The Kapil Dev-led Team India won the first ODI World Cup trophy, on this day, forty years ago. On June 25, 1983, a historic moment took place in world cricket that changed the sport forever. It is true that Indian cricket, and for that matter world cricket, would not be where it is today had India not won the third edition of the cricket World Cup. 1983 was a year when cricket truly replaced hockey as the unofficial national sport of the country. The 14 men who went to England to make history, did not know themselves that they would be returning with the Cup. Some members of the team had booked tickets for a vacation right after the first round of the tournament as they knew they would not qualify for the next stage in a tournament that includes teams like England, Australia and might West Indies.
But the plans were to change and they did change as India, despite losing three out of the four warm-ups, stepped up their game, reached finals and beat the world champions in the summit clash to lift the trophy. The visuals of Kapil lifting the trophy can give goosebumps to a billion Indians even today. Even to those who were not born then.
Also Read | India’s Historic Triumph 1983 Cricket World Cup: All You Need To Know About Kapil Dev’s Men – In Pics
Meet PR Man Singh, an honest servant of Indian cricket
There were, of course, 14 heroes who worked hard to bring the Cup to India. But there was one unlikely hero, who needs to be equally hailed and praised. He was PR Man Singh, the former cricketer, who wore many hats in 1983, in that tournament. Man Singh, also known has ‘Man Sahab’ in the Indian cricket corridors, was Team India’s everything. He was part of the selection panel that picked the team for World Cup and made Kapil the leader of the side for the mega event. He was also the manager of the Indian team. Ravi Shastri, a member of World Cup winning squad, called him the ‘One-Man Army’. From collecting kits of the cricketers from the board to booking tickets to calling taxi and arranging food in England, Man Singh did everything. And did everything with a very low budget. Remember the riches came later the board. Those were the trying times, financially.
Man Singh had retired long back from the sport but he still remained a faithful servant of Indian cricket. In Kabir Khan-directed film 83, which captures the journey of Indian team in that tournament, one can see Man Singh being the hard-working, honest manager of the Indian cricket team. He was also the one who believed in the team more than the players. He had immense faith in Kapil the captain and that was the reason he recommended him as skipper for that tournament. Man Singh was also the coach, at times, and mentor on other occasions. He became a bridge between players in that tournament and ensured players’ issues got resolved instantly so that performance of the team on the field was not affected.
When Man Singh made a journalist ‘eat his words’
Man Singh knew the difficulties of being a cricketer in that era and that is why he worked hard to make things as easy for the cricketers as possible. He was a former cricketer himself who had played some first-class matches for Hyderabad between 1965 and 1969. He later came into administration and his first stint as the manager of the Indian cricket team was in 1978 when India toured Pakistan.
Man Singh was not on the field during the World Cup but his hard work behind the curtains made players feel comfortable. He also shared a terrific story of how he made a journalist ‘eat his words’. Quite literally. David Firth of Wisden had predicted that India will not win the Cup. In one of his articles, he had written that he would ‘eat his words’ if they won. When they did, Man Singh wrote a letter to him, asking: ‘Now what do you have to say, Mr David?’.
In the September issue of Wisden, a photograph was published in which David could be seen with a piece of paper in his mouth. He had written: “India made me eat my words’.