Jogging for the World Cup

Vineet Sharma

MS Dhoni’s Team India is all set to start its World Cup campaign with the same dream of winning the coveted trophy that their nine predecessors had in their eyes. Kapil’s Devils managed to turn this into a reality and others bit dust.

From India’s first World Cup outing in 1975 to the last one in 2007, things have changed drastically for the sub-continental outfit. However, all the change in the world has not been able to dilute the Indian cricket fans’ belief that India can do the World Cup winning feat again.

For all such brethren, here is a quick recap of how India have fared in the past World Cups:

1975- India started the tournament as the underdogs and did not do much to change that perception. Sunil Gavaskar set the tone of the tournament with an agonizingly slow 36* off 174 balls in their first match that was lost to England.

A win against tournament minnows East Africa was the only saving grace as New Zealand showed them the door in the group stages itself.

-India were back with two losses and one win. West Indies were the eventual champions with an impressive 5-0 result.

1979- This World Cup was arguably India’s most shameful World Cup outing ever as Venkataraghavan’s men could not muster a single win in their three matches, wrapping out in the group stage again.

The loss against West Indies was perhaps expected, as they were a force to reckon with and they lived up to the reputation by being simply unbeaten in the whole tournament. What followed next was disheartening as the Kiwis drubbed India by eight wickets to seal their swift return back.

The Indian outfit went into the last match to salvage an iota of pride against the Sri Lankan minnow outfit but alas, they could not chase down the total of 238 runs in the stipulated 60 overs and lost by 47 runs. The loss completed India’s abysmal outing as they returned home without managing even a single 200+ total.

-India lost all their three matches. West Indies were again the champions with a draw and four wins and no loss.

1983- This World Cup was not perceived by even the Indian fans as the one they’d talk about for decades to come. Led by Kapil Dev, the team had been grouped with giants West Indies and Australia, apart from the minnows Zimbabwe.

However, this time around, one of the things that went in favour with the Indian team’s usual inconsistency problem – they had the chance to play two games against their opponents in the group stage- thereby increasing their chances of qualifying for the next rounds.

A shock win over the reigning champions West Indies got them the confidence that they required and despite the hiccups in the form of a loss against Australia in the initial part of the group stage and another at the hands of the mighty West Indians in the last match, they went onto the bigger stage with grit and a will to win.

Kapil then turned things into gold with a miraculous 175-run knock and thus, wheels of fortune finally started turning for the dark horses. They were given a bleaker than bleak chance of winning the final against the lords of cricket at the time-West Indies. This perhaps was the fuel for the Indian dressing room as they put the name to test at the legendary Lord’s venue.

Mohinder Amarnath took three magical wickets to ensure that the dream that was unfolding at the green fields of England were not abruptly terminated and the win gave Indian sports its most recognised photo of captain Kapil Dev standing tall with the World Cup in his hands, the joy of a nation pouring over the brim.

Champions India completed the tournament with six wins and two losses.

1987- Entering the ODI war as the reigning champions, the magic of Kapil failed to inspire the team that was said to be suffering from massive egos and young feet. The fact that the tournament was hosted in India got them the home-conditions advantage and they used it well to reach to the semi finals.

However, things did not unfold as the millions would have liked them to as a gritty England won by 35 runs in the semis. The problem with the loss was one that by now had become typical of the traditionally strong Indian batting – the top batsmen fell cheaply and only one could remain with a decent knock with no support from the other end at all.

Of the three batsmen who had the weight of the run scoring on their shoulders, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Sunil Gavaskar fizzled out while Mohd Azharuddin was the one who scored a fighting fifty that could not do much for their victory prospects.

-India ended the tournament with five wins and two crucial losses while Australia were crowned new world champions with an impressive 7-1 figure to take back home.

1992- This World Cup introduced coloured clothing into the tourney and also did away with the ‘pool’ system. The idea was simple, all teams were to play all others and the best of the lot would go to the semifinals.

It was not that simple for Azhar led Indian line-up as they mustered just two wins, one against arch rivals Pakistan and another one against Zimbabwe. Apart from that, it was one agony after another as New Zealand, Australia, West Indies and South Africa beat India comprehensively.

- India ended the tournament with eight losses and two wins while Pakistan, led by the charming Imran Khan were crowned the new champions.

1996- This World Cup was held in the Indian sub-continent and with the re-introduction of the group stages, the Indian fan was gearing up for another shot at immortality and wished to prove others wrong who said that the 83’ victory was a one time wonder.

Sachin Tendulkar was in blistering form and the outfit looked disciplined under Mohd Azharuddin. A lot of players were tailor-made for the ODI format like Sidhu, Kambli, Jadeja and Ankola while the bowling also looked in safe hands with Kumble, Prasad and Srinath underlining the attack.

The tournament started with India winning the first two encounters easily but the third match showed another major chink in the team’s armour – chasing down totals. They managed to make a mockery out of the run-chase against Australia, getting all out in the 48th over for a score of 242 runs, falling short by just 16 runs.

Then came the team with the hurricane in the form of Sanath Jayasuriya. Sri Lanka had long been termed as minnows of cricket and this tournament was their announcement to the cricketing world. They beat India by six wickets and made an unspoken promise of crossing path once more before the tournament ended.

A historic and emotional win at Bangalore against Pakistan in the quarterfinals raised hopes of another World Cup in the hands of India. But this was not to be as Eden Gardens witnessed one of the worst preparations of a pitch and a major slump by the Indian batsmen. The opponents were the Sri Lankans, who were unbeaten in the entire tournament and they kept their record intact despite an outside the field effort by the home fans who almost gutted a part of the stadium in fire. The islanders got a walkover and India got a nasty heartache. Not only did we lose, but the tag of sore losers was stamped on our foreheads due to the overzealous Kolkata fans.

-India ended the tournament with four wins and three losses while Sri Lanka were crowned kings with an impeccable 8-0 outing.

1999- India were going through a rough patch of sorts when the tournament started in England. Azhar had experience, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly but what he did not have was form or the ability to inspire team-mates out of bad form.

The result was simple, India lost four and won four. We did manage to keep our unbeaten record against Pakistan in World Cups intact, but that was it. The team was last in the Super-6 standings and took the early flight home.

-Australia won the World Cup for the second time with seven wins against two losses, starting their romance with the ultimate cricket trophy and the affair would continue for more than a decade!

2003- This was the World Cup where the Australians had a big challenge in the form of an Indian setup that was hailed by cricket pundits as the strongest Indian team since Kapil’s outfit in 83. Despite a string of losses to their name and a hiccup in the first match against Holland that they won after a spirited performance by the bowlers, India looked set for the ultimate target.

The next match was a dampener as Aussies humbled the Indians by nine wickets in just 22.2 overs. This was perhaps the reality check that the Indians needed desperately as from there on, they won every match they played and entered the final with a convincing win over Kenya in the semi-final. Sachin Tendulkar was on song and so was Sourav Ganguly. The two top scorers of the tournament had raised enough tremors in the Australian camp that had reached the final from the other end.

However, things took turn for the worse from there onwards as India choked at the time they were just a whisker away from the magical feat. The Australians levelled-up and scored a massive 359 in their stipulated overs and the Indians could not recover from the early loss of Tendulkar to chase the total. In the middle, rainy clouds did spark hopes in the Indian fans of the match being washed out and being played on the next day but it was not meant to be. The clouds cleared and so did the Australian plans to raise the coveted trophy for the third time.

-India were all out for just 234 runs in the final while Australia romped back home with the trophy and a tournament figure of an unbeaten streak of eleven matches.

2007- The World Cup was staged in the Caribbean this time and India were upbeat with two series wins under their belt just before the mega-event. The team was studded with stars and even the then coach Greg Chappell was sure that his formula to win the World Cup would work after years of experimentation with the Indian line-up.

The outfit was led by Rahul Dravid and boasted of the strongest batting line-up with Sachin, Sehwag, Ganguly, Yuvraj, Dhoni and Uthappa. Even the bowling looked good with Kumble, Harbhajan, Zaheer and Irfan to lend solidarity to the batsmen.

Bangladesh, however, had other plans as they beat India in their first match. This was one blot that spelled doom as the next match was won against Bermuda, leaving the last group stage match against Sri Lanka as a do-or-die tie.

Muttiah Muralitharan was the Indian nemesis in the match as Sachin, Yuvraj and Dhoni fell cheaply, leaving the onus on Dravid and Sehwag who could not shoulder the responsibility on the day. In the end, India were all out for just 185 runs in reply to Sri Lanka’s 254, drawing curtains on their World Cup campaign in the first round itself.

-India lost two of the three matches they played while Australia went on to win the trophy again with another 11-0 record.

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