As attention will be focused on the tantalising India-Australia semi-final clash at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday, memories of the 1983 World Cup come flooding to cricket connoisseurs. Then India had to beard the English lion in its own den. The question uppermost in fan’s mind is whether MS Dhoni’s brigade will steal the thunder Down Under against the Aussies this time?
There is also a Hyderabad connection in these two World Cups. While 75-year-old PR Man Singh was the manager of a small 15-member contingent in 1983, but this time around there is a stronger Hyderabadi presence in the squad. Former Test off-spinner Arshad Ayub is the manager while R Sridhar, the fielding coach and city boy Ambati Rayudu is in the playing squad.
Man Singh, an encyclopedia of Hyderabad cricket, goes nostalgic on the eve of this Thursday’s semi-final. ``It was a fairy-tale run in 1983. ‘Kapil’s Devils’ were rank outsiders but ended on the podium. We were fortunate to have bonded as a winning unit at the right time to beat the best of the teams,’’ recalls Man Singh, who was the binding force of the team.
Semi-finals of any event is always tense. Even as teams in international event go for deep analysis before any match and it will be so for the two semi-finals, Man Singh went down the memory lane. ``There was no such video expert, masseur, physio, trainer. Nor was there any coach. The captain and senior members acted as coaches and I as a manager gave my opinion whenever asked for. A simple message was given, give your 150 per cent. One-day cricket was new to India then,’’ he says.
Man Singh went on to explain that it was all about man management. ``There was perfect bonhomie though there were a few differences among the few team members. But I always made it a point to keep everyone in a good frame of mind. My policy was simple. I took each individual into confidence. I knew their likes and dislikes. There was no disparity among the senior or junior members. I think I learnt from late Ghulam Ahmed (former secretary of BCCI and Hyderabad Cricket Association), who told me to be friendly with every member.’’
Though there was big stars like Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar. But Man Singh cooly handled these big players and situation tactfully. ``I knew them from a young age and I made them comfortable in my own way,’’ he says.
Man Singh pointed out that he was lucky that knew he every member of the team individually as they came for the famous Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup or were part of the Hyderabad Blues team. ``I had the personal rapport. In fact, I remember when I suggested that we have a get-together before the final against West Indies, it was a big success. It was a more of giving the players a break from the game. We invited Indian cricketers like Abid Ali and GR Viswanath as well as English cricketer Tony Lewis.’’
India had reached the last four stage against the run of play. The semi-finals was at Manchester. ``It is a place where there are good number of Indians and Pakistanis. Although England was the host, we had a good number of Indian and Pakistani crowd in the stadium.’’
The SCG on Thursday will burst to the seams with a good number of Indian fans to be present at the semi-finals. Will Hyderabad connection bring back that X-factor to retain the Cup? Only time will tell.