Just mention Berbice 1983 and the eyes of the middle aged cricket fan with sparkle with delight. March 29 of that year not only saw India register their most significant victory in ODIs till then but it is also seen as a precursor to the gloriously memorable day three months later at Lord’s.
In early 1983 Test cricket was still very much the “in’’ thing in Indian cricket. ODIs had not yet caught the fancy of the average Indian cricket follower and the players themselves had yet to come to terms with the intricacies of the limited overs game. This was underlined by results. If one ignored the victory over East Africa in the 1975 World Cup and the three wins over Sri Lanka in 1982 India had won just seven ODIs against Australia, England, New Zealand and Pakistan against 26 losses when they arrived in the West Indies to play five Tests and three ODIs.
West Indies had won the World Cup both in 1975 and 1979 and were the No 1 team by a long way. And it was no surprise when they won the first ODI by 52 runs. But to all round amazement India pulled off a 27-run win in the second ODI at Berbice to draw level. The remarkable victory – the first over the world champions – not only raised the interest level of the Indian cricket fan in ODIs but also lifted the morale of the Indians with the World Cup just months away.
Sunil Gavaskar not known for his exploits in the limited overs game set the ball rolling with a rollicking 90 off 117 balls with eight fours treating the pace quartet of Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Winston Davis in cavaliar fashion. Skipper Kapil Dev promoted himself and gave the scoring rate a further impetus by smashing 72 off just 38 balls with seven fours and three sixes.
India were able to post a competitive total of 282 for five in 47 overs but against a West Indian batting line-up that started with Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes and continued with Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Fauod Bacchus, Larry Gomes and Jeff Dujon there was no guarantee that it was a winning total. However, the bowlers now backed up the batsmen admirably. Kapil Dev, Balwinder Sandhu and Madanlal took one wicket each to have the West Indies reeling at 62 for three. Despite half centuries by Richards, Bacchus and Dujon the home team were restricted to 255 for nine off 47 overs. Kapil, Sandhu and Madanlal took two wickets each while Ravi Shastri finished with three and arguably the greatest upset in ODIs till then was accomplished.
Thirty six years later the victory has lost none of its lustre and as a breakthrough triumph it remains unchallenged. And every Indian cricket fan is aware of what happened three months later at Lord’s. The genesis of the World Cup triumph is generally tracked to the events at Berbice.