India surprised everybody by winning the Prudential World Cup in 1983. Led by Kapil Dev, the all conquering team of that year was christened ‘The Kapil’s Devils’. Many Indian teams, before 1983 and after that historic win, may have been better in terms of individual talent or collective strengths. But it isn’t always that the best team wins; it is the team that ‘believes’ it can that is victorious most often! Our team was made up of some great individual players and a few bits-and-pieces players – not the ideal winning formula for any game by any standards. What made us click though was our intense desire to win, great self belief, faith and trust in each other’s ability. There was one more factor that helped us perform beyond our capacity: character!
I have often, during the two decades and a half past, tried to put my finger on one thing that brought us that unprecedented success in the summer of 1983. Believe me, we were nowhere near the talent possessed by the West Indies. They had not for nothing scored walk-in-the-park wins in the Prudential Cup of 1975 and 1979. The squad from the Caribbean Isles had a demonic pace attack in the wily Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall and the ‘gentle giant’, Joel Garner. They had the redoubtable Viv Richards – the best in the world, a great opening pair – Greenidge and Haynes, and of course, the inspirational leader and marauder, Clive Lloyd. The Englishmen were hard to beat at home – especially with Botham in their ranks, the Pakistanis and the Australians were excellent at the shorter version of the game and the Zimbabweans were a surprise package. But I have come to believe, after much analysis that the Indian team of that year won because we enjoyed playing together and enjoyed winning!
The Indian team of ’83 had a lot of characters. All of us gave a hundred percent on the field and then had a lot of fun off it. The ‘Devil’s Pack’ is a collection of my thoughts on that World Cup win and more importantly for me, how I saw the players who made up that team from close up. The ‘Kapil’s Devils’ were not super humans; they were just ordinary people with extraordinary skills and an intense desire to be the world’s best!
Story telling plays an important role in promoting sporting excellence as Cricket Australia has discovered. Today’s youngsters know very little about the history of the game and the players of yesteryear who brought glory to the country. I was speaking to some Mumbai cricketers a few years back about fielding at forward short-leg. When I mentioned the name of Eknath Solkar, perhaps the best fielder in that position ever, one youngster said that he had seen a video of Solkar. “He was diving and picking up catches as if he was picking apples,” he opined. “And what’s more, sir. He wasn’t even wearing a helmet or shin guards!” “I was fortunate to play with him. Great player and great human being,” I said, “Do you know which team he played for?” One youngster replied, “I think he played for Madhya Pradesh.”
This book is a tribute to the fifteen ‘Kapil’s Devils’. I have tried to portray to cricket buffs in its various chapters, the human side of the superstars who brought the World Cup home. Great sporting stars are not machines; they have their fallibilities too. Bravery isn’t the absence of fear; it is overcoming fear to excel in whatever you do!
I hope this book inspires Indian cricketers of the future to bring laurels to the country through their performances. The greatest individuals or teams in the world are best because they believe they are the best! My best wishes to all of you out there who want to be better than the best!
With Love and Affection,
Balvinder Singh Sandhu