March 23, down the road.

27 Mar 2011 by Vinay Anand in News

This is a day Indian fans would not wish to remember. In 1994, Kapil Dev played his last international match, and in 2003, India were thumped by Australia in the World Cup final in Johannesburg.

Kapil Dev won the World Cup in 1983 as India captain , the same being the only instance. He turned out for his last Test match in Hamilton. He finished the Test with just 2 wickets to his name, but had the world record of 434 Test wickets until Courtney Walsh broke it a few years later. He also was a part of the ‘elite’ club as he hit 5248 runs in his 131-Test career. Although Stephen Fleming, one of New Zealand’s all-time best skipper, made his Test debut in this game and scored 92, it was an emotional farewell for Kapil, who would still be remembered as one of the greatest cricketers India has ever produced.

This day, ’03 would have hurt more than 1994, as Sourav Ganguly had a golden opportunity to become only the second captain after Kapil to lift a World Cup. But India ran into a steam engine, an in-form Australian unit in the final.

Ganguly though seemed to have lost the plot at the toss itself, when he astonishingly decided to put Australia into bat on a flat Johannesburg pitch which was a little moist, due to overnight rain. A brave decision had boomeranged big time. Zaheer Khan, the then-young fast bowler bowled a shambolic first over, giving 15 runs and the game was going in Australia’s favour.

A good start by openers Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist set the platform for one of the best ODI innings played ever in cricketing history, let alone World Cups. And that came off the bat of Ganguly’s counterpart, Ricky Ponting who scored 140 runs off 121 balls. He played with such audacity that no Indian bowler was spared off this blitzkrieg. But one cannot forget the contribution of Damien Martyn who hit 88 runs of 84 runs, ably supporting Ponting, despite having a broken finger.

India’s fate was sealed by the end of 50 overs as Australia scored 359/2, the highest total in a World Cup final. Sachin Tendulkar, the highest run-getter of the competition gave India a lot to cheer about with the first boundary he hit, but the next ball he was tamely dismissed by Glenn McGrath. Wickets kept falling at one end despite Virender Sehwag putting up a brave fight, scoring 82 runs off 81 balls. The target was always out of reach for India and a rain break in between did not help much. India crashed out for 234, giving Australia a comprehensive 125-run victory and the World Cup title for the second consecutive time since 1999. Ponting led his men to world domination, just a year after taking over as ODI captain. And this enhanced Australia’s power to become ‘world-beaters’.

Also, today is the birthday of former England captain Michael Atherton who would be duly remembered for his famous tussle with Allan Donald in 1995-96 in South Africa, and his steadfastness with the bat in that series. ‘Athers’ as he fondly referred as, is currently on the commentary team with Sky Sports. And today is also the 9th death anniversary of Ben Hollioake, the English cricketer who expired due to a car accident in Perth, which left a deep impact on the entire team as he was one of the loved and popular members of the team.

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