Unheard Stories: Two Tickets that gave birth to a new Tournament
Kapil Dev with Indira Gandhi
The year is 1983, the third Cricket World Cup is taking place in England. There is no prize for guessing one of the finalists. A team that has dominated world cricket for the past decade, Clive Lloyd’s invincible West Indies.
But, who are they playing against? A team that was written off even before they landed to play the tournament, a team that no one expected would get past the group stage, Kapil Dev’s India. Against all odds India made it to the finals of the tournament winning 4 of their 6 matches.
How India made it to the finals, that is a completely different story. Here we will talk about how the seeds of a completely new tournament were sowed during the finals of 1983.
A historic phone call..
The then president of the BCCI, NKP Salve received a phone call just after India defeated England in the semifinals. The call was from Siddharth Shankar Ray, the Indian High Commissioner to the USA. He requested two tickets to the finals, for himself and his wife. Salve wasted no time and reached out to the authorities for the tickets.
Siddharth Shankar Ray with Indira Gandhi
But much to his surprise the authorities of Lord’s turned down the request. They said that two tickets have already been given to him, and no more can be arranged. A whole section of the stadium was empty on the day of the finals, where the invited members were to sit. But they did not turn up as England was not in the finals. Yet, the president of the cricket board of one of the finalists was not allowed two extra tickets.
Salve’s determination to change the epicentre of cricket
Now, to understand the significance of what followed one needs to know the then cricket demographics. BCCI was not a superpower then, the centre of power at that time was with England and Australia. Even they had veto power, which they could use to annul any proposal they did not like from the other members.
Coming back to our story, surprising everybody, India defeated the West Indies and won the 1983 World Cup. While the whole nation was celebrating the success, one man was not content. A man of integrity, NKP Salve could not digest the embarrassment and humiliation of his country. The denial of the two tickets gave birth to a determination within the man, he set out on an impossible journey to bring the World Cup out of England.
A lot occurred in the times that followed, but ultimately India were able to get the rights of hosting the World Cup in 1987 along with Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The English pride was hurt and they were not going to make it easy for India, a third world country to host the next world cup.
What did they do? They started raising objections citing various problems about the mega event going to India.
The prime and the foremost objection from the English board was that the infrastructure in the Asian Subcontinent was not enough to organize a world event.
Birth of ACC
Well, India was prepared. Salve got to work, and a meeting was organised at Lahore in the later half of 1983. India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka shook hands and this marked the birth of the Asian Cricket Council or the ACC. NKP Salve became the first president of the ACC.
As an answer to England’s objection that 60 over matches could not be organised in Asia, the ACC decided to organize a 50 overs tournament and show them that it can be done.
Asian Cricket Council
Now the question was funding for such a large scale tournament. Soon, the ACC got together for a meeting in Delhi. It was not an ordinary working committee meeting, there was a special guest present there, Sheik Bukhatir of Sarjah.
Sheik Bukhatir was a passionate follower of cricket. He used to organise unofficial matches at the Sharjah stadium, now he was given the opportunity to do the same with official international matches. He grabbed the chance with both hands.
Thus the first ever Asia Cup was organised at Sharjah cricket stadium in 1984. It was a tri-nation tournament between India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. India emerged as the champions in a round robin system tournament, with Sri Lanka the runners up.
India lifting the first ever Asia Cup trophy
The Asia Cup showed the world that the Asian countries were capable enough of organising a world class tournament. But still the journey from here to hosting the 1987 World Cup was not easy. But that remains a story for another time……