I wasn’t born at the time when Kapil Dev lifted India’s first World Cup in 1983, the historic moment that etched India’s name as a dominant force in the cricketing world. I have only relived that moment and the historic run that India had during that tournament through the descriptive and passionate stories of my mother and grandmother, two of the most avid cricket fans I know, and most recently through Abrid Shine’s evocative film, 83.
Jayita Sarkar, my mother
Every time my mother speaks of the 1983 World Cup, I relive it even though I was physically not there. But yes, don’t write off our generation. We grew up watching some beautiful cricket, as well. Sourav Ganguly’s immaculate cover drives, Ponting’s brilliant captaincy, Paul Collingwood’s insane fielding, Dale Steyn’s blazing pace, Muttiah Muralitharan’s bedazzling spin bowling, Dhoni’s otherworldly wicket keeping and the list goes on — we’ve seen it all.
India’s meteoric rise from winning the World Cup as the biggest underdog in 1983 to once again claiming the prized jewel in 2011, has been nothing short of an iconic odyssey. I will never forget the 2011 final match when we defeated the formidable Sri Lankan side. As Dhoni whacked a monstrous six out of the park, Mumbai erupted with unmatched euphoria as the Wankhede Stadium bore witness to our glory. What made that win even special is we emerged at the top of the world at a time when we were second best according to the ODI rankings, with the formidable Australian side at the top.
Over the last decade, things have changed. India is the undisputed best at cricket. The statement is so true that even our most bitter rivals are bound to agree. Take any statistic — best batsman in ODI or T20, best bowler, best all-rounder, all individual accolades belong to an Indian player. But sports like cricket or football aren't individual games now, are they? When King Kohli broke Sachin Tendular’s record a couple of days ago to become the record century holder of all time, we were jubilant. The only feeling that can supersede those emotions is when we lift the glorious trophy. We are no longer the underdogs we were in 1983 or the second-best from 2011, we are the best cricketing nation and the World Cup will put an emphatic stamp on that.
Indeevar Majumdar, a fervent cricket fan and childhood friend of mine
My friend has wonderfully portrayed how we have technically developed our cricketing infrastructure in all its totality to reach where we are today. For a cricket-worshipping nation like ours, second-best is not an option. Cricket is the great equalizer that brings people from all castes, creeds and religions together. When India wins, unity in diversity is exemplified. India's victories at the World Cup have signaled the metaphorical genesis of a united India, which is way too utopian a notion if one looks elsewhere at other walks of life. You will see the most religiously intolerant person celebrating Mohammad Shami when he demolishes the opposition bowling line-up, even though he belongs to a religious minority in India. Is cricket free of nationalistic jingoism? Of course not. I won’t even make such a claim.
But yes, I remember distinctly when Pakistan’s star player Babar Azam was stepping onto the crease in the match against India during this World Cup, the entire Indian crowd was up on their feet welcoming him. I remember how my mother, a die-hard India fan, always chooses legendary West Indian Brian Lara over the iconic Mohinder Amarnath when it comes to who’s a superior batsman. I remember growing up always wanting to bowl like Brett Lee. I even emulated his bowling action when I played with my friends. Quality over nationality, love of the game over geographic boundaries — that’s the motto a true Indian cricket fan lives by.
In India, cricket is more than just a game, it’s sporting heritage personified. As we wait with bated breath for the final on Sunday, let us remember that even though we have outclassed every other team and have rightfully earned the title 'The Invincibles' in this tournament, over-confidence has been the grave of many great nations. Australia is a dangerous side, who are sure to bring in their A-game. They are no strangers to winning World Cups. However, with top-tier quality players and the unwavering faith of more than a billion people on our side, there is no reason to believe that history won’t repeat itself.