Flashback: A Spirited World Cup Performance – A Decade To Celebrate (Part 2)




Sourav Ganguly

Sourav Ganguly

India were on a mission of building a team just out of coming out of match fixing allegations and other conspiracies that entangled them. It had shown glimpses of what it can do on a given day with a bunch of amateur young talented cricketer. Meanwhile team India had yet another challenge to survive. India, though managed to reach the final of almost every tournament, failed to deliver when it needed to – in the final. Criticisms arouse on its inability to raise its game when the moment comes.

The 2002 Natwest final victory, though the first tri-series win for India after 3 years, showcased two outrageously talented young kids to the world. The way it was chased down, thanks to start given by Ganguly and Sehwag followed by lovely batting display by Yuvraj and Kaif, helped India to get rid of the ‘Chokers’ tag that tended to follow them everywhere they go. The game is thought of more for the way Ganguly flipped out and celebrated rotating his shirts overcoming the ‘centrifugal force’. This was meant to be his reply to a similar kind of celebration that Flintoff carried out when the host toured India early in the season.

India toured New Zealand towards the end of the year to play its final series before the World Cup 2003. India was ground in the bouncy pitches by New Zealand as the team lost the test series 2-0 and the oneday series 5-2. The new ball pair in Darly Tuffey and Shane Bond sabotaged the Indian top order in conditions that hardly offered any assistance for batting. India literally had no clue and eventually sulked.

India vs Pakistan

India vs Pakistan

India was eyeing the next year’s world cup and after a humiliating defeat just before the World Cup, the Indians were no favorites to become the world champions. Their batting display against the Netherlands and Australia did not mitigate criticisms they were subjected to. India scored a mere 125 runs in their game against the Aussies, good enough only to trigger protests which included burning effigies of the players, in several parts of the country. India desperately in the search for motivation, managed to get some from the 83 run victory against Zimbabwe. The 181 run victory against Namibia, though looked like minnow-bashing, lifted up the spirits of the players, that they managed to win the remaining matches in the tournament against England, Pakistan, Kenya, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Kenya again, before reaching the final.

The final between India and Australia, was more a game between nervousness and calmness respectively. India seemed to have lost it even before they were completely into the game. The very first delivery was drifted onto the legside by a butter-handed Zaheer Khan. It was good enough for a fine leg to collect but not for a part time keeper. He went for 15 runs in his first over that was punctuated by no-balls and wides. Australia retained its World Champion tag with a whopping 125 run victory against a side that had demonstrated ‘what not to do in a final’!

Promoting Sachin to the opening slot couldn’t have timed better as the great man ended up being the top run-getter of the series surpassing his previous highest in the World Cup 1996. Some of the crucial innings he played were against Zimbabwe in Harare (we have a history of being troubled by them in the World Cup. Given the way we entered into the game after losing to the Aussies the game was very important indeed!), Pakistan (98), Sri Lanka (97) and Kenya (83) in the semifinals.

India wasn’t the World Champion then. Neither was it a consistently performing team, but the other teams had recognized Team India as a dangerous opponent, capable of beating any team on the given day.Perfect blend of seniors and modicum of talented youngsters in the team, a captain who can bring out the best from his team when it is required and a good coach-captain-vice captain relationship had probably got them there!

Now that India had emerged as an undesignated No. 2 in the world, it had to carry on this kind of form if it had to stay there. Tour Australia later in the calender year and Tour Pakistan in year 2004 would be a challenge posed against their unofficial No. 2 status.

(Contd. Next Friday…)

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Gautham S.

Author:

Hi Folks! This is Gautham from Madurai, Tamil Nadu. I'm 20 and doing my final year in Mechanical Engineering at Thiagarajar College of Engineering. I'm a self confessed Cricket lover and I have a great fervor towards writing about the game. In the generations I've come across, I've loved watching Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid bat. Besides writing, I have great interest in singing and I'm a great fan of Hariharan and A.R.Rahman sir. I would like to be remembered as one of the greatest sports journalists who changed the way their profession is perceived. I set myself performance goals and believe in giving a hundred percent in whatever I do. I thank God for giving me an opportunity to work with sports mirror so early in my career. I also thank my friends who made me believe in what I do and gave honest comments about my writing. God is great :)

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