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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Memories of Cricket World Cups [Part-2]: History, Players' Performances in Wills Cup 1996, ICC Cups 1999, 2003 and 2007

Sri Lanka's R Kaluwitharana in full flow in 1996

By the advent of mid-90s, almost the entire generation of players that had set the cricket stadia alight in the 70s and 80s had left the scene.

Not just all-rounders of the calibre of Richard Hadlee, Imran, Ian Botham and Kapil Dev but batsmen like Viv Richards who had left a deep impact on the game, had walked out of the cricket field. But new players were ready to take the mantle.

The brilliance of Brian Lara, Sanchin Tendulkar, Shane Warne and M Muralitharan, who appeared on the scene, was now scene in cricketing arena.

It was also the era of a host of colourful-yet-talented players including Shahid Afridi, Andrew Flintoff, Chris Cairns, Michael Bevan and, of course, South African batsman [all-rounder] Jacques Kallis. All of them left a deep impact on the game.

Down Memory Lane: World Cup 1996

The Wills World Cup was again jointly hosted by India and Pakistan. The Greatbatch formula was even more successfully implemented by Sri Lankan opening pair--Romesh Kaluvitharana and Sanath Jayasuriya, whose batting exploits changed the manner in which One Day cricket matches were played.

In three matches, the duo hit 115-130 in the first 15 overs itself. Against India, the pair reached 117 while against England they reached 121. Kenya bowlers suffered similar fate. This frustrated the opposition teams as their captains and players were too shocked with this sort of treatment.

Against Kenya, Sri Lanka scored 398-5. Pakistan couldn't reach semi-final as they lost to India in quarter-final. Despite a brilliant start by Aamer Sohail and Saeed Anwar, they lost steam and couldn't chase Indian total of 287 and got out of 248.

In the first semi final, India batted badly and was 120-8 when spectators got angry and threw bottles in the field. Ultimately the match was awarded to Sri Lanka. A resurgent West Indies made it to semi-final but lost to Australia.

In the final, Arjuna Ranatunga led Sri Lanka to their first world cup victory. Arvinda de Silva hit a century and bowled brilliantly to help Lanka win the match. Kalu's careless stroke play along with Jayasuriya's superb batting was the main reason for their victory.

Though Kalu faded soon after, Jayasuriya went on to become one of the greats of the game. However, their heroics in the Wills World Cup are still remembered as they changed the complexion of one day international cricket.

ICC World Cup 1999

It was after a long gap that the World Cup returned to England. The matches were held in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Netherland [Holland].

Once again it was Australia that won the World Cup cup. The team that had explosive batsmen of the calibre of Michael Bewan and Adam Gilchrist, along side Waugh brothers--Steve and Mark, was easily the favourite.

The bowling attack was led by Glenn McGrath who was in his prime apart from the spin wizard Shane Warne who could flummox any batsman in the world on his day. They beat Pakistan in a low-scoring and almost one sided match in the final.

Earlier, the semi-final between Australia and South Africa had ended in a tie after breathtaking moments. But on the basis of superior run rate, the Aussies reached the final where they beat Pakistan with ease. Indian fans had the consolation that they had beaten their arch-rival Pakistan in super six by 47 runs.

ICC World Cup 2003

The eighth world cup was played in African continent—South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe. India, Australia, Kenya and Sri Lanka had made it to the final four.

In the semi-final stages, India and Australia won their matches. Ponting led from the front with a superb unbeaten century (140 not out) in the final and despite Sehwag’s 82, India fell short of the huge target (359).

Sourav Ganguly’s decision to let Australia bat after winning the toss was criticized. But the reality was that Aussies outplayed India in the match. Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee tore through Indian batting lineup. And Pointing again lifted the cup.

ICC World Cup 2007

The ODI format had already attained peak in terms of audiences' attention and popularity. Australia however emerged as the leading team in late 90s and at the turn of millennium, as players like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist gave it an edge over other teams.

In the early part of the first decade of 21st century, there was already fatigue visible among players and spectators. Even One Day matches appeared predictable.

Soon the Twenty20 format emerged and captured the imagination of the cricket boards. [It was the same year when T20 World Cup was also held which was won by India under Mahendra Singh Dhoni's captaincy.]

But in 2007, the ICC Cricket World Cup reached the Caribbean countries who hosted the ninth World Cup. Sixteen teams participated and played in four separate groups in the league matches.

India was beaten by Bangladesh in their first match. Though India scored a record 413 against Bermuda in their next match, the team couldn’t get into Super eight. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka qualified from the group.

The host, West Indies, couldn’t reach the semis. Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and New Zealand played in semi-finals. In the first semi-final Sri Lanka beat New Zealand as Muralitharan’s spin bowling flummoxed the New Zealand batsmen.

In the other match, Michael Clark’s 160 not out made way for Aussies to enter the final. In the 38-over each final, Gilchrist and Hayden hit 172 runs in just 23 overs.

Gilchrist’s 148 set the stage for Australia’s victory. They scored 281. Sangakkara and Jayasuriya tried their best but lost by 53 runs as Australia made history by winning the cup thrice in a row. Now the World Cup Tournament is back in the Indian sub-continent.

With batsmen like Tendulkar, Sehwag, Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan, India is fancying its chances. Pakistan also has some extremely talented players including the unpredictable Shahid Afridi who can change the course of any match.

About the chances of other teams I have already written in a post. Who is going to win the world cup? We just need to wait till April 2. This was the third post in the series as cricket fever is all set to grip India. See the earlier posts:

*Read the post on History of Cricket World Cups and records from 1975-1992 at this LINK.

*Read the post on ICC Cricket, World Cup 2011, timetable of matches, schedule and chances of different countries including India at this LINK.