Tuesday, July 1, 2008

When Kapil's Devils played Azhar's Army

The 25th anniversary of India's World Cup win in 1983 has recently brought that team, usually referred to as "Kapil's Devils", back to the limelight. Of course some of them have remained in the public consciousness all through, for various cricketing and non-cricketing reasons - Kapil himself, Gavaskar, Shastri, Vengsarkar, Kirti Azad, etc. But it was good to see others like Mohinder Amarnath, Sandeep Patil, Kiri and Balwinder Sandhu being feted and showered with gifts. The BCCI-organized function was a nostalgia-inducing event for those of us who had followed the 1983 Prudential Cup closely. Kapil spoke wonderfully at the function, with anecdotes and insights into each team member as he called them up on stage.

This event reminded me of a game I had watched at the Wankhede Stadium in April 1999 - just before the 1999 World Cup in England. It was a friendly match organized for charity, and for wishing the Indian team luck. The game was between "Azhar's Army" - the Indian team selected for the world cup, and "Kapil's Devils". It was very well attended indeed - something like 30,000 fans thronged the Wankhede, mostly to see the 1983 team back together. It was a day/night game, the first D/N game I'd had the opportunity to watch from the stadium.

The event started off in spectacular fashion, with a helicopter landing inside the stadium! Kapil and Azhar emerged from it, waited for the helicopter to take off, and then did the toss in the centre. Azhar's Army batted first, and Kapil & Sandhu opened the bowling. Kapil still had a bit of pace, and bowled a few short ones. But overall, it was clearly a festival atmosphere and the bowling was friendly. Azhar's team racked up 292/4 in their allotted 35 overs, at more than 8rpo. The star was of course Sachin Tendulkar who made a quick century and ended up 115* off just 98 balls. He was at the peak of his powers then, and the Mumbai crowd was absolutely in love with him.

The 1983 team batted quite well in their reply. Several of them had retired not too long back from first-class cricket - Kapil, Sandeep Patil, Vengsarkar, etc. But Gavaskar did not bat, which was a disappointment for the Mumbai crowd. Of course he was nearly 50 years old then, and hadn't played first-class cricket for a dozen years. The team ended up scoring 202 in their 35 overs, but no one in the stadium really cared about the result. It was good fun to see the oldies again after a long time... Kapil making a few rear off a short length, Mohinder trundling in as usual, Patil tonking the bowling, Vengsarkar unfurling some cover drives, and Srikkanth doing his antics in the field!

Apart from reviving the 1983 nostalgia, the event served its charitable purpose well - Rs.20 lakh each were given to the families of Raman Lamba (who had died recently of a head injury sustained while fielding in a club game in Bangaldesh), and Ramnath Parker (who had been in coma for a long time then).

After the game, I wrote up a "match report" for CricInfo... and a Google search reveals that it's still there :)

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