Friday, April 25, 2014

The Cricket World Cup - Classic Matches…..1 : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh


Pakistan v West Indies  Edgbaston, Birmingham, 
11 June 1975

This was the quintessential One-day match, the kind its founding fathers would have envisaged. Fortunes fluctuated wildly, and with just three deliveries remaining the outcome hung in the balance. The favourites were on the ropes, with the challengers poised for a long time, trying to deliver the knockout punch. This match has gone into the annals as one of the most exciting.

Pakistan elected to bat and steadily built up a formidable score. The innate lazy elegance of Majid Khan, deputising for skipper Asif Iqbal, was in full evidence as he played a strokeful knock of 60. Mushtaq Mohammed drew on all his experience, and later Wasim Raja played some belligerent shots, both hitting up half-centuries.

The talented Pakistanis set a challenging target of 267 in 60 overs for the fancied West Indies. This was just the spur for the temperamental giant Safraz Nawaz to put pressure on the West Indies. In a devastating burst he demolished the top order. Gordon Greenidge and Alvin Kallicharran were caught behind and Roy Fredericks was trapped in front of the stumps. Sarfraz had taken three for 8 in 3.4 overs. Veteran Rohan Kanhai helped his captain Clive Lloyd stage a minor recovery.

Then began a regular procession. At 166 for eight, with only wicketkeeper Deryck Murray and two tail-end pacemen left, an upset win for Pakistan seemed a certainty. The West Indies had long been rated as a team of brilliant players but often incapable of applying themselves under pressure. On this occasion Deryck Murray dug in his heels. He found an able ally in Vanburn Holder. They put on 37 runs for the ninth wicket. But just when the partnership was assuming ominous proportions, the wily Sarfraz returned to have Holder snapped up. At 203 for nine, surely it was all over bar the shouting. The sight of the phlegmatic Andy Roberts emerging from the pavilion could not have inspired much confidence among the Caribbean supporters.

Amazingly, the West Indies were not ready to call it a day. Run-by-run they inched towards their target. As they survived over-after-agonising-over, a tiny ray of hope began to emerge. For the Pakistanis it became increasingly frustrating, and as the crucial final overs approached, the alarm bells were ringing loudly. Murray and Roberts displayed admirable composure as they steadily chipped away. Leg-spinner Wasim Raja came on to bowl the final over in a desperate bid to coerce last man Roberts to miscue. The fast bowler was in no mood to fall into the trap with the goal so close at hand. He pushed the fourth ball to mid-wicket to pull off a sensational win for the West Indies.

A one-wicket victory with two balls to spare, and that as a result of an unbroken last-wicket stand of 64; it was not a match for the faint-hearted. Former England captain Tony Lewis wrote: "It was a superb triumph for the game of cricket which manages many things which politicians envy." As for the heroes, take your pick : Murray, Sarfraz or Roberts.

Pakistan         : 266 for 7 wickets (60 overs)
West Indies    : 267 for 9 wickets (59.4 overs)

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567

Available in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My few days in Vadia Palace, by Dhiru Mistry. Tribute to Maharajkumar Indrajitsinhji (Indrajeet Singhji) of Rajpipla

I received a letter from Sureshwarsinh in 1963-64 asking me to come to Rajpipla, and assuring me that the days spent there would be remembered by me all my life. Yes, now I can definitely say that the days I stayed in Rajpipla have been treasured in my mind. Even today I enjoy remembering those days which I spent with Maharajkumar Indrajitsinhji (Billy Dada) in the famous 'Indrajit-Padmini Mahal', also known as Vadia Palace.

Of course, there was also Sureshwarsinh and the Parsi gentleman Soli there. I know royals from very close quarters but Maharajkumar was different. A great soul, calm and quiet. During my stay I never heard him speak ill of anyone. In the evening, drinks would be served and Lajar, the chef, would serve us the most delicious meals. Maharaj would retire in his bedroom while the three of us would sleep on the terrace.

Sometimes Maharajkumar would show us some of his shikar (hunting) films. His elder sister Princess Mohinikuvarba would also join us. Afterwards she would go to her newly-built house 'Ambika Villa' opposite Vadia Palace.

One evening I told Maharajkumar, "Maharaj, on your way back to Dehradun, please visit my house in Baroda (now Vadodara)." "Yes, I will come," promised Billy Dada.

I knew Billy Dada's programme, so I headed to the Baroda railway station and went to see him in the retiring room. Dada had gone for a bath, but Soli was there. I told Soli, "Please request Dada to come to my house which is nearby." Soli said, "Its almost 10 in the night and Dada is tired, so it may not be possible to come to your place".

Meanwhile Maharaj came from the bathroom. I reminded him of his promise and the great man said, "Soli, I have promised him and we must go".

Both of them came to my house, and my mother welcomed them with milk. I have treasured this meeting in my heart.

But after few days I heard the most shocking news that the great man had passed away in his farmhouse. Even after 50 years I remember this noble soul.

Dhiru Mistry

Sunday, April 20, 2014

ICC World Cup 2011, the crowning glory to India’s golden run and to Sachin Tendulkar’s glorious career : Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s forthcoming book ‘Indian Spring’

The World Cup returned to the sub-continent for the third time in 2011. On this occasion it was staged in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, a jamboree of colour, jubilation and thunderous cheers, a wondrous odyssey through diverse cultures embracing more than a quarter of the world’s population. The legendary Sachin Tendulkar, highest run-getter in the World Cup and player-of-the tournament in the 2003 edition, was appointed ICC’s brand ambassador for this event. The logo signified a travelling cricket ball, seam up, carrying along with it players and spectators in this exhilarating expedition.

An elegantly-poised young elephant, christened Stumpy, was anointed the mascot of the 2011 edition of this showpiece event. The organizing committee put it thus : “The idea of our mascot is to crystallise the feelings and action of the sport and the fans in a graphic form that reflects the visceral tone and emotion that cricket creates in its followers, especially in an event like the cricket World Cup. It also emphasises the enthusiasm of youth both in general and for cricket itself, especially on the sub-continent with its massive and dedicated following. He’s stylised to give an instantly recognisable graphic strength so that with exposure his bold lines and strong colouring will instantly create a friendly face for the cricket World Cup.” The endearing Stumpy was reminiscent of the lovable Appu of the New Delhi Asian Games 1982.

The official song of the tournament had three versions, in Bengali, Hindi and Sinhala. The Hindi version “De Ghuma Ke” (Swing It Hard) was composed by the trio of Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa, or Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. They used an array of Indian rhythms, coalesced with rock and hip hop. The Sinhala version “Sinha Udaane” was composed by lyricist Shehan Galahitiyawa, and performed by Rhythm & Blues and hip-hop musician Ranidu Lankage.

Two new stadiums were built in Sri Lanka. The Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, constructed at a cost of $4 million at Kandy, holds 35,000 spectators, while the Suriyawewa Stadium at Hambantota on the south-eastern coast, dotted with tourist resorts, has a seating capacity of 33,000, a project costing about $8 million. The capacity of Colombo’s Premadasa Stadium was increased from 12,000 to 30,000.

There were now 14 teams in the fray, two less than in 2007. The ten full members got direct entry, including Zimbabwe, even though they were at that time suspended from Test matches. In the qualifying tournament held in South Africa for associate members in 2009, Ireland beat Canada by nine wickets in the final at Centurion. These two countries were joined by Holland and Kenya on the big stage now.

The super-league was done away with, and the teams advanced from the group matches to the quarter-finals. It was akin to the format of the 1996 World Cup, also played in the sub-continent, but with two more teams this time. There were thus 49 matches instead of the 51 played in 2007, and the event was about a week shorter, the groupings being as follows:
Group A : Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya.
Group B : India, South Africa, England, West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland and Holland.

The 18 umpires chosen for the tournament were Billy Bowden, Aleem Dar, Steve Davis, Asoka de Silva, Billy Doctrove, Marais Erasmus, Ian Gould, Daryl Harper, Tony Hill, Asad Rauf, Simon Taufel, Rod Tucker (all from the ICC Elite Panel of Umpires), Kumar Dharmasena, Richard Kettleborough, Nigel Llong, Bruce Oxenford, Amish Saheba, and Shahvir Tarapore (all from the ICC International Panel of Umpires). The reserve umpire was Enamul Hoque-Moni. There were five match referees: Chris Broad, Jeff Crowe, Ranjan Madugalle, Roshan Mahanama and Andy Pycroft.

The television rights were secured by ESPN Star Sports for $2 billion, with the event being telecast live in 220 countries. There was high-definition (HD) telecast and live 3G streaming, and each match was covered by at least 27 cameras, inclusive of the revolutionary movable slip and low-45 degree field cameras. As many as 37 games were simulcast in Hindi. The ICC decided to deploy the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) for the first time in any of its events.

Apart from ESPN Star Sports, the commercial partners of ICC were Reliance Communications, LG Electronics, PepsiCo, Hero Honda Motors Limited, Emirates, Reebok International Limited, Yahoo! Inc., Castrol and MoneyGram International.  

The total prize money was doubled to $10 million, of which the champions carried away $3 million, the runners-up $1.5 million, the losing semi-finalists $750,000 each, the fifth to eighth placed teams $370,000 each, and the winners of the 42 preliminary matches $60,000 each. 

The opening ceremony and first match between co-hosts Bangladesh and India were held at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka. Bangladesh played all their six group matches at home in Dhaka and Chittagong, while India played the rest of their matches on their own soil. Eight venues were chosen in India - Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Mohali, Mumbai, Nagpur and New Delhi. Sri Lanka, like India, were seen in action on home territory, except for their last league match which was staged in Mumbai.

Owing to security concerns, the 14 matches scheduled to be held in Pakistan were relocated, and their team was based in Sri Lanka. Not only all of Pakistan’s league matches but their quarter-final and semi-final too - in the event of their reaching those stages - were to be held in Sri Lanka at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. The other semi-final was scheduled at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali. As it happened, India and Sri Lanka entered the semi-finals, and did not face each other at that stage. They hosted both their semi-finals on home venues, and Pakistan travelled to Mohali for a nerve-wracking clash with India. The venue for the final was the remodelled Wankhede Stadium. India hosted 29 matches, while Sri Lanka and Bangladesh staged 12 and 8 games respectively. 
It appeared almost inevitable that India would win the 2011 World Cup. A billion Indians seemed to believe that the team would certainly win, and the team itself desperately wanted to win it for its billion fanatical followers and for one peerless and inspirational representative of God himself, Sachin Tendulkar. The team had been steadily ascending the ladder of success since its heart-wrenching ouster from the 2007 World Cup. One by one, things began falling into place. Tendulkar toiled not only to regain the magical touch of yore but also to scale peak after peak. An efficient back-up staff led by the taciturn and hard-nosed Gary Kirsten engineered the side into a fighting machine. A young, razor-sharp, unflappable and versatile skipper Mahendra Dhoni arrived to steer the ship deftly through calm as well as stormy seas.  

Blessed with arguably the greatest batting line-up in history, the team crafted one success after another, rising to no. 1 status in Test matches for the first time in its chequered history of 78 years, hovering around that position in One-day Internationals as well, holding its own at home and also overseas, and all this after having won the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 that same year of 2007. The victorious side defied conventional wisdom by clinching matches and series on the strength of its powerful batting, either posting unattainable totals or chasing down impossible targets. There was always enough depth as well as bench strength to tide over even acute crises, and to cover up for the sketchy and often profligate bowling. The captain and team management made skillful use of the embarrassingly limited bowling resources, which ultimately proved adequate in home conditions. The much-derided fielding proved equal to the task, and the end result was an inspired outfit that carried the day despite a bit of a stutter in the early stages. Even these hiccups had a silver lining, for they helped fine-tune the playing eleven and to temper the arrogance of the middle-order batsmen.

There were other fancied sides too, the Sri Lankans, favoured in familiar conditions, with strong batting and balanced bowling; the South Africans, whose day some experts believed had finally come, boasting of the best pace attack in the world, a complete bowling line-up on paper, replete with allrounders, and a fine array of batsmen to go with their customary top-class fielding; and the Australians, never ones to be counted out as they showed in 2007 despite sliding down the order and obvious depletion in resources, still possessing top-quality fast bowlers but little else. The dark horses were Pakistan, unpredictable as ever, and they did threaten all the way until their ouster by the relentless Indians in an emotionally-charged semi-final.   

On behalf of the minnows, the heartening performance came from the plucky Irish along with a glorious hand by Holland’s Ryan ten Doeschate. This itself makes out a case for the inclusion of some associate member nations in future World Cup tournaments. The idea to have just ten teams is perhaps a sound one but one feels that the bottom two teams among those with One-day international status should compete in the ICC qualifying tournament with the associate members to earn the right to play in the World Cup. Thankfully the inane ICC Champions Trophy is being scrapped. The World Twenty20 should be staged only every four years in order to avoid an overkill and to sustain public and media interest. The International Cricket Council should be able to generate adequate finances from the events it would then be left with.

Despite the odd flutter, the eight top teams took their appointed places in the quarter-finals. As expected, that is where the real action began. After Pakistan disdainfully swept aside the once-mighty West Indies, India stopped the incredible Cup-winning run of an Aussie outfit in decline. Then came possibly the biggest shock of the tournament. The unheralded and grossly underrated Kiwis skittled out the Proteas to add yet another chapter to the bemusing saga of a handsome-looking side that invariably flatters to deceive in this showpiece event. To complete the picture, Sri Lanka were as contemptuous of England as Pakistan were of the West Indies earlier.

There were, not surprisingly, three sub-continental teams in the semi-finals. New Zealand did battle hard, as is their wont, but Sri Lanka were too good in the end. The Kiwis have now played six of the ten semi-finals without once breaching this penultimate barrier. The other semi-final was really a war and a carnival rolled into one, simply the most heart-stopping sporting event held anywhere. India prevailed over Pakistan in a most curious encounter, and the fireworks at the end would have one believe that the Cup itself had been won that night.

It was an engrossing final but a relatively sedate affair. Sri Lanka were worthy opponents, equalling Australia’s highest losing score of 1975 in a World Cup final. India, irresistible as they were by now, cruised to the title amid wild jubilation.

Dhoni’s emphatic hit over the long-on boundary with plenty to spare only reaffirmed the belief of so many.

India became the first team to win the World Cup on home soil, the crowning glory to Sachin Tendulkar’s astonishing career and to the team’s triumphant run of the preceding years. 

The final:
Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, 2 April 2011

India won by 6 wickets

Sri Lanka: 274 for 6 wickets in 50 overs (Tillakaratne Dilshan 33, Kumar Sangakkara 48, Mahela Jayawardene 103 not out, Nuwan Kulasekara 32)

India: 277 for 4 wickets in 48.2 overs (Gautam Gambhir 97, Virat Kohli 35, Mahendra Singh Dhoni 91 not out)

Man of the Match : Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Player of the Tournament : Yuvraj Singh

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A tragic ICC World Cup 2007 that was not fair to the merry Caribbean people : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh

The World Cup came a full circle in 2007 when the West Indies had the honour of staging it. It should have been a watershed for West Indies cricket, which languished in the nineties after the magnificent Lloyd-Richards era of the seventies and eighties, and indeed the earlier glorious days of Constantine, Headley, the three Ws - Worrell, Weekes and Walcott, and the peerless Sobers. Not only did the supply line of world-class players dry up either side of the turn of the century, West Indies cricket in general went into decline. There seemed to be complacency, financial constraints were a bane, pitches turned into lifeless sandpits and the team depended on the performances of three or four stars. Not surprisingly, West Indies failed to reach a World Cup final after 1983, coming close to it only in 1996. The dreadful slump must have hurt.

But there were clear signs of a turnaround. With a streamlined administration, Brian Lara regaining his magical touch, a batting line-up at par with the best in the world, promising young bowlers beginning to emerge and wickets showing signs of life, West Indies cricket appeared to be on the high road towards re-scaling the pinnacles of yore. It would have been a fair reward for the most enthusiastic and joyous crowd in world cricket. Through the days of ignominy, it had been the delightful crowds at the West Indies grounds that kept their cricket going. They deserved a feast and were dearly wishing that their team would provide the dessert. Lara would certainly have been yearning for a triumphant theme to his swansong, a high note in the evening of a glittering career.

In the words of the ICC, the logo of the 2007 World Cup “expresses the joy and exuberance of cricketers and cricket fans worldwide, in a Caribbean setting. The vibrant red figure central to the logo captures the exuberant energy of dance and celebration. The colour red represents the passion that the fans both in the West Indies and the world have for the game of cricket. The positioning of the bat and ball are figurative elements of the palm tree forming the trunk and fruit. The vibrant green of the crown of the palm tree, and the azure blue which stands for the surrounding sky and seas are the backdrop in which the prestigious tournament will take place.”

The mascot of the 2007 World Cup was a teenage character called ‘Mello’, who embodied the lifestyle of the region, ‘cheeky and curious and socially aware like so many young people today.’

Hero Honda and Hutch joined LG Electronics and Pepsi as global partners of the ICC. The telecommunications behemoth, Cable & Wireless, long associated with West Indies cricket, was the principal telecom provider to the event, and an official sponsor alongside Indian Oil and Scotiabank.

The prize money remained static at $5 million, but the teams took home larger amounts. The champions were awarded $2.24 million, while the runners-up received $1 million. The losing semi-finalists got $45,000 each, while the teams that finished fifth to eighth were awarded $200,000, $150,000, $100,000 and $50,000 respectively. In the group matches, the winning teams took away $10,000 and the losing teams a consolation of $5,000. The player-of-the-tournament prize was a diamond-studded cricket ball crafted at Kolkata, worth Rupees 30,00,000 ($60,000), won appropriately by Glenn McGrath.

 The ICC’s Venue Assessment Team, using the most stringent standards, chose eight venues: Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica I, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, and Trinidad & Tobago. Capacity in all the grounds, except St. Kitts, was enhanced to seat at least 20,000 spectators. Jamaica, headquarters of the ICC World Cup 2007 Inc., had the privilege of staging the opening ceremony and opening match, as well as the first semi-final. All preliminary round matches in Group D were played here at the Sabina Park in the capital city, Kingston. The second semi-final was held in St. Lucia at the state-of-the-art Beausejour Stadium in the resort town of Gros Islet. The preliminary round matches in Group C were staged at this venue.

Kensington Oval, dubbed fondly as The Mecca by the locals, at Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, was chosen to host the final, and also six super-eight matches. Home to the Pickwick Cricket Club since 1882, the ground has hosted international fixtures since 1895, including the first Test match played in the West Indies in 1930 against England. A new stadium came up here to hold 31,000 spectators, more than doubling its earlier capacity of 15,000.

Group A teams battled in out in the refurbished Warner Park at Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts & Nevis, where the capacity is just 10,000. The preliminary round matches of Group B were played at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain in Trinidad & Tobago. Even though hitherto it had the largest seating capacity in the Caribbean, a new stadium was built here too, capable of holding 25,000 people.

The other three venues staged only super-eight games. The brand new Queen’s Park Stadium at St. George’s, the capital of Grenada, was one of these arenas. Sadly, the Antigua Recreation Ground, headquarters of the West Indies Cricket Board, and where Brian Lara twice broke the record for the highest Test score, did not see World Cup action as a result. The Antigua & Barbuda government ordered a new stadium named after the legendary Sir Vivian Richards, which was built at North Sound, outside its capital St. John’s. Interestingly, China paid $23 million to construct this facility.

A new stadium was also built in Guyana at Providence, near the capital Georgetown to replace the Bourda Oval. The Government of India provided assistance, the cost of $25 million being met through a $6 million grant and an Exim Bank loan on concessional terms.    

Bermuda, Jamaica II, St. Vincent & Grenadines, and the United States of America were the four venues that lost out. There was much talk about staging four matches in the United States, one of which would have been in Disney World, Florida. Though the United States finished sixth and last in the ICC Trophy 2005, they would have gained automatic entry as co-hosts of the 2007 World Cup. That would have given tremendous fillip to the game in that country. America has a longer history of cricket than is generally believed. The game was introduced there in the early 18th century by the British, and John Adams, one of the founding fathers of the nation, was also one of its first cricketers. The first-ever international cricket match was held between the United States and Canada in 1844 at the St. George’s Cricket Club Ground in Bloomingdale Park, New York. The US team beat the West Indies on January 5, 1888, and more recently won the American Championships in 2002, during which they beat Canada by three wickets. There are 10,000 players representing 500 clubs in 29 leagues across New York, California - which has four turf wickets - Florida, Chicago, Texas and New Jersey. Ultimately the strict security measures that would have been enforced for entry into the United States, following the 9/11 attacks, deterred the ICC from staging matches there. Cricket will have to wait awhile before it gains a foothold in the richest market in the world.

The eleven teams with One-day International status were seeded according to their rankings in the ICC table as on 1 April 2005. Five other qualifiers came in, based on their performances in the ICC Trophy held in Ireland in July 2005. The winners of that tournament, Scotland, and fifth-placed Holland joined Australia and South Africa in Group A. Bermuda, fourth in the ICC Trophy, were put alongside Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh in Group B. The third qualifiers Canada were placed with New Zealand, England and Kenya in Group C, while runners-up Ireland found themselves in Group D along with Pakistan, West Indies and Zimbabwe. The ICC spent up to $500,000 on each of the five qualifiers to prepare for the World Cup and development of cricket in these associate member countries. The groups and seedings were as under:
Group A at St. Kitts : Australia (1), South Africa (5), Scotland (12), Holland (16).
Group B at Trinidad : Sri Lanka (2), India (8), Bangladesh (11), Bermuda (15).
Group C at St. Lucia : New Zealand (3), England (7), Kenya (10), Canada (14).
Group D at Jamaica : Pakistan (4), West Indies (6), Zimbabwe (9), Ireland (13).

There were exciting possibilities. Despite setbacks like the players’ endorsements controversy, the tournament was believed to be the turbo that West Indies cricket needed to re-charge itself. The event was televised in 200 countries to an estimated viewership of two billion. The World Cup had come a long way since that day in 1975 when all the top cricketers of the world assembled at Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen. One could almost see the calypso kings swaying in anticipation.

What actually happened was not only stunning and entirely unexpected but turned this into the most tragic World Cup of all. First the brand new stadiums with every modern facility at hand, but many located miles out of the way were too inaccessible for the local populace. Their very character was so distinct from the homely Caribbean party venues that the old stadiums were. To make matters worse the high ticket prices were a huge deterrent to the average West Indian fan, along with stifling security that prohibited them from bringing in not only their own food and placards but also musical instruments that are an integral part of joyous Caribbean cricket. It was avaricious and officious administration at its worst, and it came as no surprise that the officials were roundly booed at the closing ceremony. There were sparse crowds at all the grounds. They reached a nadir at the Warner Park, Basseterre, St. Kitts where less than 1,500 people saw Herschelle Gibbs hit 6 sixes in an over. Only in five of the 24 group matches did the crowd exceed 10,000, the highest being in the opening clash between the hosts and Pakistan at Sabina Park in Kingston, and the India-Sri Lanka encounter at Queens Park Oval, Port of Spain, when the figure exceeded 16,000. The average attendance in the group matches was less than 7,000.

There was an improvement from the super-eight stage onwards, and even though restrictions were eased, there was never a capacity crowd. The largest assembly was at Brian Lara’s farewell game, the last super-eight face-off with England at the famous Kensington Oval at Bridgetown, when 22,452 fans arrived. The next highest was in the final, the official attendance figure being 20,108, again at Kensington Oval, which has a capacity of 31,000. The average attendance figure through the super-eight to the final was just over 10,000. Still, the gate receipts were double that of the previous World Cup at $32 million. The moot point was whether the same, or better, result could have been achieved with lower ticket prices but much larger crowds.      

The format of the tournament was changed, bringing in two more teams, making a total of 16 participants. There were, therefore, four groups of four teams each, with the top two in each group advancing to a super-eight league. This brought its own set of problems. There were far too many matches against and between the weaker sides. Of the 24 group matches, there were obviously only four games, one in each group, contested between the top eight teams. One upset was likely to topple the applecart, which it did in two groups and sent India and Pakistan crashing out of the tournament after playing only three matches each. This not only took away huge numbers of television viewers but also necessitated half the 24 super-eight matches involving unfancied outfits like Bangladesh and first-timers Ireland.

The shock defeat of Pakistan at the hands of Ireland also had a horrible fallout. The next morning their coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his hotel bathroom. Then followed one of the most bizarre and sorrowful episodes in the history of sport. All kinds of conjectures and insinuations flew about. Crack sleuths were brought in, inquests were held, there were murder theories, stories about the betting mafia and deranged fans did the rounds, the needle of suspicion was even pointed at the players. The whole tournament was vitiated, and the sordid saga dragged on for months after. Ultimately it was concluded that the genial man had died of natural causes. In all probability, stress got the better of him; the intense scrutiny and censure must have been too much to endure.    

There was a lot of splendid cricket played during the tournament but Woolmer’s death cast a dark shadow over everything else. Australia marched on relentlessly. Such was their dominance that they never lost more than six wickets in a match, and a couple of their tailenders did not get a chance to bat at all. On the other hand, they bowled out their opponents every time except in two matches, in one of which they prised out six wickets in a 22-over innings, and in the other captured eight wickets in the 36-over Sri Lankan knock in the final. It was awesome cricket. Australia were not clear favourites this time, but they won all their matches for the second World Cup in a row, wresting their third successive title, and appearing in their fourth consecutive final. By doing so, they surpassed Clive Lloyd’s great West Indies side and set near-impossible benchmarks for other teams to emulate.

Just as everyone was heaving a sigh of relief when the rain-interrupted, truncated final was drawing to a close, the light was offered to the Sri Lankan batsmen after 33 overs, and everyone trudged off. The Australians had begun to celebrate and preparations for the presentation had started. But hullo, what’s this? The umpires Aleem Dar and Steve Bucknor decreed that the match was not over and that everyone would need to come back on the morrow to complete the remaining three overs, even though the minimum 20 overs had been bowled. It was amazing that neither the match referee Jeff Crowe nor the reserve umpires Rudi Koertzen and Billy Bowden prevailed on the on-field umpires to end a match that was already over. Ultimately it took a gentlemen’s agreement between the two captains Ricky Ponting and Mahela Jayawardene to end the impasse. The Sri Lankan skipper sent out his batsmen in near darkness and the Australian chief put on his slow bowlers to conclude the farce. Never before had the final of a sporting event of this magnitude ended in such embarrassing circumstances. That the five match officials were suspended for the next ICC event, the Twenty20 World Championship later that year, was hardly of concern to billions of disgusted fans around the world.     

It might be uncharitable, but quite often the word used for this tournament was ‘fiasco’, even though there were lots of stirring deeds with bat and ball. Indeed, off-field events overtook the exciting action in the brand new stadiums of the exotic Caribbean islands. Not since the 1972 Olympics at Munich had a sadder sporting international event been staged. It was time for cricket to make a new beginning.

The final:
Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados, 28 April 2007
Australia won by 53 runs (D/L method)
Australia: 281 for 4 wickets in 38 overs (Adam Gilchrist 149, Matthew Hayden 38, Ricky Ponting 37)                                                  
Sri Lanka: 215 for 8 wickets in 36 overs (Sanath Jayasuriya 63, Kumar Sangakkara 54)
Man of the Match : Adam Gilchrist
Player of the Tournament : Glenn McGrath

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567

Available in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The unstoppable Australians blaze through to their second consecutive World Cup title in 2003 : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh

The World Cup travelled to Africa for the first time in 2003. This was without doubt the biggest and best-organised tournament with fifty-two matches played in 15 grounds across South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya. Fourteen countries, the most ever assembled, paraded their talent. Namibia made their maiden appearance, having finished runners-up in the ICC Trophy for associate members. Canada staged a comeback after 24 years, while ICC Trophy winners Holland reappeared after missing the previous event. Never before had all six continents inhabited by man been represented at the same World Cup. 

Global Cricket Corporation bagged the sponsorship rights for ICC tournaments, including the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, for $550 million. LG Electronics and Pepsi reportedly committed $30 million each to Global Cricket Corporation for the status of global partners for the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. The official sponsors of the 2003 World Cup were Hero Honda and South African Airways. The official regional sponsors were Hutchison/Orange, MTN, South African Breweries, Standard Bank and Vodafone, while Toyota were the official suppliers.

In a tournament that sprung many surprises, Australia remained unconquered, pulling off a string of eleven victories. They rivalled the feat of the West Indies by lifting the Cup for the second consecutive time and, in fact, surpassed Clive Lloyd’s mighty team, claiming their third title overall. This was also Australia’s third successive final, a clear indication that they were far ahead of other teams in contemporary cricket.    

The mascot was, appropriately, Dazzler the zebra, signifying the integration of the blacks and whites. Dazzler in various cricketing poses was one of the enduring images of this tournament. The logo too comprised zebra stripes with a patch of yellow.

The prize money on offer this time multiplied five-fold to $5 million. The champions took home a bonanza of $2 million. The runners-up received $800,000, and the losing semi-finalists $400,000 each. At last, the players who make it all happen, got due reward for their toil. A Golden Bat was instituted for the player-of-the-tournament. It was won by a batsman ranked among the all-time greats, India’s Sachin Tendulkar, and presented appropriately by the incomparable Sir Garfield Sobers.

 If cricket made its peace with the modern world in 1992, it merged completely with the ethos of the twenty-first century in 2003. The opening ceremony, inspired by that of the Sydney Olympics 2000, reflected the transition that the game had made. It was a spectacular display at Cape Town, the ethnic blending splendidly with the contemporary and showcasing the African way of life. It was at once dazzling, vibrant and colourful, and so infectious that the performers and the crowd rocked in unison. It was not just about cricket, it was about life itself, about the joy of living, about the thrill of making a collective surge towards prosperity. Several million dollars were spent on it. About 5000 volunteers took part, many from the under-privileged sections of society who were made to feel that they too matter. An estimated 1.2 billion people saw it on television.

The tournament was brilliantly organised. Careful thought was given to every aspect. Security fears were allayed. The wickets were, for the most part, ideal for One-day cricket and fair to both batsmen and bowlers. Special equipment was used to monitor the amount of bounce. There was some lateral movement, but not too much. The best batsmen got the opportunity to give full vent to their skills, and the best bowlers just rewards for their toil. The numerous sterling performances were a direct consequence of the quality of wickets and perhaps also an indication of how rapidly the game has changed. This was reflected in the several rapid-fire innings that were played, and the fact that pacemen seemed to be attacking instead of being restrictive. There was serious introspection about playing conditions. Night matches were held only at Cape Town and Durban. It was felt that at that time of the year there would be too much dew at the other centres, and that might unduly affect the result of matches. It is this attention to detail that makes an event memorable. A feature of the tournament was that officials kept away from the spotlight. They made a fleeting, dignified appearance at the opening ceremony and then briefly at the end. The man-of-the-match awards were presented by great cricketers from around the world and also top African sportspersons, who were designated ambassadors of the tournament.

A special mention must be made of Dr. Ali Bacher, executive director of the tournament. He took up the post two years prior to the event and turned it into an unprecedented success. Captain of the brilliant South African Test team of 1970 just before they were banished from international cricket, Bacher kept the game alive in South Africa during the years of exile by organising rebel tours from Australia, England,  West Indies and Sri Lanka. When South Africa were welcomed back to the fold in 1991, he guided the team close to the top as executive head of the United Cricket Board of South Africa. The 2003 World Cup is yet another feather in the cap of this outstanding administrator.

The total attendance was 626,845 people, which was 76 percent of the total capacity. The final at Johannesburg broke the record for South African grounds with a crowd of 32,827.

Yet for several months leading up to the tournament it was not cricket, but peripheral issues that made the headlines. Even prior to the ICC Champions Trophy 2002 there was wrangling about the terms of contracts offered to players, particularly clauses relating to ambush marketing. Indian players, in the main, objected as the terms interfered with their personal endorsements. Matters reached a head as the World Cup drew near, but ultimately an uneasy truce prevailed and the best players participated. The sooner the ICC, various boards, players and sponsors resolve this irksome problem the better it shall be for the game.

Politics was once again an unwelcome intruder. For a long time and up to the last minute England threatened to withdraw from their fixture in Zimbabwe due to the political situation there and fears over security of their players. Ultimately they forfeited the match, which contributed to their early exit from the tournament. New Zealand paid a similar price at a later stage for withdrawing from their game in Kenya, also due to security concerns.

Away from these aberrations, it was One-day cricket of a very high order. For some reason, though, there were not many close matches. Defending champions Australia were drawn in pool A along with England, Holland, India, Namibia, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. Pool B comprised Bangladesh, Canada, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies. Australia, India and Zimbabwe advanced to the super-six where they met Sri Lanka, Kenya and New Zealand. This time one point was carried over by these teams for their wins over each of the teams that did not advance to the super-six, in addition to the four points earned for victories over sides that made it beyond the first stage. It was a more equitable system compared to the one in 1999, but still needed improvement to ensure that one upset did not result in the better teams failing to advance to the semi-finals.

The Duckworth-Lewis method was again the subject of much debate. This time hosts South Africa were at the centre of it. As rain intervened they made a dash for what they thought was the winning target against Sri Lanka. To their horror they found themselves a run short, and the tie ensured that they were bundled out in the first stage itself. That took some of the sheen off this splendid tournament. The ICC has to closely re-examine the Duckworth-Lewis method. There is no doubt that a simpler formula must be evolved, one that is easily understood and does not require constant reference to charts. Cricket must be played with willow and leather, not log tables.  

The Kenyans were a revelation. They shocked Sri Lanka on home turf by dint of some inspired performances and marched into the super-six. A victory over Zimbabwe earned them a semi-final spot against India. Their success was a shot-in-the-arm for cricket in Kenya and wonderful for the game itself. It also resulted in their securing sponsorship, which they had long sought in vain. Australia advanced relentlessly and came up against Sri Lanka in the penultimate stage. The final was between the two best teams in the event, but the Australians packed far too many guns for India who had surpassed expectations after making a tentative start in the tournament.  

The final:
New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, 23 March 2003
Australia won by 125 runs
Australia: 359 for 2 wickets in 50 overs (Adam Gilchrist 57, Matthew Hayden 37, Ricky Ponting 140 not out, Damien Martyn 88 not out)                           
India: 234 all out in 39.2 overs (Virender Sehwag 82, Rahul Dravid 47, Glenn McGrath 3 for 52)
Man of the Match: Ricky Ponting
Player of the Tournament: Sachin Tendulkar

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3

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