To understand the significance of April 2, 2011, I have to go back 28 years, back to the summer of 1983.
I had just finished 10th grade, and that summer I took a trip to the hills of North India, as a part of a social work volunteer effort. I remember sleeping on the floor in this little unfurnished hut up in the hills, spending the days digging what would be the foundation of a village school. We had no electricity, no TV, the our toilet was to go out in the woods.
We did have a tiny transistor radio and we used that to listen to the Prudential Cricket World Cup, taking place in far away England. The West Indies were favored to win, the English were pretty good, and Australia and New Zeland weren’t too bad either. But India was no where in the picture, and no one really expected anything from our team. Our record, before this date had been dismal at best. But amazingly enough, India, led by Kapil Dev, this young Jat from Harayana, somehow made it to the semi-finals where we were facing England. There was little hope that we would go any further. The fact that we had made it that far was victory enough!
I remember, one late night, in this little room, with a bunch of kids my age, from different schools from around North India, crowded around the little radio, listening to the commentary of this semi-final game being played half-way across the globe. I don’t remember many of the details but two things do stand out. I remember hearing the commentator describing this young Indian batsman, Sandeep Patil, destroying the English bowling. And I remember, after the game was over, and India had won and made it to the finals, all of us, 16-17 year olds, standing up, in our pajamas, in this candle-lit room, spontaneously, beginning to sing the Indian National Anthem. Loudly, surely off key, but with gusto and pride.
A few days later I was back home in Delhi, watching the finals on our black-and-white TV. I remember West Indies destroying the Indian batting and then just as they started batting, the TV transmission died. (This was actually quite common back then.) I ran back to my radio, to keep up with the game, while keeping an eye on the TV, just in case the game came back on. I missed seeing the great catch by Kapil Dev that got rid of Viv Richards (who single handedly could decimate any opposing team). And then the West Indies wickets started to fall, and the TV came back, and I watched, what was the most amazing sight, the mighty West Indies collapse, and, wonder of wonders, India winning the world cup!
That was a defining moment for my generation and I remember it as clearly as it was yesterday. I doubt you can meet any Indian of around my age for whom this is not an unforgettable memory!
India, as a nation, had been going through a tough time. The Indira Gandhi government’s usurpation of power in 1975 (with the declaration of Emergency) was not too far from our memories. The government that had come after that had been woefully underwhelming, not even lasting a full term. Punjab was in flames, due to an insurgency that would (a few years later) consume Indira Gandhi herself. In the middle of all this was the world cup! It pulled us all, across India, together in ways that cannot be described. This victory was a turning point for all of us, a way of saying that our time had come. After this, there was little that we could no do!
Well a lot has changed in India since then. But India has never repeated that feat. India had never won another world cup.
It took 28 years, but after a great game against Sri Lanka, in the 2011 world cup finals, India has done it again. Emphatically, and with grace India has won the world cup. Along the way India knocked out Australia (the winner of the past three competitions) and Pakistan (arguably as big a game as the final). As Joe Biden said, in a slightly different context, this is ****ing huge!
A new defining moment for a new generation.