Explained: Kapil Dev’s greatest knock, the ‘real star’ of Ranveer’s new film ’83’

Abhishek De
Cricketer Kapil Dev after taking a wicket. (Express Archive)

Actor Ranveer Singh on Monday shared a still from his upcoming film '83' on his social media handle where he can be seen playing former Indian cricket captain Kapil Dev's iconic 'Natraj shot'.

Donning a curly hairdo with a moustache, Ranveer nails the look of Kapil Dev in the still that is a throwback to India's improbable win over Zimbabwe in the 1983 Prudential World Cup at the little-known and quaint Neville Cricket Ground at Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

While Tunbridge Wells may not ring a bell to the modern generation, it is the ground where arguably Indian cricket’s most defining innings was played by the 'Haryana Hurricane' on a cold, windy day in front of 4,000-odd people, 36 summers back on a June Saturday morning.

"The match that was never televised... a world record innings that India never saw... this April the world will see how history was made on that cold windy day in Tunbridge Wells..." '83' director Kabir Khan captioned the photo on Instagram.

File photo of Kapil Dev batting.  (Express archive photo)

Why is Kapil Dev's knock hailed as one of the greatest ODI innings ever witnessed?

Kapil Dev's immortal innings of 175 not out against Zimbabwe not only saved India from elimination in the 1983 World Cup, but also gave the tottering team momentum and belief that eventually paved the way for that memorable World Cup triumph.

Kapil's feat could not be recorded on camera since the BBC was on strike on that day -- it remains confined to the memory of the spectators and ground staff at the rhododendron-lined ground. Interestingly, that India-Zimbabwe 1983 World Cup game on June 8 remains the only men’s international fixture ever held at Tunbridge Wells.

It was a typical English summer and after winning the toss, India decided to bat against an opponent that had punched above its weight in stunning Australia. Zimbabwean quicks Peter Rawson and Kevin Curran were no Marshall-Holding, but on that day, they obtained sharp seam movement and lift off the wicket, and wrecked the Indian top order.

Openers Sunil Gavaskar and K Srikkanth were sent packing without opening their accounts, and Mohinder Amarnath, Sandeep Patil, and Yashpal Sharma followed soon afterward. India were 17/5.

Former Indian Captain Kapil Dev, with Sachin Tendulkar in the background. (Express archive)

When Kapil walked in, there was genuine concern that the match might be over by lunchtime. And then, Kapil got going.

He began cautiously, but quickly changed gears to frenetic and brutal strokeplay, increasing the momentum constantly. He reached his first 50 only in the 26th over, but the next 50 came in 13, and the third in 10.

With him on the other end were first Roger Binny, who scored 22 before departing with the score at 77, and then Madan Lal and Syed Kirmani, who scored 17 and 24 respectively.

The rest of the side failed to get going; besides the ducks by the openers, there were four other single-digit scores -- Amarnath (5), Patil (1), Yashpal (9), Ravi Shastri (1).

Kapil Dev during a match. (Express archive)

What aided Kapil's iconic knock was the fact that the match was played on a pitch at the very edge of the square, making fours and sixes easier to hit on one side.

Also, Zimbabwe captain Duncan Fletcher chose to take Rawson and Curran off the attack at the time Kapil came to the crease -- a decision he regrets to this day, Fletcher said to espncricinfo in an interview.

The 9th wicket unbroken 126-run partnership with Kirmani catapulted India to 266/8. At the end of his marathon innings, Kapil's stats read: 181 minutes, 6 sixes, 16 fours, and a century off 72 balls.

However, the match was far from over. Zimbabwe had a formidable middle order in the form of Andy Pycroft, Dave Houghton and Fletcher himself.

A steady opening stand between Robin Brown and Grant Paterson was broken after Madan Lal ran out Brown with a superb throw directly to the stumps from the square boundary.

Another turning point in the match came when Kapil grabbed a one-handed catch to send back Fletcher when he was at just 13.

Curran made a gutsy 73, but in the end, Zimbabwe folded for 235, 31 short of India's 266/8. The Indian medium pacers did a good job, Madan Lal taking 3 wickets, Binny 2, and Kapil, Amarnath, and Balwinder Singh Sandhu one apiece.

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