World cup 2007 starts off today and its hard to miss with every instrument of the media targetting the event in its spotlight. Got me thinking of the world cups that I’ve experienced.
1992 – Australia/New Zealand
My first world cup and what a start! The bold coloured clothing, the catchy theme song that played before every game that ended with “…who’ll rule the world…just see…who’ll rule the world” followed by a graphic of a ball smashing into a set of stumps followed by the match of the day. The round-robin format meant each team every other team and I thought India was the unluckiest team of the tournament. We lost to Australia by 1 run (after the rain rule had deducted 3 overs and 1 run from our run-chase), to England by a slim margin, our game against Sri Lanka (minnows then) was washed out. Couldn’t have been worse than what South Africa faced though, needing 21 from 13 balls in their semi-final against England, the rain intervened, the equation was revised to 21 off 1 ball…just like that! I remember thinking only cricket, working out result combinations on the back of my notebooks in school while the teacher droned on. My booster dose of cricket.
Unforgettable moment : Jadeja’s diving one-handed catch in the outfield to dismiss Allan Border. Was later judged as the catch of the tournament.
1996 – India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka
The lamest world-cup of the lot that was timed just right so that it was at the same time as my ‘career-determining exams’, the HSC (the ones that determine whether you go become a doctor, an engineer or a nothing)…don’t look so surprised, thats how ‘conventional wisdom’ worked in those days. I do know I would have spent a lot more time studying had it not been for the cricket circus. Missed a few of the other games for obvious reasons, but saw all of India’s games. It all ended with the farce at Eden Gardens against Sri Lanka. The disappointment wasn’t helped by my results a couple of months later and the dismay of not getting into the city’s best engineering college. Forgettable times indeed.
Unforgettable moment : Aamir Sohail spanks two consecutive fours off Venkatesh Prasad and for good measure gestures to the bowler where he’ll hit the next one through. Next ball, Prasad knocks back Sohail’s off-stump. Crowd goes mad…literally. First (and only) time I used the f-word in the presence of my parents. India wins!
1999 – England/Ireland/Holland
They preponed the world cup so it wouldn’t clash with the Olympics! Somehow cricket in the land of its origin has always been a mouth-watering prospect for me, but the event was a bit of a let down in the quality of games. Mostly ordinary performances by India, an exception being the assault on Sri Lanka at Taunton. Felt like sweet ol’ revenge for having knocked us out of the previous edition. There were 2 games that stay in memory. The 2 Australia-South Africa clashes with the famed drop by Herschelle gibbs resulting in Australia qualifying for the semi-final. There they played the best game ever in a world cup.. The final was academic with the champions steamrolling Pakistan
Unforgettable moment : Defending a huge total, Australia seemed home and dry when they had taken key South African tickets when ‘the’ Lance Klusener launched one of the most savage counter-attacks in world-cup history. With 9 needed off the last over (a tie would see Austalia through), it was still in Australia’s favour. But Damien Fleming had his first 2 deliveries smashed to the cover fence. With 1 needed off 4 balls, Klusener played out 2 dots followed by the worst communication mishap on a cricket field resulting in Donald getting runout with no bat in hand. Match tied. Austalia qualify for the final.
2003 – South Africa/Zimbabwe/Kenya
India’s best world cup with near perfect performances against the likes of New Zealand and England. Its not often mentioned that this was thanks in part to Dr Ali Bacher for preparing flat concrete tracks for our batsmen to flourish. A Tendulkar master-class against Pakistan set up the perfect final. But then they ran into that automaton of brilliance and professionalism. You had to feel bad for our boys as each of their over-eager efforts were dissected with surgical precision by Ponting and co.The game was over by lunch and the deserving team won it without breaking into a sweat thus showing there was daylight between them and the rest.
Unforgettable moment : ‘That’ over, when Sachin reminded the world what he was all about. I’ve written about it too many times to repeat here…so refer here