The Cricket World was moving fast, with it the BCCI and team India. Their vouch for the win and die-hard attitude on the field had made India the toughest competitor. After Denness Controversy, the world of cricket could see the fire in BCCI and Indians. The vision was set, come prove yourself and try to challenge us in our home, just like we do in yours.
After the 2001 test vs the Aussies, England toured India in 2001–02. The brute force at home proved their brilliance again. The 1st Test was played at Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali which India won by 10 wickets. Both of the 2nd Test which was played at Motera, Ahmedabad and 3rd Test played at Bangalore, were drawn. Thus India won the test series 1-0. The dominance continued as they beat the West Indian cricket team that toured in 2002.
The away cycle started in the mid of 2002. The Indian team toured England from 22 June to 9 September 2002. The highlight of the tour was the NatWest trophy 2002 final, at the Lords, at 13 July 2002.
The hero of the match, Md. Kaif claimed that even his family switched themselves off the match and went to watch a movie instead. Such was India’s hope of winning the match. Obviously so, because it was on those days where we believed, gone Sachin, gone is the match.
This time, destiny seemed to have some other plans. It was time for a thriller. The twists and turns were such that I bet, fingernails begged mercy from their master. Forget the teammates, entire population that watched the match Live, were literally off their seat, not on the edges.
Kaif and Yuvi played a gem of an innings establishing a match-winning partnership. Yuvi, however, got out and the team fumbled a bit, but thanks to Kaif’s mental strength, India somehow managed to clinch the final.
Let’s not talk about celebrations. I guess we all know why and how the Indian team and most importantly its Skipper celebrated.
To Relive the epic match, click here
The tour also comprised a four-match Test series which was drawn 1–1. This further boosted the Indian team. Virendra Sehwag was the talking point of the tests. While the entire series is billed as Rahul Dravid’s series, as he became the top scorer for the Indians, with centuries coming at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, Headingley; in Leeds and the unforgettable 217, at The Oval in London. This established Rahul Dravid as the ‘Wall’ that’s even mightier than that of China’s.
Along with Sachin, Ganguly and Dravid, players like Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif emerged, making the Indian batting order one of the strongest in the world in both forms of the game. Their performances helped reduce India’s dependence on their top guns in one-day cricket, and a 7-batsman policy contributed to India’s successes in the limited-overs game as they reached the final of the 2003 Cricket World Cup.
The 2003 Cricket World Cup was the eighth edition, organized by the International Cricket Council (ICC). The first to be played in Africa was co-hosted by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya from 9 February to 23 March 2003.
The tournament starred 14 teams, the largest in the World Cup’s history at the time, playing a total of 54 matches. It followed the format introduced in the 1999 Cricket World Cup, with the teams divided into two groups, and the top three in each group qualifying for the Super Sixes stage.
The tournament saw numerous upsets, with South Africa, Pakistan, West Indies and England all being eliminated at the group stage (South Africa missed by 1 run after misreading the Duckworth-Lewis method rules). England forfeited their match with Zimbabwe, due to the political unrest in the country, which ultimately enabled the team to reach the Super Sixes. New Zealand too forfeited their match vs. Kenya, due to security reasons which enabled the latter to reach the semi-finals, the only non-test playing nation to do so.
Another shock wave came two days after the tournament had started, when Shane Warne, at the time one of the game’s leading spinners, was sent home in disgrace after testing positive for a banned substance.
The historic moment of the World Cup, as the Pakistani fastie, ‘Rawalpindi Express’ Shoaib Akhtar set a world record, becoming the fastest bowler in the history of cricket, delivering a Superman-Esque top speed of 161.3 km/h (100.23 mph) in a pool match against England.
India’s journey in ’03 WC
As the marquee tournament kick-started from Feb 9 2003, all eyes were set on India. India started their hopeful campaign, playing their first match on Feb 12, 2003. The 7th Match overall of the tournament saw India vs the Netherlands, at Paarl, which India won by 68 runs.
Three days later, on Feb 15, the 11th Match of the tournament, they faced mighty Australia, at Centurion. Bundling out at 125, Australia easily won the match by 9 wickets, in just 22.2 overs.
On Feb 19, down but not out India, played their third match vs Zimbabwe, at Harare and won by 83 runs. Then, they beat Namibia by 181 runs, on Feb 23.
The other big match that followed after Australia’s was the 30th Match of the tournament vs England, at Durban, on Feb 26. India managed to score 250/9 while England was bundled out at 168, thus won by 82 runs.
It was March 1 of 2003, the 36th Match of the tournament which was un-arguably the Match of the tournament. The arch-rivals, India and Pakistan squared off at Centurion and produced a cracker. The emotions were such that the voices echoed from both the countries urging their team to win this match and that would be the saucer to the cup.
Pakistan batted first and scored 273/7 with a century from Saeed Anwar. India under tremendous pressure went on to chase as Sehwag and Sachin opened the innings. To everyone’s surprise The Master, Sachin started to go bonkers from ball one and smashed the Paki bowlers all over the park, Master turned Blaster. Sehwag soon joined the party but departed early at an individual score of 21. Soon the Skipper departed with a golden duck. Unperturbed Sachin didn’t stop the carnage, he smashed a swashbuckling 98 off 75 thus throwing the opposition out of the game. With a fine partnership between Dravid and Yuvraj, India swiftly marched to victory, by 6 wickets, with 26 balls remaining.
Buoyant India then crushed Kenya at Cape Town on Mar 7, which was the 2nd Super Six bout. On the 4th Super Six match, India beat Sri Lanka by 183 runs, at Johannesburg on Mar 10. 7th Super: India then crushed New Zealand at Centurion on Mar 14 beating them by 7 wickets, with 56 balls remaining. Thus India secured a spot in the Semi-final against Kenya.
The 1st semi-final was won by Australia thereby waiting for India to face against. India didn’t disappoint either, as on the 2nd Semi-final India at Durban on Mar 20, India won by 91 runs.
The Grand Finale, Australia v India at the Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, on Mar 23, with the attendance of 31,827. After winning the toss Ganguly thought that the pitch would offer movement and bounce, asked Aussies to bat. But as soon as the pair Gilly-Haydo arrived in those 22 yards, the demons of the pitch disappeared. The pair crushed the Indian bowling apart, and as they fell the Aussie skipper, the ‘Punter’ Ricky Ponting along with the fabulous Damien Martin further annihilated Indian bowlers. Punter scored 140* and D. Martin 88* together, took the team’s total to 359/2. Indians lost their hopes in the first half itself.
Although for the miracle believer the hope lasted a little longer, till the break and got crushed as soon as Sachin departed in the very first over. The tournament was eventually won by Australia by 125 runs, as India were dismantled at 234.
Australia won all 11 of their matches, while India too had won all of their matches barring 2, both against Australia. This was Australia’s third World Cup win, the only team to do so, as of now. The Man of the Match was awarded to R. T. Ponting and the Man of the Tournament was awarded to S. R. Tendulkar.
India started their World Cup campaign as the side to watch out for, and O! How did they prove it? As Australia established its dominance throughout the Game, throughout the period, India continued to challenge the mighty ones. Resurgent India continued its journey, chasing just one dream, perfection.