Its been more than 15 years since I have been watching cricket…if I can remember it correctly, my craze for the game picked up just after the 1996 World Cup. Until then, I was waiting to change the channel at the end of every over(whenever my Dad was watching a match)
I have learnt to make sentences in English from the commentators that used to be there in the India vs South Africa Test series in 1997…special thanks to Mr. Ravi Shastri.
My favourite player used to be Mohammad Azharuddin in those times, may be because he had the most beautiful Reebok bat.
World Cup ’99
The first World Cup that came in my era as a fan was in 1999(England). I was happy that I had to wait a year less because after 1996, it would have held in 2000 normally. But the 87-92 gap was compensated here. The best thing was it came in my Summer vacations.
The start was a boring one but it had a few very good matches like India vs SL, India vs Pakistan, but the best being Aus vs SA…hard luck for them. I was supporting SA after India crashed out. The final again was a boring one sided affair won by the Aussies.
World Cup ’03
The next WC in 2003(SA).I missed some of the matches due to my exams but started from India vs England, and gt to see the best from the Master in this World Cup. He gt 2 hundreds but got close to it on many more occasions. India vs Pak, India vs SL, India vs England(was a day nighter, went to sleep in the night, but gt to see the highlights later) being some of the good matches I can remember…By now, I was more inclined to watching the matches which involved India.
Suddenly, it was a dream come true, India was playing the final against the Aussies. I sat with a paper and pen to record ball by ball details of the match.But Ricky Ponting made me work like anything and after the first innings, I was in no mood to continue it, especially when the score read Australia 359-2. India made a lost effort to get there, and in the end, a heartbreak.
World Cup ’07
Next WC in 2007(West Indies).India were the favorites with their so called enviable blend of experience and youth. Start….disaster…lost the first match to Bangladesh, then hammered the hapless Bermuda and then in their must win game against SL, made a mess of their chase and exited in the first round itself. To cut the long story short, a forgettable World Cup.
Then came WC 2011(India). We had a leader in MS Dhoni, and with him came the belief that yes we can end the drought of 28 years. India’s matches falling mostly in the weekend further ensured that I was only interested in the games which featured India. Our team started brilliantly, a century from young Virat Kohli in his first World Cup game indicated promise in the young middle order. Losing just one game in the league stage, India, as expected, qualified for the quarters. Then came, what I suppose was the most important match of the tournament for India to stay in the hunt for the cup, India vs Aus (3 consecutive WC wins behind their back). I had predicted at that stage, on the basis of my gut feeling, that whichever team wins this match will win the World Cup. India got a stiff target on a tough wicket to bat, but Yuvraj Singh was outstanding. He had been instrumental in India’s journey till the quarters but this one was special because the pressure was immense.
Then came the blockbuster, so called, the mother of all battles India vs Pakistan. Rocking start, twists and turns. Herchelle Gibbs dropped the World Cup for SA in 1999 when he dropped Steve Waugh’s catch, while for Pakistan it was Misbah ul haq, Younis Khan, Kamraan Akmal, and Umar Akmal…all being offered to catch the World Cup by Sachin Tendulkar, but the Pakistan fielders dropped it again and again. In the end India won the clash and set a date with SL in the final.
The first WC final between two strong Asian teams had to be big. SL made a big score, everyone was tensed, I believed it needed a Tendulkar special to get to this. Chasing 275, Tendulkar gone, 31-2, tension…it was up to the young guns. And they responded in style. A mature innings from Gambhir, a good support given by Virat Kohli and a true captain’s knock by MS Dhoni ensured that India live up to the huge expectations with the caliber and the advantage that they had of playing at home. The luck of MS Dhoni worked again as everything went in his favor, right from losing the toss to promoting himself to No.5 and the dew factor which made it easy to bat against the likes of Malinga and Murali. The Indian fans was rewarded with the World Cup by the Indian team for showing faith in its team and it came as a tribute to the Little Master, Sachin Tendulkar, who had to wait for 6 World cups to be a part of a World Cup winning Indian team. The young brigade thus announced that we are going to lift the responsibility of carrying the Indian team on our shoulders from here on.
It was this day, two years ago when India chased down the highest total in a World Cup final to lift the world cup for the second time, ending the supreme dominance of the Aussies in world cricket for 12 years.