They then stayed in with an outside chance by defeating Zimbabwe by 55 runs. The highlight was a brilliant 81 off 77 balls with eight fours and a six by Sachin Tendulkar then still a month short of his 19th birthday.
But their slim hopes faded, when in the next match they lost to the West Indies by five wickets. On an easy-paced pitch, India were cruising along at 166 for three with Azharuddin scoring 61 off 85 balls. But the last seven wickets fell for 31 runs and West Indies coasted to victory.
India then ran into the in-form team in the tournament, New Zealand. They posted a competitive total of 230 for six in 50 overs thanks in the main to a stroke-filled 84 off 105 balls by Tendulkar, while Azharuddin chipped in with a valuable 55. But New Zealand with Mark Greatbach (73) and Andrew Jones (67 not out) in fine form were home with four wickets and 2.5 overs to spare.
South Africa then rubbed salt into India’s wounds defeating them by six wickets in their final encounter. Azharuddin carried on his splendid form hitting 79 off 77 balls and he and Kapil Dev (42) added 71 for the fourth wicket in eight overs. But India could get only 180 for six in 30 overs in a rain-affected match and South Africa with openers Andrew Hudson (53) and Peter Kirsten (84) putting on 128 runs comfortably won by six wickets with five balls to spare. With an unenviable record of two wins, five defeats and one no result, India finished with only five points, ahead of just Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in the final table. It was their most disappointing campaign since 1979. Perhaps good fortune did not smile on the Indians at the start, but to be candid they did not perform in a manner, which made it seem that they deserved it.
A look at the final averages will clearly indicate why India failed. Too much depended on too few. In batting, Azharuddin (332 runs with four half centuries) and Tendulkar (283 runs with three half centuries) were way ahead of the rest of the field. Kris Srikkanth expected to be one of the trump cards scored just 117 runs at an average of 16.71. In bowling too, Manoj Prabhakar (12 wickets), Kapil Dev (9) and Javagal Srinath (8) strove manfully, but they received inadequate support.