From Madan Lal to Ashish Nehra: India’s Greatest World Cup Spells
India go into the 2019 World Cup with their bowling attack being their biggest strength.
Throughout the history of Indian cricket, India’s batting has always been considered its biggest strength and the key to its performance in big events. However, this particular World Cup is one such unique scenario where Indian bowling is clearly the team’s biggest strength.
If we study the Indian history at the World Cup, their most successful campaigns have been the ones where the bowlers have turned it on and supported the batsmen in pursuit of glory. Here are some of India’s greatest bowling spells in World Cup history:
1. Ashish Nehra – 6 for 23 vs England at Durban, 2003 World Cup
India’s campaign at the 2003 World Cup gathered momentum following a tough start and Ashish Nehra’s brilliant display only strengthened their charge. Coming into the game, Nehra was a doubtful starter due to a vicious fall during the previous game against Namibia, but thanks to physio Andrew Liepus’ hard work and support, the left-armer was ready to take on England.
Chasing 251, England were gradually building the innings at 52 for two, before Nehra unleashed his swing and pace. Nasser Hussain edged one to the wicketkeeper and Alec Stewart was trapped in front first ball. Thereafter, the English middle-order never recovered and kept finding the wicketkeeper and the slips off Nehra.
2. Madan Lal – 3 for 31 vs West Indies at Lord’s, Final, 1983 World Cup
With Viv Richards going great guns in pursuit of India’s 184, West Indies looked set for a third consecutive world title. Kapil Dev brought on Madan Lal, who was welcomed to the crease with three boundaries by the great West Indian.
At 50 for one, the writing was on the wall for India. However, Lal got into the act as Desmond Haynes holed out to cover.
Then came the moment of brilliance, when Richards pulled Lal over square, where skipper Kapil ran back to take the famous catch. Larry Gomes chased one outside off and edged to first slip. From 50 for one, West Indies had slipped to 66 for four. Lal’s spell had opened the floodgates for India.
3. Venkatesh Prasad’s 5 for 27 vs Pakistan at Manchester, 1999 World Cup
A little more than three years after the famous duel with Aamer Sohail at Bangalore, Venkatesh Prasad was at it again, this time doing all the talking with the ball at Manchester. Played during the height of the military conflict between the two nations, this was more than a game for the fans.
India batted first and managed 227. In reply, Pakistan were guided by India’s nemesis Saeed Anwar. While Javagal Srinath provided the early breakthroughs, Prasad sustained the pressure by dismissing Salim Malik and Anwar.
He then returned later in the innings to dismiss Moin Khan and Inzamam-ul-Haq, to leave no room for a Pakistan comeback. Victory was sealed when Wasim Akram found the man at deep square-leg, which also handed Prasad his fifer.
4. Chetan Sharma’s 3 for 51 vs New Zealand at Nagpur, 1987 World Cup
Being India’s first hat-trick in any form of the game at the highest level, it remains a special memory. Hosts India were one of the favourites in the 1987 World Cup and asserted their dominance during their last league game against New Zealand.
Late in the New Zealand innings, Chetan Sharma scripted history when he bowled Ken Rutherford, Ian Smith and Ewen Chatfeld to record the first hat-trick in the World Cup. New Zealand managed only 221 and Sunil Gavaskar’s only one-day hundred made easy work of the target.
5. Mohinder Amarnath’s 3 for 12 vs West Indies at Lord’s, 1983 World Cup
This spell comes in due to its iconic value to the Indian cause in 1983. While Lal provided India the window of opportunity, Mohinder Amarnath helped clean the tail and seal victory comfortably.
Jeff Dujon and Malcolm Marshall stitched together a partnership of 43 runs to keep West Indies in the game. Dujon then dragged one back onto his stumps, ending the promising stand. Amarnath helped India seal victory by having Andy Roberts caught at first slip and trapping Michael Holding leg-before. Indian cricket changed!
6. Javagal Srinath 4 for 35 vs Sri Lanka at Johannesburg, 2003 World Cup
By the time India qualified for the Super Sixes of the 2003 World Cup, they were already spoken of as strong contenders to take on Australia for the title. That was more evident with the way they dominated Sri Lanka at Johannesburg.
India’s batting put up a formidable 292, after which Srinath’s remarkable spell with the new ball left no chance for Sanath Jayasuriya’s men. In his first over, Srinath had Marvan Attapatu caught at cover and Jehan Mubarak taken in the slips to reduce Sri Lanka to two for two.
The Lankan collapse continued with Aravinda de Silva falling leg-before to Srinath and Jayasuriya finding the man at cover. At 40 for five, the damage was done and Sri Lanka ultimately folded for 109.
7. Roger Binny’s 3 for 48 vs West Indies, 1983 World Cup
This was India’s first win against a Test playing nation in the World Cup and one that inspired great confidence. Up against the mighty West Indies in their opening encounter, India managed 262, thanks to Yashpal Sharma’s 89.
West Indies were then kept in check by a team performance by the bowlers. Roger Binny, who ended as the leading wicket-taker in the 1983 World Cup, led the charge by dismissing Richards, Clive Lloyd and Dujon to put India on course to a famous win.
8. Sourav Ganguly’s 3 for 27 vs England at Birmingham, 1999 World Cup
India’s hopes of qualifying through to the Super Sixes hinged on the result of this game. Sourav Ganguly batted well to score 40 and played his role to get 250 in tricky conditions.
With the ball in hand, he delivered with crucial wickets to setup an important victory. Hussain was bowled by Ganguly just before the rain came down.
The teams returned the following day to complete the game. Ganguly’s wobbly seam bowling was more than a handful in those conditions. A spell of three for 27 setup India’s passage through to the next round.
9. Munaf Patel 2 for 40 vs Pakistan at Mohali, Semi-final, 2011 World Cup
In a game where pressure was all too palpable, India’s bowlers rose to the occasion and delivered the near perfect team performance. India used five bowlers on the day with all taking two wickets apiece.
However, it was Munaf’s tight spell coupled with important wickets that perhaps gave him the edge over the others. Mohammad Hafeez was caught behind attempting a ramp shot at a time when Pakistan looked steady in pursuit of 261.
Through the spell, Munaf’s discipline stood out. As India tightened the screws, he delivered a well-disguised slower ball that bowled the dangerous Abdul Razzaq. It was one of those spells worth their weight in gold, but managed to fly under the radar.
10. Venkatesh Prasad 3 for 45 vs Pakistan at Bangalore, Quarter-Final, 1996 World Cup
Prasad’s performance in this game is most remembered for his altercation with Sohail, but it eclipsed the fact that his spell played a critical role in India’s defence of 287.
When Sohail was famously bowled by Prasad, Pakistan were in a healthy position at 113 for two in 15 overs. He didn’t stop there though! Pakistan had a dangerous batting line-up in the 1990s and one couldn’t put the target beyond them.
Ijaz Ahmed and Inzamam were Prasad’s other victims as India clawed back into the game and registered a famous win.
Honourable mentions: Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh’s numerous spells in 2011 laid the foundation to India’s victory. Kapil Dev’s five-wicket haul against Australia in 1983 is also memorable although it came in a defeat.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a sports anchor and writer based in Mumbai. He can be followed on Twitter at @nishadpaivaidya)
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