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Flashback at Manchester: When, at Old Trafford, India started their journey of ‘turning the tides’

India will take on New Zealand in the first semi-final of Cricket World Cup 2019. India have qualified for their 7th World Cup semi-final while New Zealand will play their 8th one. Given their smooth run in this World Cup, India are clear favourite against the Kiwis who have lost their last three group matches. As India faces the Black Caps in the semi-final at Old Trafford, let us look back on some great World Cup victories that India produced at this venue in Manchester.

India came into the 1983 Cricket World Cup with a very poor record of only one win from their previous two outings. In 1975, India won against East Africa while in 1979 the team had a nightmarish campaign having no win. India was not expected to even progress beyond the Group stage of the 1983 Cricket World Cup. India, captained by Kapil Dev, was having players like Sunil Gavaskar, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohinder Aamarnath, Madan Lal, Roger Billy, Yaspal Sharma, Ravi Shashtri, Syed Kirmani, Sandeep Patil , Kirti Azad and Balwinder Singh Sandhu. Their first match was against West Indies at Old Trafford.   

It was going to be an easy ride for the defending champions but India messed things up for the West Indies. Riding on a glorious 89 runs by Yashpal Sharma, India posted a score of 262/8. But given to the massive batting prowess of the West Indies batsman, it was expected that they would steamroll India. However, things were never such. The slow pitch of Old Trafford played magic for the Indian bowlers whose disciplined attack, led by all-rounders Roger Binny and Ravi Shastri, bowled out the Carribean batsmen for 228. India won a match that was never thought.

“It has all begun here in the summer of 1983. India played on the opening day against the West Indies, a team that had never been beaten in World Cup history. This was the meeting point and India beat the West Indies on this very ground. That started it all. It gave us the belief that we could beat any side, once we had beaten the West Indies. There was no stopping us. 1983 is what changed the face of Indian cricket,” India’s present head coach Ravi Shastri told bcci.tv while remembering the day when India handed over the first World Cup defeat to West Indies.    

After qualifying for the semi-final in 1983, India came back to Old Trafford to play against the host. It was the first time India made it to the semis and the win against West Indies in the league stage was considered to be a fluke. Thus, no one had given a minimum chance to India to win against the much-fancied England side.  

But things were different on 22nd June 1983. The promising England start by openers Grame Flower and Chris Tavare was chocked by the slowers of Mohinder Amarnath and Kirti Azad. In a slow pitch where the balls did not come to the bat, the English stroke-players were suffocated. Allan Lamb, David Gower, Mike Gatting and even the genius of Ian Botham could not break the Indian shackles. They could only manage a mere 213 in their 60 overs.

“Historically, that was the turning point. I don’t think we wanted it that way, but it happened,” former England opener Grame Fowler confessed in an interview.[Source: Mumbai Mirror,9th July 2019]. India batted sensibly. Yashpal Sharma hit a fighting 61 and a swashbuckling 51 from Sandeep Patil helped India cruise home with more than 5 overs to spare. But it was Mohinder Amarnath who emerged as the hero of the match. Mohinder, as a true metaphor of commitment, first took 2 wickets for 27 runs in his full quota of 12 overs and then steadied the Indian innings with 46 runs. It was a day of the underdogs but it contributed to the emergence of a great cricketing nation.

Apart from these two extraordinary wins that changed the course of Indian Cricket, there is another memorable victory of India at Manchester. In 1999, India and Pakistan squared up at Old Trafford at the backdrop of Kargil War. Given the political turmoil between the two countries, it was impossible for most Indians and Pakistanis to think of the match as just a cricket match. The 21,953-strong crowd at Old Trafford waved flags, blew whistles and beat drums in a “passionate atmosphere unimaginable in English cricket”, [Source: Wisden]. It was also the third World Cup match between the two sides with India winning the previous two.    

India managed a low score of 227 with Mohammad Azharuddin and Rahul Dravid scoring half centuries. India faced a major blow before the match started as in-form Sourav Ganguly, who scored 96 against South Africa before winning Man of the Match against Sri Lanka and England, was ruled out because of an injury. But the best came out from the Indian bowlers with Venkatesh Prasad leading from the front. He bagged five wickets and India won by 47 runs. India’s grip on Pakistan in the World Cup just stayed tight.  At the end of the match, both the captains thanked the audience for keeping themselves cool and basking in the glory of Cricket.

In 2019 World Cup, India kept their record intact by beating Pakistan at this Old Trafford again. They beat the arch rivals by 89 runs with Rohit Sharma scoring a brilliant 140. The Men In Blue also won their match against West Indies here by a massive 125 runs.   

About Poulomi Kundu

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