Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Cricket’s underdog nations have set the tone in the ongoing T20 World Cup in Australia with one sensational upset after another. But as much as the Zimbabweans, Namibians, Scots and Irish held their nerve in certain nail-biters and showed tremendous courage under fire in others, it is the 20-over format that has to be thanked for being the greatest leveler.

For, the 120-ball-a-side game is just the right length to allow the stragglers to hang on with the frontrunners. It is also short enough for it to facilitate a contest between the top and the bottom. 

Under these circumstances, India should take the giant-slayers Zimbabwe lightly at their own peril. With semifinal berth at stake (though things seem to have changed after Netherland beat South Africa on Sunday) and the Men in Blue already surviving scares against Pakistan and Bangladesh, India must be aware of the tough challenge from Zimbabwean side. Zimbabwe has already pulled off one of the greatest upsets in T20 World Cup history by beating Pakistan.

By going down the memory lane, the minnows once showed the door of World Cup exit to mighty Indians in 1999 World Cup in England.

The tournament started on a losing note against the Proteas, a game where the Men in Blue frittered away the advantage they once had when batting first.
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 three 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 three 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 nine needed off 12 balls, Olonga bowled a crucial over. Robin Singh, Srinath and Prasad all fell in that over, as India ended up short by just three runs. The defeat was decisive in their exit from the World Cup later on.

The Men in Blue must be wary of the threat that Zimbabwe pose ahead of their last and all-important Super-12 clash in Melbourne today.