India At The World Cup: 11 World Cups, 11 Facts
Little-known facts about India's adventures in the eleven cricket World Cups
The greatest cricket extravaganza has finally kicked off in England with the Indian fans hoping that the team led by Virat Kohli will bring the cup home for the third time. India has been part of all the 11 World Cups held in a span of 40 years. There have been quite a few ups and downs and some interesting events involving Team India, as we call it these days. RD looks back at all the World Cups and brings you some interesting events, both on and off the field, involving our favourite team.
In the first match of the 1975 World Cup (then called the Prudential Cup), chasing a target of 334/4 in 60 overs, India was never in the run chase with opening batsman Sunil Gavaskar remaining unbeaten on 36 off 174 balls. With such a pathetic scoring rate, India ended up with 132/3 from 60 overs—a massive 202-run defeat with seven wickets to spare. Some spectators were so frustrated with the listless display that that they ran on to the pitch several times to express their displeasure. It had no effect on the very stoic Gavaskar. A year later, talking about the innings, Gavaskar in his autobiography Sunny Days wrote, “It was agony. Sometimes, I felt like moving away from the stumps, so that I would be bowled.” He didn't do that and India lost a match in humiliating circumstances.
India didn’t win a single match in this World Cup and had to return with their tails between their legs. Their most embarrassing loss came against Sri Lanka on June 18, 1979 at Manchester. Sri Lanka were minnows then, having qualified to play in the World Cup, unlike India, which was a full-fledged Test side with several stars in its team. Chasing 239 for a win, India were bundled out for 191. While India couldn’t believe this loss, this victory meant a great deal for Sri Lanka. The world, noticing this talented team, gave it the Test-playing nation status within two years.
1983: England And Wales
Kapil Dev with the 1983 World Cup trophy (Image courtesy Pushkarna Pramod)
You may have read about former Kapil Dev's unbeaten 175-run innings against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells, England, in the group stage, but you have never seen a video of it. Why? It so happens that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the official broadcaster, was on a strike on that day and there was nobody to record the match. India had to win the match to make it to the semi-final but, batting first, India was reduced to nine for four—when Kapil Dev, the captain of the team, walked into bat. Soon, it was 17 for five. The chances of India qualifying to the knockout stage seemed a distant dream. But Kapil had other ideas. He batted with the tail and scored a swashbuckling, unbeaten 175. India went on to win the match. The rest, as they say, is history: India defeated England in the semi-final and slayed the mighty Windies in the final to win the World Cup for the first time.
1987: India And Pakistan
The World Cup was being held outside the United Kingdom for the first time— and defending champions India as the host was a hot favourite. In its first match of the tournament, India was in a bit of a spot with Australia scoring at a fast pace. A shot by Dean Jones was declared a four by the umpire. Jones thought that it was a six and kept arguing with the umpire. (Remember that in those days there were no high-powered cameras to track the ball like they do it today). The Australian team insisted that it was a six even during the break after their innings. The umpires spoke to Indian captain Kapil Dev about it. Dev probably thought that the two extra runs didn’t matter. So four runs became six. Australia’s final score was 270. India were all out scoring 269 in 49.5 overs, thereby losing the match by just one run. The Chennai fans had witnessed a thriller, but their team had ended up on the losing side. Those two extra runs granted to Australia had come to haunt India.
1992: Australia and New Zealand
India and Pakistan cross paths for the first time in a World Cup. (Image courtesy Bhawan Singh)
This was the World Cup in which India and Pakistan came face-to-face for the first time, despite both teams participating in all the four World Cup tournaments before this. India faced Pakistan in a group match. A certain Sachin Tendulkar was playing his first World Cup and he was instrumental in winning the match for his team, scoring 54 runs while batting and taking one wicket while bowling. India scored 216 batting first, but Pakistan lost the match by 43 runs. Of course, that didn’t stop Pakistan from going on to win the World Cup under the leadership of their captain and now Prime Minister, Imran Khan!
1996: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were the joint hosts of this World Cup. A month prior to the tournament, a bomb blast in Colombo had teams like Australia and West Indies demanding a change of the venue, and they refused to travel to Sri Lanka to play their group matches citing security reasons. India and Pakistan stood with Sri Lanka. Ultimately, Australia and West Indies forfeited their matches that were to be played in the island nation. To show solidarity with Sri Lanka, both India and Pakistan sent their teams to Colombo and a combined team of India and Pakistan played an exhibition match against a full-fledged Sri Lanka team. The combined team of India and Pakistan had players like Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammad Azharuddin, Anil Kumble and Saeed Anwar, Wasim Akram and and Waqar Younis playing for one team, and they won the match. This was probably the first and last time India and Pakistan played together as a team. Sri Lanka went on to win the World Cup, defeating Australia in the final.
1999: England, Scotland, Ireland And Wales
The tournament didn’t begin well for India as it lost two matches back-to-back. First, it lost to a strong South Africa team, and the second was an embarrassing defeat against Zimbabwe. Sachin Tendulkar, the run-machine, was not part of the second match, as he had to fly to India after the news of his father Ramesh Tendulkar’s death. It was the most trying time for Sachin, but he decided to return to England and joined the team a day before its match against Kenya. India had to win this match to avoid an early exit. "After spending four days in India, I returned to England to rejoin the team on the eve of the match against Kenya. That, it seemed to me, was what my father would have wanted me to do,” Later, Sachin would write in his book, Chase Your Dreams: My Autobiography. He wore dark glasses during the practice sessions as he couldn’t hold back his tears. Sachin went on to score a blistering 140-run knock. Many spectators had tears in their eyes as Sachin looked up after scoring the hundred to thank his father. “Though I managed to score a hundred in the match—which remains one of my most cherished centuries, one I dedicated to my father—my mind was not always on the game,” he wrote in his autobiography.
2003: South Africa, Zimbabwe And Kenya
People will only tell you how great India played as a team in 2003 before it lost the final to Australia. But few remember how India had virtually lost hope after their outing in South Africa. In its very first match against the Netherlands, the much-vaunted batting order was bowled out for just 204. But luckily, the bowlers came to the rescue and bundled out the Netherlands for 138 runs. But it left the Indian public unimpressed. The next group match against Australia presented an even bigger shock. India was bowled out for a paltry 125 and the team lost the match by nine wickets. It was too much for the fans and even experts. Effigies of the players were burnt and many thought that the team would have an early exit. Criticizing the team, former captain Sunil Gavaskar called the performance “pathetic” and how it had "almost ruined” the team’s world cup chances. That was not to be. The team played like a dream after these initial setbacks and went on to reach the final—for the first time in 20 years. The team lost the final match to Australia but it had won the hearts of the same people who were criticizing it.
2007: West Indies
Australia, winners of the 2007 World Cup
With players like Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly in its ranks, India was touted as one of the strongest teams in the World Cup. But it was knocked out of the tournament in the first stage itself. The one match that still rankles in the hearts of many Indians to this day is the one against lowly-ranked Bangladesh. India, batting first, posted only 191 runs on the board in a match that was very important for India to win. India lost the match by five wickets and this would prove to be a massive blow for them. The loss was so shocking for the team that it didn’t recover from it and lost the next match too, to Sri Lanka. Their World Cup campaign came to an ignominious end.
It is possible that if you ask Tendulkar, Dravid, Sehwag and Dhoni about their lowest point in their careers, they will perhaps point to this match against Bangladesh. It’s no wonder that after winning a thriller against Bangladesh in 2016, Dhoni remembered that infamous loss in 2007 and said, “We still remember [the] 2007 loss. The reason being we were not able to qualify for the next stage in spite of playing good cricket… I think this victory does not ease [the] 2007 loss.” Some losses can haunt you forever.
2011: India, Sri Lanka And Bangladesh
If you are an Indian cricket fan, most probably, 2 April 2011 is possibly one of the happiest days of your life. It was on this day that M. S. Dhoni, with a massive six, sealed the World Cup for India. India played great cricket, but did you know that they had a secret weapon to win the tournament in the form of Mike Horn, a South Africa-born explorer and motivational speaker? Horn would inspire the team by narrating his own stories of adventure around the world and how the team has to function as a unit to succeed and how players have to enjoy each other's successes. His pep talks, spread over several months, had a great impact on the team. In fact, Tendulkar was so impressed with Horn that he named him in the post-match session after winning the World Cup. "I would like to thank the support staff especially Mike Horn who joined us at the start of the tournament and was there for our last couple of games. He worked on the mental side and has helped us deal with the expectations and pressure," said Tendulkar. In fact, Horn went on to inspire the German football team to win the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Kolkata Knight Riders to the IPL title the same year.
2015: Australia And New Zealand
No Sehwag, no Sachin Tendulkar, no Yuvraj Singh, no Harbhajan Singh, not even Gautam Gambhir. With these stalwarts missing in the Indian team and many greats also missing from Pakistan’s team, India’s first match of the 2015 World Cup was supposed to be a sedate affair with virtually no great pre-match build-up or controversy of any kind. But how could this be, when it involves India and Pakistan? So what if it involves somebody who is not related to cricket at all? Sporting apparel giant 'Nike' came up with the idea of its tennis brand ambassador Roger Federer holding India’s World Cup jersey (sponsored by Nike) and getting photographed. Pretty harmless, one would think. Not at all! While the Indian fans loved it and posted about it all over the social media, Pakistani fans took Federer to the cleaners, with many of them trolling him for showing "partiality" towards the Indian team. The tennis legend was unnerved. He issued an apology and was reported as saying, "It was more of a Nike thing to be quite honest ... I met some of the Indian players and I had just spent some time in India so they presented the shirt to me." That was enough to douse the fire and Federer probably was able to retain his Pakistani fans. Indian fans didn't care as India defeated Pakistan in the match rather easily.