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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

India are slow starters at WCs

The loss must hurt, but India have traditionally been slow starters at the World Cups, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2007 11:13 IST
Atul Sondhi
Atul Sondhi

"You could moan and groan and cry about it, but the only way to deal with it is to have a little laugh about it.'' The best way now for India will be to take some lessons from what Dutch leg spinner Daan van Bunge said after the mauling from Gibbs.

A good laugh, and some introspection, will help them get over the frustration and prepare for, now, even more crucial battles ahead against Bermuda (Where they will need a substantial win margin) and Sri Lanka (Where they will require at least a simple win)

The mauling from Bangladesh, though not that savage, must be equally demoralizing but the team can take heart from the fact that after the 1983 World Cup, they have always been slow starters. And that since 1983, they have never beaten a test playing nation in the first match and have still reached at least the second stage of a tournament, except in 1992 in Australia.

Reliance World Cup, 1987

The defending Champion were the strong favourites in their first group match against a resurgent Australian side, which had a promising talent in Steve Waugh. In this first World Cup being played outside England, India won the toss at Chennai and put Australia into bat.

Thanks to a terrific opening partnership of 110 between David Boon and Geoff Marsh, Australia managed a mammoth total of 270 in their 50 overs. In relatively less pacy eighties, it was a total considered almost unbeatable. Still India, with the likes of Azhar, Vengsarkar and Sidhu in their ranks, were expected to romp home easily.

But it turned out to be somewhat of an anti-climax in the end, despite two tremendous knocks of 70 and 73 by Srikaanth and Sidhu respectively.

India had four wickets in hand and just 15 runs left for win in the end, but could not make it to the finishing line against the eventual champions. The loss by just one run was the narrowest margin in the history of the World Cup. Still India went on to win their next five group matches to reach the semis, before they lost to England.

Benson and Hedges World Cup, 1992

India's first battle in the World Cup, after annihilation by Australia in the best-of-three finals of a triangular series, was against England. But the setting at Perth, with its pacy and bouncy pitch, favoured England more than India.

Botham failed in his role as makeshift opener but Gooch and Smith ensured that England, then twice World Cup finalist, reach a fighting 236 in their 50 overs.

It was a total not beyond India's reach but two middle order collapses, when they lost Tendulkar, Kambli and Shastri in a space of 23 runs (from 126 to 149) and then Kapil Dev, Amre, More and Prabhakar for 14 runs towards the end, took their toll. India eventually lost the match by just nine runs.

Unfortunately this time, the morale-sapping loss led to a spate of defeats with India winning just two matches out of eight in the round-robin format, finishing out of the semifinals. This has been the only time in World Cup (after 1983) when a first match defeat led to India's ejection out of the next stage.

Wills World Cup, 1996

Again, in the Subcontinent conditions, India were considered almost an unbeatable side. Most analysts believed that a side like Kenya, playing in their first ever World Cup, were simply no match for the marauding bunch of Indians in their campaign opener. With a pace attack consisting of wily Prabhakar and speedster Srinath, and spin attack spearheaded by incomparable Kumble, nobody expected the Kenyans to last the distance.

But they did at Cuttack! Not only that, 199 runs in 50 overs were the most respectable score from the rookie. India's formidable batting line-up did not allow any more surprises in the match, but damage to the reputation of India bowling was clearly there. A damage which was only undone by the victory against Pakistan at Bangalore three weeks later.

ICC World Cup England, 1999

It was an extremely tough first outing as India took on formidable South Africa at Hove in their first Group A match. Electing to bat first, Indians had a very good beginning with Sourav Ganguly sparkling with 97 runs. But in their endeavour to save wickets against SA pace battery, probably the men in blue played a little slow and ended up with only 253 in their 50 overs. India's top three batsmen, Sachin, Sourav and Dravid, did make 179 runs between them, but their combined strike rate was only 68.

South Africa did not have the greatest of starts, losing three wickets within first 15 overs, but did have enough firepower in their batting to overhaul the Indians. Which they duly did with about three overs to go.

India lost their second match to Zimbabwe as well, but three wins in a row against Kenya, Sri Lanka and England catapulted them into Super-six.

ICC World Cup in South Africa, 2003

What South Africa did to Netherlands in their first league match in 2007 World Cup, Indian fans expected the same four years ago at Paarl. But the Dutch had other ideas and top five India batsmen were sent packing with just 114 to show on the scorecard. It was only two fighting innings from Yuvraj singh (37) and Dinesh Mongia (42) and little cameos from Harbhajan Singh and Kumble which helped India cross 200 mark.

Holland batting was too feeble to take on the likes of Srinath and Kumble. India won, and went on to make the final of the World Cup.

So after 1983, we have not exactly set the stands on fire with our display in the first match of a World Cup. Still we have managed to reach the next round four out of five times. With little more dose of self-belief, it should be no different this time too.

First Published: Mar 18, 2007 10:19 IST