After Azharuddin was left out because of match fixing charges and Sachin Tendulkar resigned from captaincy, Sourav Ganguly was made the captain of the Indian team in 2001. He took a lot of young players under his wing, backed them to the hilt and instilled confidence in them. He returned the “mental disintegration” tactics of the Aussies in the same coin, and India won a historical test series in 2001 over the world-conquering Australians. Steve Waugh could not conquer the “Last Frontier” and Ian Chappel coined two phrases that have since become very famous: VVS Laxman was “Very Very Special” Laxman, and Harbhajan was “The Turbanator”. The 21st century was treating Indian cricket very well!
2003: Hello Africa
For the first time ever, the world cup was held in Africa. And by this time, I had moved to United States and finding a way to watch the cricket matches wasn’t easy but I still managed somehow! I don’t remember a great lot of details here except for few things. India did very well during the league stage. They lost only match – did so very badly – to Australia. I think India were bowled out for less than 150. Their match against Pakistan was awesome! I remember watching it at a friend’s place. Pakistan batted first and made around 270-280. Saeed Anwar played very well, as he usually does against India, and scored a century. Pre-match predictions pitted Sachin Tendulkar against the Shoiab Akhtar who was at his peak at that time. This time Tendulkar didn’t disappoint. He attacked Akhtar so well that the world fastest bowler appeared dejected and clueless. When the captain Waqar took him out of the attack, the match was won mentally. I remember there were some hiccups along the way when Tendulkar was dismissed for 98 but Yuvraj Singh and Rahul Dravid took India to safety. When Tendulkar is on song, it is a treat to watch him!
I remember something about weird mathematical calculations and South Africa’s really defensive approach keeping them out of knockout stage. Disappointment continued for very-strong-on-paper South Africa. In the semi-finals it was India playing Kenya, a surprise semifinalist, and Australia against SL. India won easily but I believe Australia had a tough time against SL before winning it on D/L method. Everything was set for India vs Australia final.
We met up at a friend’s place to watch the final together. Ganguly won the toss and decided to field to take care of seamer-friendly pitch. I didn’t know what was going on as the match started, and before I realized, Australia had scored 359 – in the final! If you want to show someone what “breaking the opposition’s back” or “annihilation of the opposition” means, please show them Ricky Ponting’s innings! To me, the match was already lost and indeed it was. There was nothing significant in India’s chase. Tendulkar fell cheaply to McGrath with the exception of Sehwag and Dravid no one really played well. Very forgettable final!
2007: The Humiliation
This world cup was held in West Indies for the first time and the captain of India was Rahul Dravid. There were many rumors that there was no unity in the cricket team and the senior players were revolting against the coach, Greg Chappell of Australia. I don’t know how much of it is the real truth but India’s campaign resulted in them getting completely humiliated. In the 3 matches they played, they only won ONE match and that was against Bermuda! They lost to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and crashed out of World Cup! Imagine this – a team consisting of Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Dhoni, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Harbhajan unable to win against the minnows of cricket. What a shame! Anyway, Australia beat Sri Lanka in the final for the their 3rd successive world cup! What a dynasty!
New captain, new coach, new beginnings, new style
Shortly after the disastrous world cup campaign, Dhoni was appointed India’s T20 captain for the T20 world cup which India won. Gary Kirsten took over as the coach replacing Greg Chappell. One thing Gary brought to the team was calmness. It wasn’t easy for India but there were many positives. India toured Australia under Anil Kumble, the new test captain and beat them and in the process ended their 16 consecutive test winning streak — they also kicked up few controversies along the way but ended up showing few Australians their place by beating them in their stronghold, Perth. When the achieved the No. 1 status in tests, people started really believing that India might have a chance this world cup. Given this world cup will most likely be Tendulkar’s last, people also started writing that the team might play with a strong motive this time around – to rally around Tendulkar to give him the cup!
Team India received a setback early on. Praveen Kumar got injured and Sreesanth came in for him. Anyway, the world cup campaign started.
2011: Mission Accomplished
I think you this best given the amount of media coverage. So, I won’t write much except saying that India played fairly well all-round even though their bowling was considered weak. I also think they had the toughest path to the final. Australia in quarters, Pakistan in semis, and Sri Lanka in the final! Dhoni and Kirsten managed the players effectively. Irrespective of the pressure, Dhoni also looked calm!
Give a thought to Tendulkar guys! In his 22-year career, he went thru everything and got everything. Back problems, toe issues, pulled hamstrings… The guy had everything in batting records: highest number of runs in both tests and one dayers, highest no of centuries in both tests and one days, 6 world cup appearances, quite a few wickets thrown in to the mix, IPL championship in the T20 format!
People always compare Tendulkar to Bradman and wonder who is better. Tendulkar himself reveres Bradman! Agreed Bradman’s average is untouchable 99.96 but let’s look at it from a different point of view. Tendulkar played and scored tons of runs in every major ground: fast, flat, bouncy, landmine pitches all over the world. He toured Pakistan, SL, Bangladesh, Kenya, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, West Indies, England, Dubai, Sharjah, Singapore, Toronto, the list goes on. He has played tests, one days, T20s. He played 22 years under constant media scrutiny and has never had a finger raised against him. Bradman on the other hand, played in two countries: England and Australia. Apparently, he refused to get off the ship in Bombay, enroute to England, to meet the people waiting for him — I am sure he had his reasons! I’ll let you pick your choice!
I want to end on a note that the 28 years of watching and following cricket became worth the wait last Saturday, 2-April-2011. Thank you, Team India! Congratulations on the win, and you richly deserve it!