Shortlisting is never an easy job, but let me attempt to list India's top 10 wins from the 10 editions of the World Cup. What will be the criteria? Wins by number of wickets or wins by number of runs?
Well, India had an easy 10 wicket win vs East Africa with 50s by Sunil Gavaskar and Farokh Engineer in 1975. India also reached 413 versus Bermuda in the 2007 edition, with blistering knocks from Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar.
But are these our best wins? I am sure all will agree to say "no". So, let's try a different criteria. Say, emotion. For sports fans it is measurable when certain methods such as the following are used.
(a) Matches which are registered in our mind for some unique reason (b) Matches which have resulted in us making history.
So, here are 10 memorable matches in random order except chronologically.
1. One has to start with the Indian win vs West Indies in 1983 in the group stage. India reached 262, riding on Yashpal Sharma's 89, and then restricted West Indies to 228 with Ravi Shastri taking 3 wickets.
This is important because India had dismal outings in the previous two World Cups, which were won by the mighty West Indies. This match was seen as a formality and a step towards the Windies winning their 3rd Cup in a row. India shocked the cricketing world with this win.
2. 1983 World Cup also saw India beat Zimbabwe from a seemingly impossible position. This has gone down in the annals of history for one of the most incredible ODI innings.
India were tottering at 17/5 before Kapil Dev scored an unbelievable 175 to take the final tally to 266. Syed Kirmani played a crucial hand with a fighting 24 and they had a 126-run 9th wicket partnership. Sadly, a BBC strike meant that Kapil's incredible innings was not recorded for posterity.
3. The 1983 final saw India dismissed for 183. Krishnamachari Srikkanth top-scored with 38. The match was memorable for Balwinder Sandhu's banana delivery getting rid of Gordon Greenidge.
Viv Richards started in a whirlwind fashion scoring 33 in 28 balls before Kapil took an incredible catch to get rid of him. West Indies collapsed to 140 all out with Jimmy Amaranth taking 3/12. Kapil's Devils had done the impossible. India were World Champions.
4. 1992 India versus Pak. This was the first World Cup meeting between the arch-rivals. It was also the first World Cup with coloured clothes and day-night matches.
India scored 216 with the superstar of the next 20 years Sachin scoring 54 not out. In response Pakistan were dismissed for 173. Kapil, Manoj Prabhakar and Javagal Srinath combined very well. Javed Miandad imitating Kiran More's constant appealing by jumping up and down will go down as a lifetime memory from this game.
5. The 1996 quarter-final win over Pakistan is also one of India's best wins. Ajay Jadeja smashed 45 off 25 balls at the end. The feared Waqar Younis bled 40 in his last 2 overs with Jadeja in full cry. India ended up with 287.
Pakistan started ferociously, but Anil Kumble and Venkatesh Prasad combined well to stop them at 248. Aamer Sohail and Venkatesh Prasad's standoff will remain in memory forever. Pakistan's stand-in captain smashing Prasad to the fence, showing his bat at the boundary, being castled the next ball and getting a send-off from the bowler is as eventful as can be.
6. India verus Sri Lanka clash in 1999 saw brilliant innings from Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, who scored 183 and 145, respectively, India reach 373. Later Robin Singh took 5 wickets and Sri Lanka folded up for only 216. This match was important because India used to have uncomfortable moments against the Lankans.
7. The India-Pakistan clash in 2003 saw Pakistan score 273. In response, a stunning assault by Sachin and Sehwag saw Pakistan bowlers not knowing what to do.
Legend has it that the world's fastest bowler Shoaib Akhtar even refused to bowl at Sachin. India won comfortably, with man of the match Sachin scoring one of his best ODI innings: 98 off a mere 75 balls.
8. India verus West Indies in 2011. This is special because it showed the fighting spirit of the team from a weak position. India chose to bat first. Yuvraj (113) and Virat Kohli (59) batted well, but received little support from the rest of the lineup. India were all out for 268, with five balls remaining.
Windies opener Devon Smith scored 81 and the team reached 154/2 after 30 overs. Then the Indians swung into action and West Indies lost their last 8 wickets for 34 runs. India's spearhead Zaheer Khan's 3-26 allowed his team to script a comfortable 80-run victory.
9. India vs Australia quarter-final in 2011. Australia are never an easy opposition and they were defending three World Cup wins in a row.
Captain Ricky Ponting with 104 and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin with 53 batted well, but Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer and Yuvraj took wickets at regular intervals to restrict Australia to 260/6.
India started well with Sachin scoring 53 and Gambhir 50. Later, there was a minor scare before Yuvraj (57 not out) and Raina (a busy 34 off 28 balls) took India to victory and the semi-finals.
10. Finally, how can we leave out the 2011 final? Batting first, Mahela Jayawardene scored a majestic ton to take the Lankans to 274. The islanders scored 91 runs in the last 10 overs. It was a surgical assault that rocked India.
In reply, India were quickly down 31/2 with Lasith Malinga taking out both Sachin and Sehwag cheaply.
Gautam Gambhir and Virat took India to 114 when the latter was dismissed.
Skipper MS Dhoni promoted himself over Yuvraj, the player in form, and combined well with Gauti, who fell for 97. Thereafter Dhoni and Yuvraj took India to victory. Dhoni hitting the winning 6 and in concentration looking at the departing and vanishing ball will remain etched in memory. India were World Champions again after 28 long years.
This is my selection of 10. What's yours? Soon the 11th World Cup will begin and it will be nice if we have wins to knock off a few from this list.
(Views expressed by the writer are personal. If you want to share your thoughts on the game, mail your write-ups to firstname.lastname@example.org)
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