And.. the Cricket World Cup is here. The ultimate prize. The Holy Grail. The tournament that will decide the master of the 50-over format, the team that will be called the champion for the next 4 years. No tournament of any sport has more memories for me than the world cup of cricket and I am sure this is true with most of the Indians. Let me take you through some of mine.
Benson and Hedges world cup 1992
This world cup has been my introduction to not only the tournament, but to the game of cricket itself. Its my first memory of the game. Other than that logo on the ground, two images of this tournament have stuck to my mind like a dried up chewing gum stuck under the table.
The first one is of a new boy having a swagger reminiscent of Mithun da (We were crazy about Mithun) taking this unbelievably wonderful running catch.
No wonder my teenage cousin sisters had a collective crush on this guy.
And the second memory is the sight of the a beautiful crystalline and very delicate looking world cup being lift by Imran Khan. What a guy!!!. This makes me ask the question: WHY THE HELL DID THEY CHANGE THE CUP???
And yes, one more is that controversial rain-marred semi-final where poor South Africa, needing 22 runs from 13 balls before the splash, was given a target of 22 runs from 1 ball after it. And looks like they have never been able to come out of that setback.
The Wills World Cup 1996
Me, now four years older (obviously), have more memories of this one. But two of them take the cake, out of which, the second one stomped all over that cake.
The outburst of a usually demure Prasad became the stuff legends are made of.
But the biggest and most disappointing one etched in the memory is the next match, the Semi-final with Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens. No game lover can forget the images of a crying Vinod Kambli walking off the ground after the match was halted by angry Calcutta (not Kolkata then) crowds. I still curse the curators of Eden for that debacle where India went from 98 for 1 to 120 for 8. Murali was getting an 80 degrees turn, even a dug up Kotla pitch would have turned less. I believe that was the best chance India had of winning the cup. Yes, better than 2003.
ICC Cricket World Cup 1999
I have always hated the fact that the world cup is held around the exams time. And this time, I was appearing for my boards, intensifying the hatred. I was only allowed to watch India’s matches and I was pretty happy with being given that much liberty too. But when I heard about what the epic match the South Africa v/s Australia semi-final was turning out to be, I just could not resist watching the last few overs, and I am so glad I saw it. really wanted Zulu (Klusener, for the uninformed) to win this for SA.
I am posting two video’s of the same match here. The one where Gibbs dropped Steve Waugh’s catch, and the final over. In terms of cricketing brilliance, sheer excitement and unpredictibility, nothing can beat this match. NOTHING.
This one is when Herschelle Gibbs dropped the World Cup.
And, this is the greatest over ever bowled in the game.
ICC Cricket World Cup 2003
This has been the most successful world cup for India after 1983. We reached the finals, but only to get such drubbing from Australia that would make you wish India had not reached there. However, the match that definitely works as a magical antacid to a fierce stomach upset of the final is the India Pakistan clash on 1st of March, 2003. What a match this has been, what a match. The god was on fire that day. WHAT A MATCH!!!
While you are at it, you can click here for an insider account of the mood of the Indian team around that match.
ICC Cricket World Cup 2007
If there was a contest for the lamest tournament ever, this one would be the winner. A very less turnout, India’s dismal performance, match fixing and Bob Woolmer’s death (murder) – there is nothing in this world cup to write about.
Coming back to the present times, ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 has already seen 20 matches being played. We have already seen history books being rewritten by Kevin O’Brien, a relatively unknown batsman from Ireland, for hitting the fastest century ever in the world cup, and that too against a decent English bowling attack. We have witnessed a humdinger of a match between India and England which ended in a tie. And to say the least, the best is yet to come.