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

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment