Brands rule Lord's '83 celebration, Tricolour missing

IANS
Jun 26, 2008 at 12:33pm IST

London: One of the enduring images from India's landmark cricket World Cup win of 1983 is a sea of Tricolour swirling in the English summer breeze at the Lord's.

They were carried by droves of ordinary Indian immigrants - many from the working class suburb of Southall - who had poured on to the grounds in a spontaneous and dizzying celebration of India's unexpected win over the West Indies.

At a time when racism was still rampant in parts of London, when India wasn't the exciting news it is today, the World Cup win meant much more than a mere sporting victory to working class Indian immigrants in Britain.

MISSING FROM THE PICTURE: Members of the Indian team lift the 1983 World Cup at Lord's.

Twentyfive years on a lot is still in place: Lord's looks just as magical, if not more with a futuristic press box that resembles a spaceship; the pitch is as sporting as ever; history-steeped Long Room looks as impressive and stuffy as ever; and the grin on skipper Kapil Dev's face just keeps growing bigger.

But as the ageing 1983 squad gathered at Lord's Wednesday on a cool summer evening for a climax to silver jubilee celebrations that had begun in New Delhi, there was not one tricolour Indian flag to be sighted. Instead, all that was on display at the Mecca of cricket were the labels and signs of sponsors.

Rather than the tricolour, each former player wore a golden badge reading 'UB' (for United Breweries) on the lapel of their specially-designed Indian-style suits. And when they lined up on the pavillion balcony for a re-enactment of the 1983 victory celebrations, the backdrop was a large billboard advertising UB and Gitanjali, a jewellery group.

Joining the team for the rare photo-op were two politicians from rival parties: Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitley, who is president of the Delhi and District Cricket Association, and UB chairman Vijay Mallya.

Together, UB and Gitanjali unveiled a diamond-studded cricket bat, signed by the cricket icons of '83, along with a specially-designed ball, also embellished with diamonds. The two items were to be auctioned and the money raised was to be equally divided among the team's 15 members.

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As one Indian bystander commented, "We seem to have privatised our World Cup."

Although Lord's bans spectators from carrying in their national flags during matches, there is nothing in its rulebook prohibiting anyone from wearing flags on their lapels - or on their caps, as Sachin Tendulkar does in spite of all his sponsorships.

"It's the way today's India is - this event just reflected that," said Ashis Ray, the only Asian BBC radio commentator at the 1983 World Cup and a special invitee at the celebration.

"After all, the Indian cricket board has declared in the Supreme Court that Team India does not play for India, but for the BCCI. There is people's patriotism and that of the players but Indian institutions do not recognise that.

"It disappoints me," added Ray.

During the course of the event Wednesday a reporter asked Kapil Dev what the 1983 win really meant for him.

"It changed my life," replied Dev, who was only 24 when he captained the winning side.

"A lot of money came in. Everyone loves money. But the love and affection that I got from my country, no money can compare with that."

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