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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Best World Cup so far for Tendulkar - 2003

After the disastrous World Cup campaign in 1999, the Indian team structure was overhauled completely thanks to the match-fixing scandal that erupted. A professional structure was brought in, with an international coach selected (John Wright being the first of the many illustrious ones).

Sachin Tendulkar was made the captain on the tour Down Under but he was, as he admitted later, affected by the match-fixing scandal. Sourav Ganguly became captain almost by default then and led the team astutely. He supported a set of players like Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh who flourished under the captaincy of Dada.

Sachin, Rahul and Sourav had supporting actors in Yuvraj, Kaif and Sehwag in the lineup. Dinesh Mongia was the other batsmen in the order who could bowl a few overs as well. The team management impressed upon Rahul Dravid the advantages of him keeping wickets so that they could play an extra batsman. Only twelve players were played by India in the entire tournament that saw Sachin score more than 650 runs and emerge as the highest scorer. Harbhajan was prefered over Anil Kumble as the main spinner in most of the matches - a arguable decision by the skipper.

There were many moments to remember from the Indian team throughout the tournament:

  • Sachin's attack against Pakistan - the first impression everyone has about this innings is the square cut of Shoaib Akhtar over point for a six. The Indians were chasing a score of 270+ and everyone expected the Indians to come hard, especially the opening pair of Sehwag and Sachin. Sehwag was kept quiet for sometime but Sachin started the onslaught (he was sleepless the previous night as he admitted) that was blistering. The asking run-rate came down quickly and the Indian victory became a formality. What a match it was, for all the Indian fans - unforgettable!
  • Sourav's centuries against minnows - Ganguly scored three centuries in this World Cup, all against the minnows (Namibia and Kenya). Though they cannot be considered as great ones, they were timely ones that helped India reach the finals.
  • Off-field issues after the first few matches - India lost the match against Australia by a large margin while just struggling to get past Holland. This triggered uproar within India - effigies were burnt and houses targeted. This acted like a wake-up call for the Indians for the performance picked up dramatically and the Indians won 7 consecutive matches to storm the finals.
  • Ashish Nehra's bowling against England - One of the seven wins included the win against England when Ashish Nehra turned a sensational spell to dismiss six English batsmen, mostly being caught behind the wickets and slip catches.
  • Dismal bowling in the finals against Australia - The first over saw an over-excited Zaheer Khan mouthing abuses to the Oz opening batsmen. This made the pair more determined to tear the bowling apart. The result was an overwhelming total of 359 for the Australians - 125 more than what the Indians could achieve.
The top two batsmen in the tournament were Sachin and Sourav but they couldnt get going in the finals. But, this must have given Sachin Tendulkar more delight than any of the earlier World Cups. He scored well in almost all important matches in the tournament which got the Indian cause moving. He claimed the Man of the Tournament award from another legend, Gary Sobers, but he would also agree that winning the Cup would have been a more happier moment for him than the individual rewards. The Indian team had made great strides to reach the finals in this version but they succumbed to the best team in the Decade then. The tournament also saw the crux of the Indian batting performing to their potential.

Javagal Srinath was recalled from retirement by the captain to guide and mentor the fellow fast bowlers. The trio of Srinath, Zaheer and Nehra captured 16, 18 and 15 wickets respectively - complementing the batting prowess - check this link for the performance against the Kiwis. Srinath retired gracefully after the Cup and remains active in the local Karnataka cricket, mentoring youngsters.

Mohammed Kaif was the fittest player in the entire Indian team for a long time - proven by tests that tested his strength, endurance and fitness. He played a critical role with his fielding and down-the-order batting - combining to form critical partnerships that would take India past the winning post many a time. He would then fade away by performances that dropped over a period of time. He still plays domestic cricket in India (hoping for a recall) but he will be the first to agree that his time has moved on.

Next is 2007 World Cup in West Indies.

India Vs Pakistan

Sachin on the same match

Ian Chappell speaks about Ricky Ponting vs India in the final

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