, having dismissed Desmond Haynes at 50 balls, only 7 balls before then.
Ordinarily the fans would side with Sandhu that Kapil’s catch to get Viv Richard’s wicket – who had proven to be the match winning player on many occasions, should be rated as the game changer. But Sandhu’s taking Greenidge’s wicket on the 5th ball of the match, having played mind games during India’s batting, making 11 not out facing Marshall’s bouncers and not surrendering to his might – is also a defiant statement to challenge the dominance of the world cricket by the West Indies.
This is how Sandhu sums it up:
“Kapil Dev and I have a running argument on this. I keep telling him that the Richards wicket was the game-changing moment because of the crucial stage it came at. My ball to get Greenidge out gave us a foot in the door, but it was Kapil’s catch which opened the door for us. But the Greendige wicket gave us hope, and the world lives on hope.”
Whether it was Kapil Dev or Balwinder Sandhu, to be credited in the end, when India made a paltry 184 batting first, not many had any optimism for India. The West Indies had won the two previous World Cup finals with scores of 291 and 286 and chasing 184 would be a walk in the park for them. In that context, the early wicket of Greenidge, only 5 balls into the match was very significant moment.
“Sandhu’s ball was that crucial motivating factor for us that day. Suddenly there was this wave of self-belief and we thought, ‘Come on guys, we can do it!”, Srikkanth had told ESPNCricinfo in an interview.
“Kapil Dev had told me, ‘You take one more wicket, then your job is done’. The ball I bowled to get Faoud Bacchus out was an outswinger, it swung more than I expected. He fell for the bait and Kirmani took a brilliant catch. I was ecstatic at this wicket, I was swinging my arms around, because my plan had worked. And we knew by then we were in the match,” Sandhu recalled.
Madal Lal and Mohinder Amarnath took 3 wickets each with Kapil Dev cleaned up the West Indies tail with his lone wicket of Andy Roberts. And India won 1983 World Cup by 43 runs. While Indians were shedding tears of joy, the West Indies players were in tears having lost an unlosable match.
The rest is history. A Bollywood movie 83 is being made on India’s 1983 World Cup win.