My earliest memories of a cricket World Cup are from the 1987 edition, albeit vague. I only remember that India had reached the semi-finals of the World Cup and lost to England. And that Gooch made all his runs sweeping! Can’t remember the innings or the sweep shot he played, but remember my dad commenting about it. It is only now, on reading old reports, that I realise India had clashed against England in the semi-finals even in the 1983 World Cup and had beaten them too. India winning the World Cup in 1983 is by now stuff of cricket lore. In 1987, England was looking at ways to counter India’s spin attack. And the answer came in the form of Graham Gooch who made 115 to take England to the finals. England went on to lose the finals to Australia in a thrilling match. In 1975, Australia had lost to the West Indies, and in 1979, England had lost to the Windies. England is yet to win a World Cup, though it has made it to the finals thrice, the last time in 1992.
It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane...
Come 1992, and the narrative of World Cup cricket began to change. For the first time, coloured clothing came into play. The Indians in dark blue and the Pakistanis in green – how can any cricket lover forget the sight of Imran Khan holding aloft that crystal trophy? The 1992 series also saw white cricket balls and black sight screens. The series was special in one more important way. It was for the first time that South Africa was playing in a World Cup – we had just been introduced to the team in 1991, when the Proteas played India to mark their return. In 1991, when the South Africans made their re-entry, I remember a cousin saying that the team was so strong that they would make a 1,000 runs! But it was one man from South Africa, Jonty Rhodes, who would be remembered as one of the world’s greatest fielders. His run out of Inzamam-ul-Huq became a famous photograph. “It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, it’s Jonty Rhodes!” became a common refrain.
A favourite memory of this time was how Dipak Patel was made to open the bowling in an offbeat move. He was an off-spinner and was used a lot in the 1992 World Cup to stem the flow of runs in the first 15 overs.
When all roads led to the Chinnaswamy...
Moving on to 1996, the World Cup juggernaut reached the Sub-continent. No Indian or Pakistani can forget that scintillating quarter-finals between the two teams at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore. The Aamir Sohail-Venkatesh Prasad encounter that every one of us remembers! I have fond memories of this match – having a ticket to watch it, and not being able to make it into the stadium because of the huge crowd. And almost getting a policeman’s lathi, and losing my footwear in the bargain. We returned home and watched the match on television!
Neither India nor Pakistan won that World Cup, though. It went into the hands of Sri Lanka, one of the hosts of the series, although the most runs scored by any player in the series was 523 by Sachin Tendulkar. One poignant image that will stay in my mind for ever is that of a weeping Vinod Kambli (with his trademark bandana) pleading with Clive Llyod, the match referee, to get the match going. The match was called off when some members of the Eden Gardens crowd vandalised seats and threw stuff on the ground. India had lost seven wickets in a matter of 22 runs as they chased a Sri Lankan target of 252.
Early exit for India
The 1999 World Cup wasn’t a great one for India as they were eliminated before the semi-finals. But many Indians took heart that at least they had maintained their record of never losing to Pakistan in a World Cup match. It was the last time Azharuddin would captain India. He was also dropped from the one-day team soon after. Australia went on to win the Cup beating Pakistan. The positive for India was that Rahul Dravid emerged as the top-scorer of the series with 461 runs.
Runners-up in a controversial World Cup
If one were to recount the highlights of the 2003 World Cup, the exit of Shane Warne, the legendary spinner who tested positive for a banned substance, comes to mind first. Indians will also remember that match against Pakistan – India registered their fourth win against their arch rivals and Sachin made 98. Sachin would go on to become the top run-getter with 673 runs for the series. India went on to the finals only to lose to Australia in a series that was hosted in the Africa for the first time.
The 2007 series will be remembered for the death of Pakistani coach, Bob Woolmer. He was found dead in his hotel room, a day after Pakistan lost to Ireland. For Rahul Dravid-led India, the 2007 series in the Caribbean was nothing to write home about – they crashed out of the series in the first round. Following the series, there was the resignation of the controversial coach Greg Chappell and Anil Kumble retired from ODIs. Australia went on to win the World Cup for the third time in a row, defeating Sri Lanka.
In 2011, came India’s moment of glory as they defeated Sri Lanka at the Wankhede, Mumbai. Dhoni’s men had ensured this was India’s second World Cup victory. That night, people streamed out into the streets carrying huge India flags. This was the last time that Sachin Tendulkar would feature in a World Cup.
India goes into the 2015 World Cup with their winning run against Pakistan intact, and fittingly so. One only hopes the first match against Pakistan tomorrow will continue India’s winning streak.
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- Sachin Tendulkar
- Rahul Dravid
- Imran Khan
- Cricket World Cup
- Anil Kumble
- The World Cup
- M. Chinnaswamy Stadium
- Jonty Rhodes
- Graham Gooch
- Bob Woolmer
- Clive Llyod
- Greg Chappell
- Chinnaswamy Stadium
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