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Thursday, July 09, 2020

‘Now I’ll show you’: Balwinder Sandhu on how a bouncer to the head in the ’83 final got him fired up

Balwinder Sandhu played few matches for India on either side of the 1983 World Cup, but his two moments of heroism in the final vs West Indies make him an unforgettable figure in Indian cricket history.

Written by Dipankar Lahiri | New Delhi | Updated: June 26, 2020 9:49:46 pm
83 WC Balwinder Sandhu gets the wicket of Gordon Greenidge (File Photo/BCCI)

For a moment Balwinder Sandhu could not hear anything except a buzz in his ear after the Malcolm Marshall bouncer hit him flush on the flap of his helmet. The Lord’s crowd let their disapproval be known at the strategy of directing a bouncer at India’s No. 11. But none of the sympathies reached Sandhu’s ringing ears.

“It was like somebody had given me a hard slap. All I could feel was that my ears had become hot and that there was this whistling sound in my left ear. But I also knew one more thing – I had to show them I was feeling no pain.

“The moral victory had to be mine. I did not even rub the area that was hurting, I turned and faced Marshall as if nothing had happened,” says Sandhu. It was the day India shocked the world, beating the West Indies in the 1983 World Cup final, exactly 37 years ago.

Wicketkeeper Jeffrey Dujon ran up to Sandhu to check on him. Sandhu waved him away dismissively once. Dujon persisted. Sandhu waved him away again, annoyed at the attention.

Umpire Dickie Bird gestured furiously at Marshall for the “ungentlemanly act”. The bowler walked back to his mark — with his arms raised in acknowledgement of the excess he had committed.

“West Indies knew I could be a stubborn No. 11. I was holding one end up and frustrating them. They wanted to get rid of me. Not only Marshall, all of them were digging it in at me. But that blow to the helmet made me even more stubborn. ‘Now I’ll show you!’ I thought,” says Sandhu.

A roar went around the ground as Sandhu managed to have a clean strike at the next ball and the batsmen scampered through. Three vital runs were added to India’s modest total, but perhaps more importantly, Sandhu had shown Marshall he would not back away from his crease even after being hit.

The 22-run last-wicket partnership between Sandhu (11*) and Syed Kirmani (14) took India’s total to 183, with the crowd willing the pair’s unlikely resistance, getting on board with the underdog story with every passing ball.

Sandhu, who was involved with the commemorative film ”83′ as a cricket trainer last year, says: “This scene (of him attacking Marshall even after getting struck on the helmet) will stand out in the film. One day during shooting, all the actors were sitting together and seeing some rushes. When they saw this scene, to my surprise, they all walked up to me and hugged me.”

The one that jagged into Greenidge

Speaking earlier this year, Kapil Dev said his running catch to dismiss Viv Richards is given too much importance in the context of the 1983 final. He said that there had been many game-changing moments in the match, none more so than the one that swung in from Sandhu to clip Gordon Greenidge’s off stump.

“Kapil Dev and I have a running argument on this. I keep telling him that the Richards wicket was the game-changing moment because of the crucial stage it came at. My ball to get Greenidge out gave us a foot in the door, but it was Kapil’s catch which opened the door for us,” says Sandhu.

Then he adds, “But the Greendige wicket gave us hope, and the world lives on hope.”

For the West Indies, who had won the two previous World Cup finals with scores of 291 and 286, a chase of 184 might have seemed like a formality, but the early wicket of Greenidge threw a spanner in the works. The Greenidge and Desmond Haynes opening pair would end up with an average of 49.5 by the close of the decade. But on that day in 1983, Greenidge — perhaps the one in the Windies batting order with the most textbook defensive technique — offered one of the most famous non-shots in history. Greenidge b Sandhu, West Indies 5/1.

Rajdeep Sardesai wrote in a 2015 ESPNCricinfo article, “When we grew up”, that the Greendige wicket proved that “…if Sandhu could make the West Indians dance to his swing, we should have known it was to be an exceptional day.”

“I think the team blamed me for the 1983 defeat because I got out,” Greenidge said in an ESPNCricinfo interview in 2018. “It was just a misjudgement. That sickening sound (of the ball hitting the stumps)… I am told that ball was his (Sandhu’s) claim to fame.”

As Greenidge walked back to the pavilion with disbelief on his face, there was similar disbelief on the Indians’ faces too.

Sandhu remembers the team was an overexcited bunch in the huddle that followed the Greenidge wicket.

“None of us could contain our excitement. Kris Srikkanth was the most excited, of course, he never needed a reason to be excited. Kapil Dev told us all to calm down. He told us only one wicket had fallen, there was still a long way to go in the match,” he says.

The in-cutter by Sandhu would be the defining delivery of that match, and it would also prove to be the defining delivery of his career. Thirty seven years on from that Greenidge non-shot, Sandhu’s visiting card has a picture of a batsman shouldering arms with his stumps broken. His website also has the same logo in the background.

The historic stump

By the time Sandhu got his second wicket of the match, India had “opened the door” already.

“Kapil Dev had told me, ‘You take one more wicket, then your job is done’. The ball I bowled to get Faoud Bacchus out was an outswinger, it swung more than I expected. He fell for the bait and Kirmani took a brilliant catch. I was ecstatic at this wicket, I was swinging my arms around, because my plan had worked. And we knew by then we were in the match,” Sandhu says.

Mohinder Amarnath and Dev cleaned up the West Indies tail after this, as India won by 43 runs.

Then, for just a moment, the world fell quiet.

83 WC Balwinder Sandhu (left, in white sweater)is mobbed by the crowd at the end of the match, Joel Garner and Michael Holding beat a hasty retreat (File Photo/AP)

Amarnath ran into the pavilion first – with Madan Lal and Roger Binny picking up two stumps and following him – as a jubilant crowd flooded the Lord’s. The rest of the team followed close behind, but Sandhu was mobbed in the middle of the pitch by the crowd.

“I had been standing at long off and so I had to cover the longest distance to the pavilion. I picked up one stump when I reached the pitch but saw that the crowd had already reached me. They tried to take the stump away from me but I fought and fought and fought to hold on to it. I was the last person to enter the dressing room,” Sandhu says.

By the time Sandhu entered the dressing room, he had his place in history as the man who, in resisting a West Indies bouncer, would allow his whole team to resist the West Indies’ dominance.

“None of us were in a mood to talk in the dressing room. There was champagne, hugging, pats on backs, but very few words. People were saying ‘Well done’, ‘First class’, but as a team, we were in no position to talk about what had just happened,” he says.

As for the stump he managed to hold on to, Sandhu says it still has special pride of place at his home. “There is some soil stuck on it still,” he says with sudden excitement. “Earlier there was even more soil, now some of it has gone.”

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