Hey Team India,
It has been 14 years since that day happened to us. In the meantime, we have won a legitimate World Cup and also the first edition of the T20 World Cup, but realistically a lot of us will believe that this game had a lot to do to acquire the eventual trophies.
I was a 10-year-old kid back then, and Cricket happened to be an euphoria even if you didn’t fall in love with the game. I remember, the streets were empty that day, hours before the match began. There was a strange piece of enthusiasm amongst the juveniles and the elderly after India had gone on to taste the first World Cup final in 20 years. People were gleeful whenever they got past the advertisement depicting the Indians as in what they used to do 20 years back promulgating the quote, “Bees Saal Baad” because post 1983 World Cup till 1993, India played 75 Tests (won 14, lost 19, drawn 41, one tie) and after 1993, they had played 80 (won 25 lost 26, drawn 29). In other words, India’s success rate had improved only marginally (by 2.71 per cent) despite the financial boom that caught many eyes.
The old problems still remained same. Like docile pitches, dismal away records (no Test series win outside subcontinent since 1986), selectorial whims and ‘honorary’ administrators, and also like the match-fixing saga in 2000 that changed the face of Indian Cricketing history at that time. India had come a long way in those years integrating batsmen like Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly and bowlers in Srinath, Kumble and Zaheer.
When Sourav won the toss and elected to field, many wondered that something big was actually going to happen that evening. But, within hours, people realized how stupid it was for the Indians to win the toss and opt to bowl in that World Cup final. The match was unambiguously won in the first innings itself as Ponting and Martyn capitalized on the start by the ever happening opening partners Hayden and Gilchrist.
We were ridiculed.
I remember that I skipped dinner that night as I couldn’t swallow the emotion and the trajectory of sadness, leave aside solid food. I remember I cried because we had just lost the best thing that could have happened to Indian cricket, but then growing up the cricket coaches around me made me realize that it was not that bad that I had imagined. Being a fan of Tendulkar, an admirer of Ganguly and an worshipper of Dravid I realized how sad they might have been for the loss while trying to capture the bigger image.
Soon found out some haunting stats that actually made me elated in the long run. India produced 5 times the number of cricketers surrounding the local clubs as the finances swooped right in, as becoming a cricketer became a choice for many as money swum right across the path.
Well, maybe Indian cricket is in safe hands. What Brazil is to Football, India is to cricket. Please don’t destroy the legacy of Indian cricket as it has got a really rich one.
However, it is just a beginning. Competently, we can be sure that the love and passion will never end.
A Young Cricket fan who has seen both the fall and rise of Indian Cricket.
Share your 2003 World Cup memories in the comments below!