Between the 1983 and the 2011 world cup, the 2003 World Cup was the one which made people believe in India’s caliber to perform well in big tournaments. Barring the loss against Australia, India had a pretty decent World Cup which was played in South Africa.
India, led by Sourav Ganguly, lost only two out of their 11 matches. Coincidentally, both losses came against Australia, the eventual champions. Apart from skipper Sourav, the team boasted the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, and Yuvraj Singh. The bowling department was led by Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath.
After beating the Netherlands in their first encounter, India suffered a defeat against Australia after getting bundled out for 125. In the second innings, Australia completed the formalities in 22 overs to inflict a humiliating defeat to India.
India notched up an easy win against Zimbabwe, England and minnows Namibia. In all three matches, India shone both with the bat as well as with the ball. Both Sachin (152) and Ganguly (112) notched up centuries against Namibia. Ashish Nehra stood out with the ball with his sheer accuracy and impeccable lengths against England. The left-arm seamer picked up six wickets for 23 runs in his 10 overs to come up with one of the best bowling performances.
Then came the much-anticipated clash vs Pakistan in Centurion. Pakistan made full use of the conditions by scoring 270 runs which was considered a par score at Johannesburg; and with the likes Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis in the bowling lineup, batting wasn’t going to be easy for India. But they did the opposite by hammering their fast bowlers, courtesy Sachin Tendulkar who showed a batting masterclass by playing scintillating shots all around the ground. Tendulkar’s 98 was termed by cricket experts an innings for the ages.
After qualifying for the super sixes in the World Cup, It was the bowlers who played a major role in India’s win against Kenya, Sri Lanka and New Zealand which enabled India to book their place in the semi finals of the World Cup 2003.
It was India’s fourth appearance in the Semi-Finals of the World Cup. After opting to bat first, Tendulkar and Ganguly provided the perfect foundation for India to post a big total. Ganguly’s 111 and Tendulkar’s 83 ensured India post a competitive total of 270 runs on the board.
In reply, Indian bowlers made life difficult for the Kenya batsman as they were bundled out for 179 runs which ensured India reach the finals of CWC 2003.
In the final, after winning the toss, things were going according to the plan for India. After the first over went for 15 runs, Australia constantly put Indian bowlers onto the mat by playing aggressive cricket. Ponting’s 140 and Damien Martyn’s crucial contribution of 88 runs ensured Australia post a mammoth target of 359 runs. In reply, India never really started off well as they lost wickets and were unable to stitch partnerships. In the end, Australia won the match by 125 runs to win their 3rd World Cup.
3 Things why India’s lost the match in the final
Poor decision to bowl first in the final: Opting to bowl first in the final was the main reason for India’s defeat. The wicket was flat and batsmen were not facing any problems. No lateral movement in the pitch made the bowlers try different strategies.
Lack of game time for India’s middle order: The CWC 2003 belonged to Sachin Tendulkar as he accumulated 673 runs and he took India to the final single-handed. But it meant that the other players were not getting enough opportunities to prove their worth in the World Cup.
Omission of Anil Kumble in the final: The sudden removal of experienced leg spinner Anil Kumble in the final raised a few eyebrows as he could have extracted the pressure with his skills and would have given control in the mid overs in the final which India lost.