Surinder Khanna, one of the chief architects of India’s Asia Cup win in 1984, walks down memory lane with Suhrid Barua.
The Sunil-Gavaskar-led Indian team made mincemeat of Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the round-robin format to come up trumps in the 1984 Rothmans Asia Cup at Sharjah.
One of the chief architects of that victory was wicketkeeper-opening batsman Surinder Khanna, who slammed back-to-back half-centuries to emerge as the Man of the Series.
“It all clicked at the right time for me. I was picked in the starting eleven despite having a stalwart like Syed Kirmani in our squad. There is a lot of pride in playing for the country and when I realised on the day of our first game against Sri Lanka that I would be opening the innings and also keeping wickets, I was really happy,” recalls Khanna. “
So, was all at ease between him and Kirmani given the fact that he was preferred over the experienced pro?
“Absolutely!” says Khanna. “Kiri is a thorough gentleman. In both the games where I got fifties, Kirmani and Sunny bhai (Sunil Gavaskar) patted me for my efforts after the game. We had wonderful team spirit, every player was happy about each other’s success.”
The tournament was robbed of some sheen with a couple of big names missing. “Kapil Dev missed the tournament and went to London to undergo a knee surgery. In fact, Kapil came to Sharjah to watch our first game and then went to England while Imran Khan gave the tourney a miss because of an injury.”
The Sharjah wicket has a reputation for being a nightmare for bowlers. But the Asia Cup was an exception. “It was a green top - something you hardly hope to find in Sharjah. Our seamers Chetan Sharma, Madan Lal, Manoj Prabhakar and Roger Binny relished the conditions and shot out Sri Lanka for just 96.”
It was a game in which Khanna smacked an unbeaten 69-ball 51 and together with Ghulam Parker facilitated a ten-wicket win in just 21.4 overs.
Khanna was again on song when India batted first after winning the toss against Pakistan. He made a 72-ball 56 as India finished at 188 for four in 46 overs. “Pakistan had had four seamers in Sarfraz Nawaz, Azeem Hafeez, Shahid Mahboob and Mudassar Nazar and just one spinner in Abdul Qadir. The seamers take more time to bowl their overs and it affected their over rate.”
How about India-Pakistan rivalry in those days?
“Both teams played hard on the field, but off the field we were all friends. Since most of the players in both teams were playing in England, the bonhomie was very much there. Of course, things were said in the heat of the moment, but then they are part and parcel of the game.”
Winning in Sharjah is something big for the Indian team and it showed when the team went on a shopping spree. “Dubai is a great place for shopping. Thanks to our victory, we got heavy discounts. The generosity extended to even free gifts!”