Abhijit Chowdhury

India went to Australia to play the 1985 World Championship as the World Champions. Just two years before that India had defeated the mighty West Indian team led by Clive Lloyd in England. But the victory to many at that time might have seemed like that of a fluke. But this trip to Australia for the Gavaskar-led team was to prove the fact that the miracle of the magical English summer can be repeated over and over again by the Blues.

As the country is almost at a halt due to ongoing lockdown to fight COVID-19, the only thing to do is to work and maybe watch something on Netflix. But a few days back as I was scrolling through the Facebook news feed, I came across a sponsored ad of ESPN. It said that in a 12-part series named ‘The Blue Revolution’, will telecast India’s landmark victory in the 1985 Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket. An apt name I thought. India during the period had Green, White, and many political revolutions. But along with all of those definitely, the Blue Revolution of Indian Cricket is one that is never to be forgotten.

This was the first time national teams had dawned colored jerseys for an international cricket tournament. And it was here where the Indian team got its signature nickname as the Men In Blue. After that win, it was long waiting for India to win another World Championship and to be on top of the world. But the March of 1985 showed the world that India is there to become one of the leaders of the game. It was after this particular tournament that fans started expecting India to win all possible tournaments they played in.

Having won precious little after the World Cup under Kapil Dev, it was Sunil Gavaskar’s turn to carry the unit against the odd. Though India was the reigning world champion, the bookmakers installed West Indies as favorites.

Sunil had under him a lot of players who had minimal chances before that. And pretext of the tournament was a disaster for India. The team had suffered rather badly at the hands of the touring Englishmen in both Tests and ODIs. And then there was a controversy regarding captaincy.

Shastri and Krishnamachari Srikanth were playing their roles as the good cop, bad cop against the teams while opening. Swashbuckling Srikkanth and steady Ravi Shastri were complementing each other. And at the helm of the bunch was a man who two years back gulped 174 deliveries to score a mere 36 runs while chasing 335 for a victory. Laxman Sivaramakrishnan was brilliant with his leg-breaks and Ravi Shastri was supporting him well with his left-arm slow orthodox spin. And complementing the spinners were debutant wicket-keeper S Vishwanath who was electrifying behind the stumps.

This tournament started on a winning note. Early victories against Pakistan and England seem to have turned the mood in the team. India’s victory margins in group matches demonstrate its dominance – they defeated Pakistan by 6 wickets, England by 86. The gut-wrenching feelings were gone. And in the final group match, India defeated Australia by 8 wickets.

The tournament did not have any hard-fought, close encounters in store for India. It was all too easy. But it was satisfying none the less. Many a time it is said that to win close ones is satisfying for a sportsperson. But when you are in a losing trot and your reputation is at stake, easy wins are something that one might cherish.

India played New Zealand on 5 March 1985 in the semi-final. It is remembered for fireworks by the great Kapil Dev. Chasing 206 of New Zealand, India had a steady but slow start. Ravi had scored a solid but slow half-century. Azhar also had used up many deliveries. The asking rate slowly shot past 6 per over. In that era, it was a daunting task. But at this point, Kapil Dev struck. He scored a half-century at a strike rate of 150. In the end, it seemed all too easy. But the journey had some other stories to tell. Maybe something in this difficult time we could learn from Kapil Paaji.

The vintage Audi that Ravi Shastri won at Benson & Hedges World Championship in 1985. Photo Source: Twitter

The ongoing lockdown is supposed to end on the 17th of May. Now I would be facing a dilemma if PM Modi decides to deliver a speech on 16th May. Because that is the day Sony is supposed to telecast the Final of 85′ between India and Pakistan. For political reasons, we do not have the privilege to watch the fury of India vs Pakistan anymore. And given the fact India had won the match, I think, I would consider Ravi over Modi on that particular evening.

I believe the foundation for India’s emergence as a reckoning power in the world of cricket was laid down by the century partnership of Ravi Shastri and Dilip Vengsarkar against Pakistan on that Final. After that India hosted the World Cup in the year 1987. Though India was defeated in the semis by Mike Gatting’s sweeping power, India never lost the heavyweight stature.

The class of ’85 was unbeaten through that tour despite losing three back to back tournaments before that. No matter what heights the team might have scaled in the years since then, the class of ’85 would always have a special place in India’s cricketing history. That tour taught Team India that, bouncing back was a matter of confidence.

I guess that was the confidence that took Ganguly‘s team in the 2003 WC Final after a dismal start. That was the confidence that helped Dhoni’s team to win it in 2011 chasing the highest ever total in a Final. And it was all imparted from the class of ’85. The photograph of Shastri driving his team around in the white Audi he won in Australia is an iconic one in Indian Cricket. That one photograph is a fuel to ignite the hunger for success to this nation. And I could skip PM Modi’s speech to watch that Audi being driven around in MCG all over again by Ravi Shastri. I would love to relive the class of ’85 while surviving the gloom and doom of coronavirus. ‘Mitroon’ can be put aside for the scream of ‘India India.’ Escaping the reality would not be that bad. And the class of ’85 could just be the vaccination against the loneliness I might need.

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