TThe memories are absolutely fresh. I remember each moment so vividly that it seems like yesterday. We did not fancy our chances when we landed in England. Had anyone told us we would be winning the World Cup, we would not have believed it in our wildest dreams.
We lost the warm-up matches against New Zealand and Minor Counties. However, an ODI win in Berbice, Guyana, in the tour of the West Indies gave us some confidence going into our first group game against them. I remember someone describing us as “dark horses”, but the idea of being world champions never crossed our minds. So when we met the Windies at Old Trafford, the Guyana game was at the back of our minds. A win against a champion side was very important for us, and our campaign gained momentum thereon.
In the second match against the Windies at the Oval, we were set a target of 283. Jimmy Amarnath and I had built a good partnership but then I was hit by a Malcolm Marshall bouncer and had to retire hurt. He bowled around the wicket and though I tried to watch the ball all the way, I missed the line. I got seven stitches and missed the next few matches. Watching the matches from the sidelines was painful, but I understood that Kapil Dev had many options—Sandeep Patil, Yashpal Sharma, Syed Kirmani. We peaked at the right time, in the right matches all the way to the final. I remember watching Kapil's innings against Zimbabwe. It was a great innings. His form was brilliant throughout the World Cup but that knock of 175 was out of nowhere—total top-class innings. I can never forget it.
The English fans had bought tickets for the final in advance thinking England will beat India easily in the semi-final. But after we beat the hosts, I saw excited Indian fans buying tickets off them. Our team hotel was right across the road from the Lord's but we used to take the bus to the ground. On the day of the final, around 70 people—those who could not get tickets, friends and fans—entered the stadium in the team bus!
I remember Sandeep Patil's good-luck charm. Every time we had a big match coming up he would keep saying, “Boss, this is our last match in the tournament”, and we would end up winning the match. He said it against Australia in the do-or-die match to make it to the semis and he said the same against the West Indies, too.
We scored only 183 against the West Indies in the final but Kapil told us to go out there and at least put up a fight. The West Indies had a formidable batting lineup. Yes, Vivian Richard's dismissal was the key but they batted deep with Desmond Haynes, Jeff Dujon and Larry Gomes and so it was not over until the last wicket fell. However, once Haynes got out, the West Indies panicked.
That we had won the World Cup did not really sink in for days. When we went back to the hotel, it was one big party and champagne was being served to anyone and everyone! People had brought dhol from South Hall to celebrate. In the wee hours, we felt hungry, but we could not find any food.
For me, meeting Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at a tea party was really memorable. But, of course, getting a cheque for Rs.1 lakh from the Board of Control for Cricket in India was the best thing. I remember BCCI president N.K.P. Salve had first given us a cheque for Rs.25,000. I was thrilled even with that because we had never got so much money from the board! We used to get Rs.5,000 for a Test match.
However, the euphoria lasted only till the West Indies' tour of India when they beat us 3-0 in the six Tests and 5-0 in the One-Dayers!