The Indian team, a much-hyped up outfit back home, now became the subject
of ridicule and abuse. The homes of skipper Sourav Ganguly and Md Kaif
were attacked, mock funeral processions were taken out and effigies of
Ganguly and Tendulkar were burnt. The mass hysteria was typically
Indian given the almost religious following the game has in the country
but it also sent out a clear message to the players who in the next
match got their act together.
An emphatic 83-run victory over Zimbabwe
got the campaign back on track and from here on the Indians could do
little wrong. They coasted to a 181-run victory over Namibia with
Tendulkar (152) and Ganguly (112 not out) figuring in a second wicket
partnership of 244 runs. India posted a total of 311 for two in 50
overs before bowling out their hapless opponents for 130. Their
confidence fully restored India notched up a surprisingly comfortable
82-run victory over England. The batsmen did well in running up a total
of 250 for nine in 50 overs but the star was Ashish Nehra. The left arm
seamer ripped through the England batting taking six for 23 and England
were shot out for 168 in 45.3 overs.
Next up was Pakistan and it was predictably enough the most feverishly
talked up match of the tournament. It was also the first clash between
the arch rivals since June 2000 and the TV audience around the world
was estimated to be a billion.
The stadium at Centurion was crammed and
the match lived up to all the hype. Saeed Anwar scored 101 as Pakistan
put up a challenging total of 273 for seven in 50 overs. India’s reply
was spectacular. Tendulkar treated the testosterone-propelled pace
attack that included Wasim Akram,Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar with
contempt hitting a memorable 98 off 75 balls. By the 12th over India
had reached 100 and the victory thereafter was never in doubt. India’s
fourth successive victory over Pakistan in the World Cup was achieved
with six wickets and 4.2 overs to spare with the finishing touches
being provided by Rahul Dravid (44) and Yuvraj Singh (50) and their
unbroken fifth wicket partnership of 99 runs. With a record of five
wins and a loss India were second behind Australia and made it to the
Super Six in style.
Continuing their unstoppable run, India had things their own way in the
Super Six defeating Kenya (by six wickets), Sri Lanka (by 183 runs) and
New Zealand (by seven wickets). They had won seven consecutive matches,
the batsmen and bowlers were eminently successful and their path to the
title clash was virtually assured when it was known that the semifinal
opponents would be Kenya. The non Test playing nation had done
remarkably well in making it this far but India were too strong winning
by 91 runs. Ganguly emulated Mark Waugh’s 1996 feat of scoring three
centuries in a single World Cup competition (he had scored his second
against the same opponents in the Super Six) and against expectations
India were clashing with Australia for the title.
It was a commendable showing after their indifferent start but they
never really stood a chance against the awesome might of the holders.
Put in to bat Australia rattled up 359 for two in 50 overs with skipper
Ricky Ponting getting a masterly unbeaten 140 off 121 balls and sharing
an unbroken 234-run stand for the third wicket with Damien Martyn (88).
Srinath conceded 87 runs in his ten overs the most in a World Cup final
and all that the Indians could do thereafter was to try and narrow down
the margin of defeat as much as possible. They were finally dismissed
for 234 in 39.2 overs with Virender Sehwag providing the crumb of
comfort hitting a typically swashbuckling 82 off 81 balls.
The Indians again provided some of the best performances in the
tournament. Tendulkar finished with 673 runs, a World Cup record, and was
adjudged man of the tournament. Ganguly (465) and Dravid (318) too were
among the runs. Zaheer Khan (18), Srinath (16) and Nehra (15) were
among the prominent wicket takers while Nehra’s six for 23 was the
third best figures in the tournament.