It has been 20 years since the Cricket World Cup was last held in England, and it was a tournament most Indians would like to forget.
India came into the world cup in indifferent form, having lost to arch-rivals Pakistan in finals of triangular tournaments in India and in Sharjah. The team still boasted of some great names in Tendulkar, Ganguly, Azharuddin, Dravid, Kumble, Srinath, and the ODI specialists Ajay Jadeja and Robin Singh. However, it was a sorry tale during the tournament as they exited after Super 6 stage with 2 points to their name.
The tournament started on a losing note against South Africa, a game where India frittered away the advantage they once had when batting first. After 40 overs, India sat pretty on 190/1 but even with wickets in hand and 2 set batsmen in, the last 10 overs only produced 63 runs and India ended up at 253/5. In response, South Africa lost their openers early but a promoted Boucher changed the momentum of the game with a quickfire cameo, and then Jacques Kallis anchored the innings with a fine 96, setting up an easy victory.
After the game, Sachin Tendulkar unfortunately lost his father, and had to return to Mumbai. In his absence, India produced their worst game of the tournament, losing to Zimbabwe by 3 runs.
Bowling first after winning the toss, India produced a terrible bowling performance contributing 51 extras to Zimbabwe’s eventual total of 252. There were wides and no balls all over the place and an average fielding performance to back it up. In the chase, India lost their 3 star players, Ganguly, Dravid and Azhar quickly, but a 99 runs partnership between S Ramesh and Jadeja looked to have put India back on the track. Then, Ramesh tried to clear mid-on, and gave a catch to Goodwin off Grant Flower bowling. A late cameo from Robin Singh kept India in control but with 9 needed off 12 balls, Olonga bowled THAT over. Robin Singh, Srinath and Prasad all fell in that over, as India ended up short by 3 runs, a loss that proved to be decisive in their exit from the World Cup later on.
Sachin Tendulkar returned ahead of the next game against Kenya and produced a masterful 100 in a very emotional innings as India brushed Kenya aside for an easy win. Batting first, India put on 329/2 thanks to centuries from Tendulkar and Dravid, and then restricted Kenya to 235/7 with Mohanty picking 4 wickets.
In the next group game against Sri Lanka, India produced their best performance of the 1999 World Cup. Batting first in Taunton, India rode on a 318 run 2nd wicket partnership between Ganguly and Dravid to put 373 on the board. Ganguly went on to equal the highest score by an Indian batsman in the World Cup before being dismissed for 183. In response, Sri Lanka were never in the game and were dismissed for 216 with Robin Singh picking 5 wickets.
In their final must win group game, India faced England in a game that was played over 2 days due to rain. Batting first, India scored 232 with all the batsmen getting starts but none carrying through for a big score. England in response were 74/3 when rain interrupted and took the game to a reserve day. Indian seamers, aided by conditions and a couple of dodgy Umpiring calls, made short work of England on the 2nd day, bowling them out for 169 pushing them through to the Super Six stage. However, India entered the Super Six without any points as they had lost their games to the other 2 qualified sides from the group, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
In the Super Six stage, India needed to win every game to qualify for the semi-final, similar situation to their first opponent, Australia. A resurgent Australia was too strong for India as they put on 282 on the board while batting first, once again aided by plenty of extras from the Indian bowlers, 35 in this case. Indian chase was over in the first 7 overs itself as McGrath and Fleming ran through the top order to leave India at 17/4. A 141 runs partnership between Jadeja and Robin Singh delayed the inevitable but it was too big a task after the top order collapse as India folded for 205 effectively knocking them out of the tournament.
Even though India was out of the tournament, the next match carried great significance for the team. With Kargil conflict already underway back home, the game against Pakistan carried a little more edge than usual. Batting first, India scored 227/6 with half centuries from Dravid and Azhar, and useful contribution from Tendulkar as well. Pakistan’s innings in response never really got going as they kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Inzamam and Moin threatened a bit of a fightback but it wasn’t enough as Pakistan was bowled out for 180, with Venkatesh Prasad picking 5 wickets.
With nothing to play for, India faced New Zealand in their last game with New Zealand needing the win to get through to the semi-final. Batting first, India ended up with 251/6 with Jadeja once again among runs with a half century. It turned out to be an easy chase for New Zealand though with Roger Twose and Matt Horne setting up the chase before Adam Parore applied the finishing touches.
Apart from the Ganguly-Dravid partnership against Sri Lanka and the win over arch-rival Pakistan, there was little joy in this tournament for India as they returned home before the knockout stages. India will be hoping to do a whole lot better this time around in the same country.
Indian Squad in 1999: Mohammad Azharuddin (C), Sourav Ganguly, Ajay Jadeja, S Ramesh, Rahul Dravid, Robin Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Anil Kumble, Nayan Mongia (wicket keeper), Sachin Tendulkar, Venkatesh Prasad, Nikhil Chopra, Debasis Mohanty, Javagal Srinath, Amay Khurasiya.