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Everyone in the film, 83 has his moments. Even Kirti Azad and Ravi Shastri have their small share of glory.

Sunil Gavaskar, who had a terrible time, was apparently the man behind the most famous ball bowled by an Indian. India’s equivalent of Shane Warne’s ball of the century was bowled by Balwinder Singh Sandhu to Gordon Greenidge. Gavaskar, the movie says, had taught Sandhu to hide his grip so the batsman had little warning that an inswinger was coming. And that most famous well left happened because of that.

Unlike others, Srikkanth doesn’t quite play to the script of Kapil Dev, or for that matter anyone. He is awkward, goofy, prone to mishaps, and unaware. He doesn’t fit in but doesn’t care to fit in. When Kapil Dev is banging those sixers vs Zimbabwe, he wants to take a leak. He gives an inopportune speech at a party although he manages to convey Kapil’s inspirational leadership in it towards the end. He is the pagal (mad man), not Kapil Dev.

Even as Kapil Dev, and probably others, admonish him for throwing his wicket away and Srikkanth is feeling subdued as a result, he tells Mohinder Amarnath he cannot play the tuk-tuk, prodding game of Gavaskar. And he goes after the West Indies bowlers in the finals. He says, “Patta Bhagyam Padatti Lehiyam (If I connect with the ball, it’s my luck. If I don’t, I am in a jam) – the war cry of every gully cricket batsman in Chennai who, in a moment of exasperation, decides to swing his bat at whatever is coming.

Srikkanth’s moment in 83 is the most fantastic. The 175 and the Richards catch were marks of greatness of Kapil Dev, for sure. But Srikkanth was way out of the Indian cricket team and way ahead of them. Indian players got on to the lofted shots much later.

Srikkanth was probably the most innovative batsman of the Indian team but he had no gravitas to carry it. Nobody cared to admit there was a method in his madness. He was from far away Chennai when the Indian team typically had five from Mumbai and six from Delhi or the other way around.

Srikkanth attacked the famous four and almost got away with it – something no Indian batsman did or even thought of doing until then. When the West Indies came for a revenge tour of India, Sunil Gavaskar, the role model and the copybook, chose to ape Srikkanth and attacked the foursome.

Srikkanth’s moment in 83 is the most fantastic. The 175 and the Richards catch were marks of greatness of Kapil Dev, for sure. But Srikkanth was way out of the Indian cricket team and way ahead of them.

Srikkanth could set the trend, become the trend and yet be unaware of it. He had no idea of the impact he was having but blithely mumbled his prayers and looked at the sun god to help him. The next ball could go either way – for a sublime six or a ridiculous clean bowled. It all depended on the gods and Srikkanth, not the bowlers.

Srikkanth opened with Gavaskar most of his life, yet it never ever seemed Sunil Gavaskar had any impact on him. Not an ounce of that correct stance, backlift, eye, initial defensive movement and last minute strokeplay rubbed off on Srikkanth.

The makers of 83 couldn’t resist making the jibes. When a family comes to court him, the girl has to be the Tamil stereotype – dark skinned.

Yes, we Tamils are blacks (kalus). You call us coffee. You believe we are less Indian because we don’t speak Hindi. You may think we are on the verge of treason because of that. But we are not. We think you should learn our language, not we, yours. We are as Indian as you are or probably more so. But you are not the one to give us certificates. We didn’t give that power to you.

Our movies are different. The script of our language reminds you of jalebi. Our politics is different.

When you booted out Indira Gandhi we voted for her. When all of you got caught in the Modi wave, we poured scorn on him. Just watch Modi’s public meetings in Tamil Nadu. Even the rent-a-crowd gets up and leaves once he starts speaking. Why? Yes, because he speaks in Hindi.

The makers of 83 couldn’t resist making the jibes. When a family comes to court him, the girl has to be the Tamil stereotype – dark skinned.

We look different. We think different. Our development trajectory is different and more advanced. When you were depending on central government support, we marched ahead on our own steam.

Over time, Srikkanth became a key part of the team and later of the Indian cricket establishment. You had to accept Srikkanth and let him grow. You had to make him captain and likely had to change the lingua franca of the Indian dressing room – from Hindi to English. But true to character, he fought with the board after a successful tour of Pakistan and was dropped. He came back to be selector.

Just as Srikkanth had something to teach Mr Perfect, aka Sunil Gavaskar, we can show you the way. We can take you higher. But we will not play your game. Srikkanth did not play your game. He played his own game and made you accept him.

You may drown in hyper nationalism and make movies like 83. But we are not going there. We will not play your nationalism game. Just as you had no choice but to include Srikkanth in 83, you have to sail with us. But if you take us in, we will teach you a few things, show you the way.


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