Flashback 1999 WC: When Winning Still Wasn’t a Habit for India
In the year 1999, ‘the Cup was coming home’ in true cricketing sense. England were hosting the World Cup after a gap of 15 years. The last time the tournament was held in England, the Indian team had scripted history. Kapil Dev had led an Indian side to its maiden World Cup victory.
Three World Cups had passed since then, and the best the Indian team could manage was to reach the semi-finals – in 1987 and then in 1996. On both these occasions the tournament was being held in the sub-continent.
But with World Cup returning to England, the Indian fans expected that the team might have a better chance to emulate Kapil and his Devils.
After 1992 and 1996, Mohammed Azharuddin was once again leading the side. With a decent team that included Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Ajay Jadeja, Javagal Srinath, the Indian side landed in England with the hopes of once again being lucky at the ‘Home of Cricket.’
India were a bit unlucky to find themselves clubbed in the same group along with favourites South Africa, holders Sri Lanka and hosts England. To make the matter a bit more tense for the Indians, they were facing the Proteas in their first match of the tournament.
India vs South Africa
The South African side were coming into the tournament with some reputation. Less than year back they had won the ICC KnockOut Trophy and were fancied to lift the Cup for the first time in England.
India had a good start to the match, they won the important toss and elected to bat. Openers Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar got the team off to a brisk start. But some on-field antics by the South African captain Hansie Cronje shifted the focus soon. Cronje and bowler Allan Donald had plugged-in an earpiece to receive instructions from coach Bob Woolmer during the match. After a complaint from Sourav Ganguly, the umpires and the match referee ordered Cronje to remove the earpiece.
Sachin’s dismissal brought in Rahul Dravid at the crease. The pair put up a 130-run stand for the second wicket. Ganguly (97) missed a century on World Cup debut while Dravid went onto score 54. With 46 runs in the last six overs, India finished with 253/5 in their 50 overs.
After losing both openers – Gibbs (7) and Kirsten (3) – in the first 7 overs with only 22 runs on board, Jacques Kallis (96) shared a matching-winning 64-run stand with his skipper and a 47-run stand with Rhodes. In the end, Rhodes (39 off 24 balls) and Klusener (12 off 4 balls) went all guns blazing to drive South Africa home with 16 balls to spare.
India vs Zimbabwe
India had nobody else to blame for their loss to Zimbabwe. In a match which went down to the wire and was decided by a margin of only three-runs, India’s bowling department was guilty of giving away 51 extras, which included 16 no-balls and 21 wides.
India again won the toss but this time choose to field first. There was little to differentiate the Indian bowlers from the Zimbabwean batsmen as the side put on a fighting total of 252 in the 50 overs while India picked up 9 wickets. Srinath, Prasad and Kumble accounted for two wickets each.
When you bowl 51 extras, you will end up bowling many extra overs. And India were thus pulled up for a slow over rate. This resulted in India being fined for four overs, which meant instead of the allotted 50 overs, they had 46 overs to reach their target.
Meanwhile, at the top, Sadagoppan Ramesh replaced Tendulkar as the latter had to fly back due to his father’s death. Despite some initial hiccups, India managed to steer the chase to safety with 9 runs needed off 12 balls. Robin Singh was at crease with the Indian tail for support.
Henry Olonga was going to bowl the penultimate over of the match. India needed nine runs while Zimbabwe needed three wickets. As luck would have it, India blinked first. They lost three wickets in the next five deliveries to lose the match with seven balls to spare.
India vs Kenya
India had to win their last three matches to qualify for the next round, and with the team slated to play Sri Lanka and England, things weren’t really looking up for them.
Tendulkar was back in England. A win, which would kick-start India’s derailed World Cup campaign, was necessary. And their next match against Kenya gave them the perfect opportunity.
For a change, India lost the toss and Kenya chose to field. Ramesh continued to open despite Tendulkar’s return. As expected, India dominated the Kenyan bowling, finishing with 329/2 in their 50 overs. Both Tendulkar (140*) and Dravid (104*) scored centuries and put on a 237-run unbeaten partnership for the third wicket, which is still a World Cup record.
Kenya were never in the game as far as the chase was concerned. In the end, they played out their 50 overs to finish with 235 for 7 wickets as India registered their first win of the tournament, a comfortable 94-run victory.
India vs Sri Lanka
The Kenya match was a much-needed boost for the Indian team. Going into the Sri Lanka match, it did them a world of good.
India lost the toss and were put in to bat. With only five runs on board, Ramesh was shown the door in the very first over. With Dravid walking onto the crease, neither the Indian team nor the Sri Lankans were aware what was going to happen in the next 44.5 overs.
Ramesh’s wicket had hardly affected Ganguly-Dravid pair. The duo tore the Sri Lankans into pieces. By the time the next wicket fell India had amassed 324 runs, with 25 balls still left in the innings. Dravid finished with the 145 of 129 balls, his highest ODI score at that point.
The pair had added 318 runs for the second wicket, which is the second-highest partnership for the second wicket in a World Cup and third-highest for any wicket in ODI cricket. Ganguly went on to score 183 of 158 balls, which included 7 sixes. This remained to be his highest score in ODI cricket.
A daunting target of 374 was too much for even the defending champions, who were yet to come to terms with the first innings nightmare. Sri Lankan were bowled out for 216 in 42.3 overs. Robin Singh returned with figures of 5/31 in 9.3 overs as India recorded a whopping 157-run win.
India vs England
Both India and England needed a win to confirm their place in the Super Sixes. With two back-to-back wins, India didn’t want to spoil their run and England didn’t want to make a first-round exit at home.
With overcast conditions, England decided to bowl first. And it turned out to be a great decision as India could only manage 232/8 in their 50 overs. All Indian batsmen got starts but failed to convert them into big scores. Dravid, who played a patient knock of 53, was the only exception.
The condition didn’t improve when England came out to bat. Debashish Mohanty dismissed captain Alec Stewart and Greame Hick in back-to-back deliveries to give India an advantage. Naseer Hussain and Graham Thorpe did try to bring some semblance with a 59-run stand for the third wicket but that was it.
England lost their last eight wickets for less than a hundred runs to get dismissed for 169 in 45.2 overs. The match being stretched to reserve a day due to rain break didn’t help the English cause.
With this win, India assured themselves a place in the Super Sixes while England were ousted as Zimbabwe won against South Africa.
This was the first time the concept of Super Six was introduced. The top three from each group proceeded to this round. Each team carried forward the points from the games against the other qualifiers from their group and then played each of the qualifiers from the other group. The top four teams in the Super Sixes advanced to the semi-finals.
India made it to the next round of the World Cup with six points from Group A, along with South Africa and Zimbabwe. But they couldn’t carry forward any points from the group stage as they lost their group matches against the other qualifiers from Group A – South Africa and Zimbabwe – which meant they clearly started with a disadvantage.
India were slated to play Australia, arch-rivals Pakistan and New Zealand in the Super Sixes
India vs Australia
A win against Australia would have helped India breathe easy, but that wasn’t the case.
After India put Australia to bat, openers Mark Waugh and Adam Gilchrist gave the side a perfect start. An opening stand of 97 set the stage for a big total. The whole batting line-up rallied around Mark Waugh’s 83 off 99 balls as Australia posted 282/6, their highest in the tournament.
Apart from sensible batting from the Aussies, the Indians were again guilty of wayward and undisciplined bowling. The bowlers accounted for 35 extras, which included 11 no-balls and 10 wide deliveries.
To make matters worse, for the first time in the tournament, India witnessed a top-order collapse. Ganguly, Tendulkar, Dravid and Azharuddin were back in the hut with only 17 runs on board. Glenn McGrath was the wrecker-in-chief, taking three wickets right at the top.
Jadeja and Robin Singh took stock of the situation and paced their innings accordingly. The pair did succeed to some extent as they added 141 runs to the total. Robin was the first to go for 75, with India still needing 125 runs of 75 balls.
Jadeja, who remained unbeaten on 100, didn’t get any support from the tail as the last five wickets fell for 26 runs. The Indian batting card didn’t paint a good picture as only Jadeja and Robin Singh managed to reach double figures. India lost the match by 77 runs.
India vs Pakistan
It was once again a familiar territory for India. After the group stages, India were once again faced with an uphill task of winning all their remaining matches of the World Cup.
They were playing Pakistan next. Apart from the on-field battle, for the first time in the history of cricket, the two sides were officially at war – in the Kargil conflict of 1999. Pakistan was undoubtedly the best side in the tournament till now. But India had a tradition to maintain. Before this, Pakistan and India had played each other twice in the World Cup, and India had won both the matches. So, apart from the fact that they couldn’t afford another slip-up in the tournament, Azhar and his boys had a reputation at stake as well.
India elected to bat first as chasing in an India versus Pakistan encounter wasn’t something which is advised. In the absence of Ganguly, Ramesh and Tendulkar opened for India. India’s run rate put them in a spot of bother as Tendulkar fell for 45. Rahul Dravid (61) once again shouldered the innings and for the first time in the World Cup, Azharuddin (59) made a significant contribution with the bat.
India folded their innings at a 227/6, which was going to be a tricky target for Pakistan. Captain Wasim Akram (2/27) led from the front with the ball.
Indian bowlers, led by Venkatesh Prasad, made the chase trickier for Pakistan. The side kept losing wickets at regular intervals, with only Inzamam showing some defiance. Prasad did the maximum damage, taking 5 for 27 in 9.3 overs as Pakistan were all-out for 180, only the second time in the entire tournament.
India were successful in maintaining a clean sheet against Pakistan at the World Cup. It was job well done, but only for the day. New Zealand was India’s last frontier.
India vs New Zealand
The win against Pakistan rekindled India’s hopes. A victory against the Kiwis in the virtual quarter-final would see India into the semis.
With Ganguly back in the side, India were fielding a full-strength XI but that didn’t reflect in their batting as they chose to bat. Tendulkar (16), Ganguly (29) and Dravid (29) failed to convert their starts. But Jadeja (76) came to the rescue as India crawled their way to 252/6 in 50 overs.
Openers Matt Horne and Nathan Astle gave New Zealand the desired start. But made their way back with three quick wickets to reduce New Zealand to 90/3 from 45 for no loss. But Horne (74) and Roger Twose (60*) steadied the New Zealand innings.
Wicketkeeper Adam Parore (26 off 14 balls) along with Twose ensured the Blackcaps reached their target with 5 wickets in hand and 10 balls to spare.
With this loss, it was curtains for India at the 1999 World Cup. Rahul Dravid’s good form in the tournament made him the top-scorer with 461 runs from 8 matches. With five centuries, India had the maximum number of centurions in the tournament. Rahul Dravid scored two, while Tendulkar, Ganguly and Jadeja scored one century each.