(This piece was written in 2014 for a now-defunct website)
Kapil Dev, captain of the Indian team that won the ICC World Cup in 1983, said the landmark achievement was only the first step in cricket’s journey into hearts of the people of the country. He credits the opening up of the Indian economy and Sourav Ganguly’s team in the first decade of the new millennium with taking cricket to its pre-eminent position.
In an interview with in his spacious office in Noida, the 55-year-old said cricket made a strong impact on Indians only because the national team started winning. “Yet, I never thought cricket will come to such a stage where the film industry is scared to release a movie on Friday if there is a one-day game that day,” he said.
“I think when anything big like a World Cup win happens, change always takes place. It was a surprise and it was a happy occasion. People started coming up with the belief that we can do it. New-borns were being named after cricketers. Yes, 1983 was a first step forward and started doing things well, even though it took us time to win the title again,” Kapil Dev said. “We won the World Championship in 1985, the 2007 World Twenty20 and many other finals besides Test series.
“I never thought cricket would change at such a rapid pace. Of course, change was ready to take place and hastened with the opening up our economy in the early 90s under Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao – we could carry plastic cards, go around, spend money and nobody was doubting what you were doing.
“I believe change took place when Sourav Ganguly became captain and we started winning (overseas). We had Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman and Zaheer Khan – golden boys – all coming together and we started winning all around,” Kapil Dev said.
“From there onwards, we started believing. And the common person on the street started believing that we can beat anybody. When that takes place, you can say cricket has changed in our country. Indeed, it is a beautiful story,” said the man who sparked a revolution in the way Indians thought.
“In our time, the thought uppermost in our minds was how to draw a series. Thoughts of winning a series were very rare. Today, we are looking to win a series. It is another matter that we don’t always succeed. The thought process has changed. That is the difference,” Kapil Dev said, drawing satisfaction that his team was able to contribute to self-belief.
He also said he had never imagined how the 1983 win would change Indian sports. “Sports was a past-time but today people make careers out of sports because our athletes in many sports have found international success,” he said, pointing out that a lot of work was left to be done in making India a sporting nation.
“I am not happy with our Governments’ response to sport. We have not created the right infrastructure. If the Government is unable to do it all itself, it must encourage corporates to support sport by giving them tax benefits. Also, it must do away with import duty on sports infrastructure like astro-turf, floodlights, synthetic tracks, pistols and rifles, shoes etc.,” he said.