Sunday, July 17, 2011


This is an interesting thought that came to my mind when I was reading the Times of India article about the Raina / Yuvraj / No. 6 slot debate. There was this line in that article which said - "Lord's was the venue of India's greatest triumph outside World Cup when it chased down a target of 326 set by England in the 2002 Natwest Trophy and in which Yuvraj had played a critical knock of 69 runs."

While Lord's 2002 was undoubtedly a great win - one of the most memorable ever - but was it India's best ODI triumph outside of the World Cup? Immediately, two other triumphs come to my mind - the 1985 Benson and Hedges World Championship Finals against Pakistan at MCG, and the more recent 2008 Commonwealth Bank Series win over Australia.

If ever a vote is taken on this debate, I am sure that these 3 wins will pile up the maximum hits. Each one has something special about it...

Which was the greatest of them all?
1985 - I was not born back then, so wouldn't really be able to put describe much about the feelings and emotions of that occasion. But one look at the facts - a win over Pakistan in the finals, an unbeaten run in the tournament, a chance to show that the World Cup win in 1983 was not a flash in the pan, and the surroundings of the MCG - that win has to be special! A fine moment for Sunil Gavaskar as the captain, top-3 run-scorers were Indians, top-3 wicket takers were Indians, Ravi Shastri had a dream tournament and won an Audi for his efforts. The flowing champagne and the Audi ride after the win are some of the lasting images from that win. One reading of this Ravi Shastri interview leaves you in no doubt about the importance of that World Championship of Cricket triumph! In many ways, that win did just as much as the World Cup triumph of 1983 to redefine the status of cricket in India, and in effect, the status of India in the world of cricket!

2002 - A shirtless Sourav Ganguly on the Lord's balcony in a show of brilliant passion is the lasting image from this triumph. Two youngsters on the scene - Mohammed Kaif and Yuvraj Singh - scripted an unbelievable win when all hope seemed lost. Kaif came in to join Yuvraj at the fall of the big wicket of Sachin Tendulkar and India at 146-5. In a previous era, the fall of Sachin would have been game over for India... but these two young men changed that era right there. That match had passion all right - English captain Nasser Hussain's gestures to the media box on reaching his hundred, Sourav Ganguly's aggression at the start of the Indian innings, his disappointment when he got out, and then the final shirt-waving before pinning Kaif to the ground with his hug! That win changed Indian cricket to an extent that is still being defined, and laid the first slab in the creation of the legend of Sourav Ganguly!

2008 - A young captain, a young team, coming to an end of a bitter tour of Australia, history against them, and what do they do? The Indian team beats Australia in the first 2 finals at SCG and Gabba to win their first ever triangular tournament in Australia. During commentary in the 1st final, when India was closing on to a comfortable win thanks to a Sachin Tendulkar century, Ian Chappell suggested that while Brisbane might favour Australia, the Indians might fancy their chances in Adelaide - the venue of the 3rd final, if needed! How unlike Ian Chappell (or any Australian, for that matter) to even think of losing a match! India certainly did not think that way, and with Sachin Tendulkar scoring over 200 runs in the 2 finals, and some good bowling by a young Praveen Kumar, India sealed a memorable win. The passionate celebration, not only after the win but even on the fall of key wickets of Hayden (the obnoxious weed episode) and Symonds (the monkey-gate saga), in the 2nd final, tell you just how important that win was. It gave a young team of MS Dhoni the confidence to walk ahead and carve its own identity... a win that might well have eventually led to the World Cup triumph of 2011!

I'm not sure which one would I vote as the greatest ODI triumph for India outside of the World Cups of 1983 and 2011. There are other triumphs like the 1998 Sharjah win, 5 Asia Cup wins and 1993 Hero Cup, but these do not have the same feel to them as the wins of 1985, 2002 and 2008. What do you think?


Unknown said...

for me it is natwest 2002....i remember following that match on radio....

i have heard about 1985 from my father who is an avid cricket watcher....i was 4 year old at that time...:D

2008.....i was out of touch with cricket during this time...although i checked cricinfo during test series...

also the debut match of yuvi in icc knockout nairobi vs Australia....i think zaheer also debuted in that match....tats one of my favorite.... although eventual tournament winners were kiwis powered by the old Chris (cairns and harris) but still.......

Unknown said...

Hi Deekay!

From a discussion that I had on Twitter with a lot of others, I gather that the 1985 WCC win gets the maximum votes. For many, that win was as big as the World Cup itself, given that the tournament was played between 7 Test nations of that time and India were unbeaten through it.

There were other wins like the Titan Cup win, Hero Cup win, Coca Cola Cup (Desert Storm Triangular) win, et al thrown in too. But I'm still very confused about which one is the greatest for me!

Govind Raj said...

Not because I was 15 at that time, not because I knew the white ball from the red one and not because it was a 7 nation event. 1985 was great because of several factors...

1] India went there after a demoralizing 2-1 Test series defeat against a second string English team.

2] Gavaskar - Kapil fued was at its worst before the event began, but Sunny declared before the event began that he would relinquish Captaincy after the event. He refused to meet the Indian media throughout the event and met them only after winning

3] Almost all teams were at their available full strength at that time.

4] India was a fabulous mix of experience and youth with S. Vishwanath and L. Siva being rather sensational.

5] The Semi-final win against Kiwis was a miracle by the standards of those days. It was one of the best ODI batting shows by Vengsarkar and Kapil.

6] India bowled out every opponent till the final and missed by one wicket in the final [49 / 50 wickets]

7] Fielding was the best in history.

8] Shastri - Srikkanth pair complemented each other beautifully

9] Binny, Madan Lal, Mohindar, Shastri, L. Siva and Kapil Dev made it a 6 pronged bowling attack with everyone good for 10 overs throughout

10] India beat a full strength Pakistan twice on the way to title.

11] The humbling of Australia was one of the finest shows of swing bowling I have seen.

For me, it ranks 'Third' now after the 2 World cups !

Unknown said...

I have heard a lot about the '85 win from people who saw it or heard it happen. I did not get that privilege but it does sound to me as the greatest win outside of the World Cups.

All the three wins that I have mentioned in the post have had their after-effects. But there is no doubt that it was the combined effect of '83 and '85 that made cricket in India what it is here in '11.

Well written Govind... I cannot imagine the passion of the Indian cricket fan of 1985!