Kris Srikkanth plays the square drive

A dasher with style: Kris Srikkanth holds the pose

Adrian Murrell / © Getty Images
23

Favourite Moments

A shot of hope

An imagination-embellished stroke that turned the course of the 1983 World Cup final

Simon Barnes |

Hope is a mystery. It's as essential to life as oxygen but it comes and goes of its own accord. In sport hope can leap up in flame from the dying embers of a match and it can be extinguished by the smallest breath of wind. Above all, hope can make impossible things happen.

That's one of the reasons why we watch sport, and it's one of the reasons why we keep coming back to it when we should know better. In the most unpromising circumstances hope can strike in the blinking of an eye and change everything, and that's a truth that keeps you with the dullest match in the world, the knowledge that things probably won't change - but they just might.

I went as a punter rather than a reporter. It was a family outing and we were inevitably a little late, caught up in the crowds. So as we shuffled round the ground towards our seats, it was dismaying to hear a sudden roar of excitement - and with it the terrible sigh of disappointment. Something had gone terribly wrong.

The year was 1983, the ground was Lord's, the occasion the World Cup final, the participants West Indies, overwhelming favourites, and India. I was wearing a shirt I'd had made in India and I had resolved to shout for the underdogs - but by the time I was in my seat they had already lost. Or so it seemed.

It was a match in which despair and hope kept rotating the strike in the manner of a left-hand-right-hand opening partnership

Sunil Gavaskar was out. We had been agreeing on the way to the ground that if India had a dog's chance it was with Gavaskar. If he could get in - and he was the best against pace - then maybe, just maybe, India had a hint of a ghost of a chance. But I never saw him face a ball.

So I sat back to watch the match unfold, ready to accept proof of the fact that West Indies were the finest team that had ever played cricket, the acknowledged masters of the one-day game. The upset had gone, but at least I would have the pleasure of seeing sporting excellence.

And then in an instant a flare of hope was lit.

It was a shot I will always remember. Kris Srikkanth dropped on one knee to square-drive Andy Roberts (or was it Joel Garner?). It was a moment of cricketing perfection: audacious and immaculate. The pace of the ball, the intervention of the blade, the flexing of the wrist, the shift of body weight onto that dropped knee: to play such a shot just once, against such an opponent, was to justify your entire life as a cricketer.

From no-hopers to champions

From no-hopers to champions © PA Photos

I seem to remember a tableau of 15 motionless white-clad bodies: Srikkanth holding the pose, still genuflecting, bat held high above his head. I remember the ball hitting the fence with the sound of a rifle shot, but maybe I made that up, added it to my memories.

But I didn't make up the hope. With that shot of glorious, elegant defiance I felt that flare of hope leap up and I thought: wouldn't it be simply marvellous if they could pull this off? I wonder now just how many people in the Indian dressing room felt the same thing at that moment.

No one will ever know. Even if you asked them, they wouldn't remember it straight. That's because the day held so many complex shifts in emotion. It was a match in which despair and hope kept rotating the strike in the manner of a left-hand-right-hand opening partnership. But I suspect that this shot was the prime mover of the miracle that followed: the moment that made hope possible after the departure of Gavaskar.

Hope lay in defiance. It lay in the simple sporting principles of staying true to yourself, doing what you do best and hoping - always hoping - that was going to be enough.

To play such a shot just once, against such an opponent, was to justify your entire life as a cricketer

I never thought it was. Srikkanth went for 38, top scorer, and India were all out for 183. That was never going to be enough. In fact, I'm convinced that if India had scored 50 more they would never have won. It was the low total that allowed West Indies to get ahead of themselves.

The rest is not history but mythology: the skilful wobble-bowling of Madan Lal, the hubris of West Indies, Clive Lloyd promoting himself up the order because he was worried that he wouldn't get a bat and then getting out for 8, and above all, Kapil Dev's 20-yard running, over-the-shoulder catch to dismiss Viv Richards.

It was one of the great heady days of cricket, which is not, in the main, a game that goes in for spectacular upsets. It was a glorious victory of hope over certainty, and it all began - as I remember it, and perhaps as it unfolded for the Indian team as well - with that square drive. Though it was also highly significant that I wore my lucky made-in-Mysore shirt. And you know, I've never been properly thanked.

Simon Barnes is a former chief sportswriter of the Times and the author of more than 20 books

 

RELATED ARTICLES

 

LOGIN TO POST YOUR COMMENTS

  • POSTED BY Nathan on | December 24, 2015, 20:51 GMT

    Kris Srikanth shot on his knees as he square drove AME Roberts, is a delightful sight for ages. Not only that the very next ball (if I remember correctly) he hooked over the square leg for SIX. His score of 38 was the highest in the WC 1983 final. Kris was a live wire on the field and his walking towards the square-leg umpire while getting when batting, appeared as if that he is suggesting advise to the umpire to take note of the same.

    I do agree with other readers that Kris should have been the champion of champions during the B&H series in Australia in 1985. His attacking game in the finals against PAK was a GEM of the knock. It took the wind out of PAK sail.

  • POSTED BY K on | December 22, 2015, 19:07 GMT

    What about the match on 9 June 1983, No one ever speaks about it. India won against the mighty WI in the same tournament. Its has beaten WI second time in finals. Greenidge was bowled by Sandu in this match.

    In the same match half of the score came from bowlers. its very clear that mighty WI had problems in facing the Indian slow medium pace when the ball is swinging.

    Winning the finals may be miracle , but its not a fluke or by luck. India can be proud having beaten twice , so called mighty all time best WI team in the same tournament.

    what about Sri hitting six of Garner bowling.

  • POSTED BY Unmesh on | December 14, 2015, 21:11 GMT

    Thanks for the amusing article, Simon! I was too little when this happened and did not know about this shot. But it almost gave me goosebumps reading the description. I did watch Srikanth's batting on TV in the late 80s and found it very entertaining. My earliest memory of his batting is during 1987 World Cup against NZ. Gavaskar and Srikanth had a great, attacking opening partnership. Gavaskar scored his only ODI century in that match and Srikanth scored 75-something (if I remember correctly). Srikanth's batting was audacious on that day (as usual), but strangely even Gavaskar was equally aggressive on that day. They scored 100 runs in the first 13-14 overs which was unheard of during those days.

  • POSTED BY R on | December 14, 2015, 10:35 GMT

    Srikkanth's knock in the 83 Finals was fantastic because he took on the best in the WC and batted brilliantly before a pathetically bad LBW decision enabled Marshall to pick up his wicket. Besides the square driven boundary, he hit Holding over his head for a boundary and a short arm pulled six of Andy Roberts had the West Indian worried. However, I will challenge Barnes claim that his lucky Mysore shirt won the game for India. It was my red underwear and midinnings 20 minutes walk from my Friend's home to my house that was responsible for India winning the WC! I had done the same in the match against Australia & semis against England.

  • POSTED BY ramachandra on | December 14, 2015, 10:02 GMT

    Gavaskar was the best against pace? No. Mohinder Amarnath was the best, probably.

  • POSTED BY Brainygio Chemiologist on | December 14, 2015, 5:35 GMT

    who to tell had india lost that world cup final maybe they wouldnt be so obsessed with limited overs cricket and instead of IPL circus they would have focussed on real cricket. that would have been better for west indies in terms of us having less of our talent globe trotting from 1 hit & giggle tournament to another while our test team fails to put 11 decent players on the field.

  • POSTED BY Piyush Sodhi on | December 13, 2015, 11:42 GMT

    Thank you Simon. As Tesco tells us - 'every little bit helps'.

  • POSTED BY Ali on | December 13, 2015, 7:19 GMT

    I did not watch the match as we had no direct telecast at the place I was working then but I do remember the excitement the win created in India. What I also remember is Gavaskar failing to deliver when India needed him to do so. Four years on in the semi final against England in Bombay Gavaskar again failed to deliver for India going for a duck and we lost a chance to retain the WC!

    Simon , well written! The best possible feeling someone can get in any sport is when an underdog wins against a favourite. Nothing can replace that.

  • POSTED BY TR on | December 13, 2015, 4:30 GMT

    Simon, So well written. You reflected the heart beat of so many of us who watched that match live in TV. Srikkanth was such a bundle of energy, confidence and hope always. He talked so much positive even when he was the chief selector which I think had its contribution in India winning the ODI world cup again under him. It was unfortunate he was dropped after just one series batting failure that too against Pakistan and that too when he had to do captaincy as well on his shoulders. In fact he was the first India catain to draw a series in Pakistan. But then he is from TN, for who one failure is enough to get dropped. Thanks for the article.

  • POSTED BY Neil on | December 13, 2015, 2:41 GMT

    The shot of hope was against Andy Roberts and while I and many others think it was the shot of the match, Srikanth himself has said that the off drive over Holding's head was his favorite shot.

  • POSTED BY Belur Keshavaram on | December 13, 2015, 2:37 GMT

    The article is nicely written by Simon Barnes. I can never forget the shot that Srikkanth smashed it for 4 with the mighty WI attack with Roberts, Garner, Marshall, Holding 40 overs of the 60 overs ie 2/3 of 60 overs. The batting line was so strong that even No 11 batsman Sandhu can chip some runs. The unique thing the finals @ Lords is that the team winning the toss have lost on all the 3 occasions ie 1975 1979 & 1983. WI became the 1st team to enter 3 successive finals. The 1st non hosts to enter finals were Aus & WI in 1975 & the 1st host to enter the finals were England & also the 1st host to lose the finals. After that WI came to Ind smashed 3-0 in tests & 6-0 in ODIS. The legendary Jimmy Amaranth retired. The downfall of WI has just began after the retirement of Lloyd & WI won the champions trophy after 24 years in 2004. Today's cricket has changed a lot with latest technologies. Cricket is always the winner.

  • POSTED BY nachiketa on | December 13, 2015, 2:29 GMT

    Yes, I remember that shot (not the bowler, though!), along with Sandhu removing the off stump, Amarnath getting Dujon out, and Kapil Dev's catch. Yes, WI did whitewash India later, but it was not a fluke. India had already beaten WI once in the league match, and had convincing victories over other opponents including England. Then they went on to win a mini-world cup in Australia and a rare victory in Sharjah (Rothmans Cup), too.

    Srikanth was a maverick. Hit a first ball sixer in a TEST MATCH and then got out the next ball. An interviewer asked him if he ever thought about respecting bowlers. He snapped "Why should I respect them? They are not my forefathers!" Vivian Richards said about him "if Srikanth was born in WI, he would always have found a place in my team".

    Agreed, that is an iconic pose. Not that the pose of those spectators lying down near the boundary line is any less appealing - those days!

    PS: Thanks, Simon!

  • POSTED BY Ram on | December 13, 2015, 2:00 GMT

    I remember hearing the BBC commentary on a carckly radio. Much later watched it on TV. Great meatch/memories. Thank you Mr. Barnes for rekindling those memories.

  • POSTED BY Steve on | December 13, 2015, 0:57 GMT

    I have seen that shot from Srikanth many times. Looks good no doubt. However, I don't think WI cared that much. India were still dismissed for a below par score of around 280-300 to rein WI batsmen. It's WI's disdain and lack of respect for Indians that cost them the the match. They corrected that mistake on their Ind tour after the world cup where they thrashed India in tests and ODIs. I believe Srikanth ended his test career with a below 30 avg, which is poor in those days. I always thought WI lost the 1983 finals rather than India winning it.

  • POSTED BY Sunil on | December 13, 2015, 0:07 GMT

    @jaggi.jagan: Srikkanth wasn't the first cricketer in modern cricket to hit over the infield. That badge of honor rests uniquely with the one and only Viv Richards. He did it coming lower in the order when the field was spread out too. Srikkanth was certainly the first to go the aerial route up the order, when the field restrictions were put in place.

  • POSTED BY Alex on | December 12, 2015, 23:25 GMT

    Before sehwag , There was K srikkanth. Once he is out all TV watching crowd in every family will move on do their mundane daily routine. No one watched gavaskar play. It was not entertaining. Srikkanth is first person brought aggression that indians never had. He was go for broke from first ball. he either out or four on every ball. Sehwag was more consistent compared to srikkanth. But srikkanth brought over the infield ballooning clips that land on near boundary line. I still remember 1985 world cup where srikkanth score many centruries to win that series. Commentary on srikkanth batting by aussie commentators was pretty awesome. Because they were entertained as much all indian fans. Sastri stole audi car from srikkanth and that was sour note. He gave all indian fans heart attack every time he batted.

  • POSTED BY Akm Dhl on | December 12, 2015, 23:17 GMT

    I saw the clips on Youtube @ 25th anniversary of this triumph. That was in '08 -:) And I have to tell you, I was in awe, were we really this good in facing the battery of WI pace machine in their prime on England pitches. Mind it , I have watched those games live in '83.

  • POSTED BY Sreekanth on | December 12, 2015, 17:53 GMT

    @ZONA ON - Upset yes. Lucky yes. Fluke no. They did beat the west indies twice in the same 1983 world cup - once in the leagues and once in the final.

    The 3-0, 5-0 afterwards is unrelated and not the same, you can't say the players were playing with the same level of motivation or focus, while WI was going for blood. Also, the conditions in india were different, for example taking out the threat of amarnath. More often than not, at the highest level it comes down to how desperate you are and how you handle pressure, rather than the skill factor.

  • POSTED BY Jagan on | December 12, 2015, 16:48 GMT

    Srikkanth was the first cricketer in modern cricket that showed the world that runs can be scored by hitting over the in field by playing mostly on the "V". Players like Mark Greatbatch, Sanath Jaysuria were the by products of Srikkanth's innovative stroke play at the top. A very flamboyant cricketer that made a decent contribution to Indian cricket as against what the statistics against his name would suggest.

  • POSTED BY A on | December 12, 2015, 15:20 GMT

    this win led everyone around to believe that miracles do happen even in cricket. nice article.

    many atheist started believing in God. this was one fluke win, on the back of lady luck who was generous on India. as in return series back in India the calypso power house killed Indians in their own favored conditions... 3-0 in tests and 5-0 in odis. this win is considered the biggest ever upsets in history of any sporting event, so to say.

    enjoyed the article, though...

  • POSTED BY U on | December 12, 2015, 14:22 GMT

    Belated - Thank you, Simon!

  • POSTED BY Vinod on | December 12, 2015, 14:10 GMT

    Thanks for this wonderful post - yep - that shot was awesome, defiant and symbolic of the way srikant used to bat, carefree, languid, freeflowing, infuriating -almost west indian calypsoish...in that same innings he also belted roberts for six almost picked it off his nose and it went off like a rocket leaving a bottle...stunning...As far as upsets go that has to be amongst the top 5 all time, all sport combined....a nation taking its first giant step shaking off the imperialistic shackles and insecurity...in kapil's own words 'the day the world shook'!, defiance was also shown by the nums 10 & 11 - as i think marshall pinged one of no 11's helmet, but the num 11 continued without much trouble..... to this yet to enter teens-remains etched in the memory - thanks for the wonderful memories

  • POSTED BY rustyryan on | December 12, 2015, 14:05 GMT

    The opener of the rarest breed.