With the 2007 edition of Cricket World Cup underway, it’s only too difficult not to reminisce the 23rd March 2003. India romped into the final after 2 months of solid cricket display and the way we got stuffed that day will leave lasting memories.
I watched that match on the huge screen of our College auditorium. The atmosphere was electric in the audi. People had come prepared for the big show down. The blue jersies were everywhere, faces were painted with tricolours, Indian flags were waving, the sound was almost unbearable. We even had our own cardboard replicas of World Cup Trophies held aloft before the match even began.
What happened over the next 3 and a half hours made me cringe and made the whole auditorium and an attendance of 2000 above go absolutely quiet. I remember one of the early Zaheer Khan delivery which beat Hayden and Zaheer was right under Hayden’s nose staring. It was absolutely top stuff, everyone loved it, the Indian team was aggressive, there were whistles and hooting. From there the plot went horribly wrong.
Zaheer Khan bowled with aggression and bowled everywhere except the right line and length, he was duly carted around the park for fours and sixes. Srinath discovered his slower ball and overdid it to such an extent that his surprise bowl was the faster one. Gilchrist gave Aussies a flying start and a 105 run first wicket partnership. When Hayden followed him to the Pavilion with 125 on the board, the game was on and Indian fight back imminent. Ponting had other ideas though and he simply massacred the Indian bowling with 140 of 121 with 4 fours and 8 sixes. Nehra was the only mainline bowler with an average under 6 and that too just by a shade. Aussies put up 359 for loss of 2 wickets and the auditorium had turned into a silent graveyard.
At that time it would have been a record chase if India would have succeeded. The chances were remote but still there was hope. Sachin was in form of his life and who knows if both he and Sehwag fired, we could have made it. A weak four was all Sachin managed in his stay of 4 balls, from there on it was a lost game. The only shimmer of hope was rain that came pouring down after the 17th over. I was sitting with the Marathi gang at that time and there was an impromptu rain dance to appease Gods on “Moriya re, Bappa moriya re”. I joined in the dance and festivities when someone explained that if no more play was possible, there would be a restart of the match (afresh) on the following day. We all went berserk hoping the rain to go on forever. Half an hour later the rain had stopped the clouds disappeared and with it the Indian World Cup. The replica of World Cup trophy like the Indian team had been smashed into pulp and discarded on the way out of the auditorium.
There was gloom all around, it was a sickening blow to an otherwise amazing performance India had put in. For whole of the World Cup there were only two invincible teams for the rest of the field – Australia and India. And for whole of the World Cup, India lost only twice and both times to Australia.
In interviews before this World Cup Ganguly, Zaheer, Sachin, Sehwag and Yuvraj have all mentioned that they would never be able to forget the loss of the last World Cup and it would scar them forever. And it would not just be them but whole of India who would find it difficult to forget that loss. However, stuffing Australia in Semis or Finals would go a long way to soothe away some of that pain.
So here’s hoping that we kick some kangaroo backside this time around. INDIA! All the way for the World Cup!