"As a player and as a commentator, I've never seen a better innings."
That's how the legendary Sunil Gavaskar described Kapil Dev's incredible 175* against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells in the 1983 World Cup. Many more would have agreed to, if only they had got an opportunity to witness the brilliance. Unfortunately, the game was not broadcast or even recorded as the BBC was on strike that day.
It was the first time Zimbabwe were playing a World Cup, and India were the favourites between the two sides. Yet, batting first, they slipped to 17 for 5.
Sunil Gavaskar and Kris Srikkanth, the openers, fell for ducks. Mohinder Amarnath, Sandeep Patil and Yashpal Sharma didn't add much and India were reeling. Zimbabwe had beaten Australia earlier in the tournament and had some good bowlers in Kevin Curran, Peter Rawson and former India coach Duncan Fletcher.
Kapil walked in with the score on 9 for 4 and quickly saw it turn to 17 for 5, 77 for 6 and 78 for 7. Through it all, and from there onwards, he took the team to 266 for 8 in 60 overs single-handedly.
Roger Binny (22), Madan Lal (17) and Syed Kirmani (24*) hung around while the captain took care of the scoring.
Kapil rebuilt patiently and was well set when he was joined by No. 10 Kirmani, with the team on 140 for 8. He then unleashed an onslaught that blew away Zimbabwe, smashing six sixes and 16 fours in all.
Kapil reached his century only in the 49th over, before accelerating in the last 11 in which he scored 75. Kapil and Kirmani added 126 for the ninth wicket, with the latter contributing a mere 24. At the end of it all, Kapil remained unbeaten on 175 off just 138 balls.
Zimbabwe were stunned by the attack and eventually lost the match by 31 runs, being bowled out for 235 in 57 overs.
Kapil's knock was crucial in the larger picture, given it played a big part in the World Cup victory. In many ways, the 175 was a knock that redefined cricket in the country.