INDIA’S WORLD CUP JOURNEY
Updated: Oct 20
Come 5 October 2023, and the entire cricketing world will be rivetted on the action that will unfold in the ICC Cricket World Cup in India. Will England retain the title that it won in a thriller of a final in 2019? Will Australia win the title a sixth time? What will happen in the much-awaited ‘India vs Pakistan’ battle? Will India defeat Pakistan for the eighth time in eight fifty-over World Cup matches? Will Rohit Sharma, the captain of India, lift the trophy on 19 November? What sets the upcoming World Cup apart from its predecessors is that it will be the first to be hosted exclusively by India, the hub and headquarters of the sport, in terms of success, popularity, glamour and of course, revenue. India has come a long way since that unforgettable day in June 1983 when Kapil’s Devils stunned the West Indies to win the title for the first time. The closest India came to repeating the achievement was in 2003, when Sourav Ganguly’s team made it to the final. History was created eight years later when Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s dashers beat Sri Lanka in the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011.
1983, 2003 and 2011 were the high points of what has been an eventful journey for Team India in the World Cup. The team failed to impress in the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979 respectively, crashing out at the league stage on both occasions. This was why nothing was expected from the team in 1983, but then, the Indian team proved in that tournament that cricket was a game of glorious uncertainties. It would be wrong to attribute India’s victory in the 1983 World Cup to mere luck. The fact was that the team, led by the incomparable Kapil Dev Nikhanj, was consistent right through the tournament. The captain led from the front. Among the standout performers were Mohinder Amarnath, who won the individual award in the semi-final and final, and Roger Binny, who was the highest wicket-taker in the tournament.
The victory emboldened the BCCI to team up with its Pakistani counterpart and bid for the hosting rights of the 1987 World Cup. Both the co-hosts reached the semi-finals, only to lose. The 1992 edition, which was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, was forgettable for India, with only two wins in eight league games. The tournament returned to the subcontinent in 1996, with Sri Lanka joining India and Pakistan, the 1992 winners, as co-hosts. India played excellent cricket in the league stage and the quarterfinal against Pakistan, before capitulating against Sri Lanka in the semi-final. Sachin Tendulkar, who was playing in his second World Cup, was the highest run-scorer with an aggregate of 523, but he was overshadowed by Aravinda De Silva and Sanath Jayasuriya, whose heroics with the bat enabled Sri Lanka to clinch their maiden World Cup title.
A lot was expected from the Indian team in the 1999 World Cup, considering that the tournament was being played in England, where India had won in 1983. However, the team failed to translate potential into performance and did not qualify for the semi-finals. This was followed by a dream run in 2003, which was ended by the Australians in the World Cup final. Sachin Tendulkar was the highest run scorer in a World Cup for the second time, but he would have gladly traded all those runs for the title itself.
The disastrous first-round exit from the 2007 World Cup threatened to derail Indian cricket, but the professionalism of the cricketers and officials got them back on track. It would not be wrong to say that India started planning for the 2011 World Cup, three full years in advance. That tournament was played in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. A bunch of youngsters was blooded at the expense of some senior players. It was appropriate that the winning runs in the final were scored by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who led by example. Yuvraj Singh, who was outstanding with bat and ball, was declared the Player of the Tournament.
Team India lived up to its billing in the 2015 and 2019 editions of the World Cup, till it reached the semi-finals. The defeats against Australia and New Zealand in 2015 and 2019 respectively were disappointing. An individual who was heartbroken after the 2019 semi-final defeat was Rohit Sharma, who had scored five centuries in the tournament. He had not got over his omission from the 2011 World Cup squad and was eager to make a mark in cricket’s ultimate event.
Four years later, he has another chance to do so, that too as the captain of India. He will have under him, a talented and balanced side. Youngsters like Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishen are complemented by the likes of Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah, to name just two senior players. The Indian team also comprises a certain Virat Kohli, who knows what it feels like to win a World Cup. He will go flat out to experience that high all over again. He will have no dearth of support of course, from his teammates as well as millions of adoring fans.
Let us hope and pray that Team India triumphs for the third time!