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1992 – Azhar shines, but India come a cropper
Partab Ramchand

Having blown their chance of retaining the trophy in 1987, India’s chances of regaining it in 1992, when the tournament was jointly conducted by Australia and New Zealand, were never rated very high. The return of South Africa meant that nine nations were now in the fray and the format was changed to a league stage where each of the teams played one another with the top four qualifying for the semi-finals.

With some luck, it was thought that India could just about make the semi-finals. But fortune did not smile on the Indians. In their very first game, they faltered at the doorstep of victory losing to England by nine runs. Then rain interfered seriously in their game against Sri Lanka with India strongly favoured to take full points. Only two deliveries were bowled and the no result meant that two points were shared.

In their next match India lost to Australia by the narrowest possible margin. Australia led off with 237 for nine in 50 overs and then a short rain interruption slightly altered India’s target to 236 in 47 overs. Skipper Mohammad Azharuddin led the run chase with a splendid 93 off 103 balls with ten fours and Sanjay Manjrekar chipped in with 47 off 42 balls with three fours and a six. When the last over started, India needed 13 runs for victory, but they had three wickets in hand. They got 11 runs but lost all three wickets with Venkatpathy Raju run out off the final ball while going for the run that would level the scores.

With just one point from three matches, Indian were in need of a miracle to qualify for the semi-final and they started the long hard road back into the reckoning with a 43-run victory over Pakistan – the first of four successive victories at the World Cup that they would notch up over their arch-rivals. It was a creditable feat, for replying to India’s 216 for seven in 49 overs, Pakistan were 127 for three in the 34th over. But the last seven wickets fell for 46 runs and India were still in the hunt. Read moreread more

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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.

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