Sometimes calling back the old memories really freshens it up. Especially if it was something remarkable for yourself as a person, as a native or even as a fan of a sport. This piece really makes up for all the three. Yes! I’m talking about the 2002 NatWest series final between India and England. Neither did it make an impact for all us Indians as person, native nor did fan, but it also changed the complexion of Indian Cricket.
July 13 2002, the day which really changed us as cricket fans. It got us more and more behind the team, following the game even more extensively and hell, some people do follow it religiously as well. I still remember this was my first ever cricket game seen live. Back then I was four years old, thinking how is this game played? Almost everyone at the colony went praying and praying for India to win the game and the series, probably the most of India was doing this as well. It was not only a game for both the teams, but also a chance of revenge for India (they had lost the series against England at home earlier that year).
England had won the toss and chosen to bat. The side had the finest of the English players of that era, the likes of Captain Nasser Hussain, Marcus Trescothick, Nick Knight, Andrew Flintoff, Paul Collingwood, Alec Stewart, Ashley Giles and so many more. India on the other hand had a blend of already established stars and rising youngsters as well. Sehwag, Sachin, Dada, Dravid, Yuvi, Kaif, Kumble, Bhajji, Zak, Nehra and Mongia. In the present scene, only Nehra, Yuvraj and Bhajji are still active on the field, whereas the others are off it. It was a real test for India though. The pitch was also very batting friendly and at the same time Indian bowlers had this bad habit of choking in the finals.
The latter however proved to be an advantage for England as they had ended up scoring 325/5 in their 50 overs, leaving India to chase down 326 in order to win the series. With tons from captain Nasser and Trescothick, England found it easy to get past 300 and give a tough task in India’s hands. It was an uphill task to say the least. Chasing above 300 was a really huge thing without the presence of T20 where the game really has pace to get forward. India surely took the challenge with open arms and did it in the end.
Viru and captain Dada indeed gave the team a flying start in this run chase. Both the opening batsmen smashed past opening bowlers Darren Gough and Alex Tudor in all areas. The setbacks started from the 15th over where India lost their first wicket at 106. Then followed by a series of wickets to fall and end up at 146/5 at 24 overs. It was assumed that most of the people in the Indian households had turned off their Television sets in the impression of succumbing of another defeat, but who knew the climax of this game, surely NONE! Fresh from their U19 triumph a couple of years back, the heroes of that triumph Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif stepped up their game, helped India recover from those setbacks. Slow and steady, both reached their half centuries and got India into a respectable position with their partnership of 120. Yuvraj ended up scoring 69 before getting out to Paul Collingwood. India faltered yet again and lost wickets in quick succession. The twists and turns still followed and the match got unpredictable overs by overs.
But this did not change India’s spirit from that spot. Though they had lost wickets but still firm to win the game. The score was 314/8 at 48 overs. India needed 12 runs in as many balls. In came Zaheer Khan and joined Mohammed Kaif at the other end. Darren Gough had the ball in his hand and any miscue would have lost another wicket. This time Kaif kept his cool and smashed Gough for four at third man, bringing India closer and closer to history.
2 runs now needed with an over to spare. Flintoff bowling to Zaheer Khan and still aforementioned, no miscues could be tolerated. After first two dots Zaheer placed a full toss from Flintoff and ran on the other end for a single, later capitalized on the overthrow by the fielder and got the second, taking India to a historic victory, a victory which would forever be remembered in ages to come. To add more memory to it, it was Sourav Ganguly’s celebration where he took off his shirt, mocking what Flintoff did in India earlier that year at opposite end of the result. India had created history, HISTORY!
Mohammed Kaif was given the Man of the Match for his valiant innings that got India to victory. It was a deserving honour for Kaif as his work really paid off for the win. The mention however wasn’t really a celebration back in his home as the sequence had followed. Reportedly his parents had switched off the TV and had gone to watch a movie when India was in their worst situation of the game. They really missed his son’s heroics in what was one of the most memorable match in Indian Cricket History.
This match indeed changed the landscape of Indian Cricket History forever. India then went on to the finals of the 2003 World Cup, became the winners of the inaugural ICC World T20 four years later, won series in each and every cricketing nation and also got their hands on the holy grail in 2011. So many achievements and now to look back on how it all started, it gives not only me, but every cricketing fan some tight goosebumps. Fair to say, REVOLUTION HAD HAPPENED!