Madan Lal Udhouram Sharma bowled the first ball of the 1975 World Cup to Dennis Amiss of England. It was India's unique contribution to the inaugural edition of the shorter version of the game. But it was eight years later that he etched a name for himself in Indian cricketing folklore.
In the 1983 Prudential Cup, he snared 17 wickets @ 16.76. More importantly, his performances were ones that won matches for India -- be it his 3/27 against Zimbabwe at Leicester, his 3/42 vs Zimbabwe again at Tunbridge Wells, his 4/20 against Australia at Chelmsford or his 3/31 in the final.
The 57-year-old has since retired, and had coaching stints with UAE, India, besides being a member of the selection committee.
On the 25th anniversary of India's World Cup triumph, Madal Lal talks to Special Correspondent Bikash Mohapatra about that triumph, the inability of the Indian team to repeat the feat and other issues. Excerpts
Your initial memories of that 1983 triumph
1983 was simply fantastic. You can't compare it to anything else. This moment doesn't come often in life.
What do you think worked for that Indian team?
We didn't have any pressure. We were, in any case, not given a chance before the event. So we went in with a free mind.
Each and every game was equally important for us. It was not as if we were looking to win the tournament.
Only when we reached the semi-finals that people started thinking about the possibility of winning.
But there must have been some pressure before the final?
There was definitely a lot of pressure before the semi-finals, but in the final we just played our game.
We had beaten West Indies in West Indies and at Old Trafford later, and that gave us confidence.
Maybe, this was also because the final was just the last game in any case; but we would have definitely felt bad had we lost in the semis (especially after working so hard to get to that stage).
What, according to you, was the turning point of the final?
The fact that we scored only 183 when we batted. Maybe, if we had got 280-300 runs on board, we would have relaxed. But being under pressure after getting just 183 probably worked for us.
We got three-to-four wickets early on in their innings.
Many former cricketers believe India just got lucky on that day (June 25). Do you endorse that view?
You definitely need luck, but you still have to go there to the field and do the job.
No team will ever be able to match that West Indies side of 1983. But on that particular day (June25), we played better than them.
The best thing about us was we played as a team. You can't win a big tournament only if a couple of players are performing. You have to perform as a cohesive unit on that particular day.
Personally, what was your most satisfying moment?
I bowled well in the whole tournament. But in the final I got three wickets (Desmond Haynes, Viv Richards and Larry Gomes), and that was very special.
Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Roger Binny, B S Sandhu and yourself. Do you think it's the best ever bowling attack India has ever had?
No, I can't say that. However, in that particular tournament that attacked worked.
The conditions suited us and the ball was moving all the time. All our bowlers had a good line and length and also had the ability to bring the ball in.
May be the bowlers these days are better.
How do you rate Kapil Dev as a captain?
He did the job. That's it.
He had the self-belief. I mean, a person like him always thinks he can win. He was always positive and lifted every player's spirit before each match. Perhaps that is the way a team can win.
Your thoughts on his 175 not out
That was another turnaround for India. Kapil played a fantastic innings and, thereafter, we pitched in with our contribution. (Madan Lal scored 17 and took three wickets in that match).
The Indian team has failed to repeat the feat in these 25 years. What do you think is the reason?
These days the players carry a lot of pressure; the pressure of expectation. Their bags are very heavy when they leave Indian shores.
In those days the pressure was hardly there. We got a good reception. But that was just about it.
Did you feel any subsequent side was capable of winning the Cup?
In the last World Cup we had a good side. I thought they might win it. But we lost in the first round. There was too much going into the event. All the celebrations could have happened later.
The fear of failure is also a big burden these days. The game is meant to be enjoyed.
But the stakes have also become too high
These days' people talk more about money than about playing for the country. Money is the motivating factor and the game is never talked about. If a player can earn crores by playing for just two years, why should he play for 10 years?
And, definitely, they play too much of cricket these days.
You are talking about Tweny20, I think. What do you feel about the shortest version of the game?
Just imagine, had we not won the Twenty20 World Cup, there would have been no Indian Premier League.
Look at where T20 is now. IPL is a hit. That's perhaps the only way cricket can grow. But now it looks like it will affect the 50-over game.
You retired before the 1987 World Cup. Any regrets about not being part of that squad?
No, I have no regrets whatsoever.