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World Cup 1983 manager PR Mansingh remembers how the no-hoper team even lost warm-up games

Friday, June 27, 2021

Getting ready to joust

PR Mansingh

We had two sessions of net practice, both in the indoor school of the MCC. I did not think that it served any purpose as such. It was more of limbering up than anything else. The TCCB had arranged tour practice matches for us, the first of which was against the New Zealand team, who were in the other group for the main competition.

The match was played at Watford on the outskirts of London about 40 minutes drive from our hotel. On arrival at the ground, we found it to be damp and soft. The captains of both the teams agreed for a delayed start. One other thing agreed by both the captains was that each team would consist of 13 players. This would mean that, all top batsmen could have a knock though only 11 would be on the field. But all the bowlers could have a bowl. I thought that was an excellent idea.

Not only all the players would be involved in the game, but also everyone would have the opportunity of playing the match and getting used to the English conditions. Kapil won the toss and put the Kiwis in first. We lost the match.

Brief Scores
New Zealand 216
(Glenn Turner 41, Bruce Edgar 43, Jeff Crowe 34; Madan Lal 3-54, Balwinder Sandhu 3-50) beat India 186 (Yashpal Sharma 52, Madan Lal 58; Lance Cairns 3-26) -by 30 runs

The following day we travelled a little further, about an hour's drive from our hotel, to play the Minor Counties. The conditions here were worse than what we had encountered while playing the Kiwis. The outfield was uneven, damp and wet and the pitch very soft. Once again both the captains agreed toa delayed start. The Minor Countiesbatted first and were shot out for a low score. To my utter disappointment we fared even worse than the home team and lost the match. The only silver lining was that Ravi Shastri bowled beautifully. Our fielding was good but less said the better about our batting. It was just too bad to be true.

Brief Scores
Minor Counties
154 (M Osmanx 34, D Smith 36 n.o.; Ravi Shastri 3-10) beat India 135 (K Srikkanth 28; D Plum 4-24) -by 21 runs

There was a day's gap before we were to play our next warm-up match. There was nothing we could do on this day as it rained and we were confined to our rooms. On the 6th of June we left London early morning, to travel to Leicester to play our friendly match against the Sri Lankas. Being a first class coyunty ground the conditions were excellent, so was the day. It was bright and dry, but cold by Indian standards, especially for players coming from the South who felt it a little more than those coming from the North. 

The dressing rooms of the two teams adjoined each other, didvided by a thin wall. Also, the dressing rooms had a common balcony, from where the players could witness the match free from public interference. To my pleasant surprise my good old friend (who is no more) Murugesar was the manager of the Sri Lankan team. I must say that, he was as glad to meet me as I was seeing him after so many years.

And, most importantly, Sir Garfield Sobers was the coach of the Sri Lankan team. I was sitting next to Murugesar and Sobers and my ears were tuned to all that was being said about the Indian players and their strong and weak points. I thought it would be very useful to know what a great cricketer like Sobers thought of the Indian players, especially their weaknesses so that I could convey the correction. 

Though Sri Lanka were in the other group for the main tournament, I felt that our opposition would also be studying our players as much as Sobers did. I caught up few of his comments and told the concerned players, for them to give a thought and do the needful. While tossing both the captains agreed to play a 50-over match, Sri Lanka, on winning the toss, scored 265 in their allotted 50 overs to which we replied with 266-5 in 46.5 overs. The victory gave a lot of satisfaction because the team was shaping well and working together.

Brief Scores
Sri Lanka 265-4
(Karupan 101, Roy Dias 80) lost to India 266-5 (Yashpal Sharma 90 n.o., Kapil Dev 64 n.o.) -by 5 wkts

Members of a larger Indian community, a who had come to the ground to witness the match, left large packets of Indian savories and cookies which the team members enjoyed to their heart's content, as we travelled in the coach back to London. The next day, we had to check out of the hotel on St John's Wood Road after settling our bills for extras, which were mostly telephone calls and laundry, and travelled to Slough to play Sri Lanka, yet again, in what would be our last warm-up match. After the match were to check-in at another hotel near Heathrow Airport. The Indian High Commissioner in England was hosting a dinner in hour of the Indian team that day. The incident that had occurred in 1974, when the Indian team had arrived late at a similar function, was very fresh in my mind. The then Indian High Commissioner was furious and with tempers falring on both sides, a lot of unpleasantness was created then. 

When the representative of the Indian High Commission came to me, I very politely told we were playing at Slough, which was well outside London and that, we were staying in a Hotel at Heathrow which was a fair distance away from the residence of the Indian High Commissioner. It would be my earnest endeavour to be there on time, but if we were held up in traffic and got delayed the High Commissioner should not mind. In fact, I told his representative of the incident of 1974. He was very understanding and said that, he would convey to the High Commissioner of our request and about the likely problem of a late arrival.

The ground at Slough was small and very open. There was just a small shack like pavilion with toilets. The day was nice, bright and dry but, being an open ground it was windy. This time also, the captains decided to play a 50-over match. And on winning the toss, the Sri Lanka were asked to bat. In a hard-fought match, good cricket was played. Though we lost the match narrowly, it was good to see Sunny getting runs this time.

Brief Scores
Sri Lanka 256-9
(Sunil Wettimuny 67, Roy Dias 70; Roger Binny 3-66) beat India 240 (Sunil Gavaskar 58, Mohinder Amarnath 45) -by 16 runs

We had played four warm-up games, had lost three of them and one of those to the Minor Counties. We rushed to our hotel for a quick wash and then dashed off to the Indian High Commissioner's house for the party. Luckily there was not much of traffic and we reached in time. As we approached the house, we realised the problem of getting into the area where the house was located. The luxury bus/coach that is invariably given to a touring team is a huge one. Though it is very large it has only 24 seats. There are a couple of dining tables too. The passengers can play cards or other games, use the tables to eat and drink. The bus had three televisions fitted in at angles which all the passengers seated could watch and there was a VCR attached to the TVs. There was a pantry with a refrigerator and a small cooker. Tea or coffee could be prepared, while the bus was on the move and there was a toilet, as well. Obviously, with all these facilities in the bus, it had to be pretty large.

Because of its size, the bus could not take sharp turns at one go. And the approach to the High Commissioner's house, had one such sharp turn from the main road. To negotiate such a turn the driver had to reverse several times thereby holding up the traffic. The whole process was pretty time consuming. This could be one of the reasons why the Indian team was late in 1974.

We had a good time at the party and the Indian High Commissioner was a great host. He made it a point to speak to each one of us and spend time with us. There were quote a few invitees and one among them was Asif Iqbal, the former Pakistani captain and my old friend from Hyderabad. He was busy talking with some of the Indian senior players who had been contracted to play in Sharjah. One may recall the Sharjah tournament had just started and was being organised and played on an unofficial basis. The players were free to have their own terms and fees for participation, before it became official and the respective Boards came into the picture.

(This an extract from Victory Insight, A Manager's Diary for the 1983 and 1987 World Cup written by the author)