Monday, October 10, 2011

A Cricket Lover's Biography - 2 (The Hero Cup '93)

Previously: A Cricket Lover's Biography - 1

India lost badly in the ‘92 World Cup. Since my brother continued to fail in 9th Grade, cricket was banned at our place. Unlike today, not much of cricket played back then. Hardly 2 or 3 series in a year and victories from these tournaments are appreciated very highly. One such series that’s still bright in my recollection is the ‘93 Hero Cup.
This tournament is good to be termed mini World Cup, otherwise an audition to the summit in ‘96. It’s also the first time India hosted an extravaganza with new innovations including D/N matches. Pakistan pulled out the last minute (fearing Hindu militants), making it a five nations affair featuring India, Zimbabwe, West Indies, South Africa and Sri Lanka. India faced a lot of challenges hosting, including players reporting shabby treatment and some incidents of violence here and there.
Game disrupted at Calcutta after Crowd's violent behavior
Ultimately the competition kicked off. West Indies sailed smooth to knockouts. Under Richardson the team appeared formidable with likes of Lara and Arthurton creating waves in the batting arena. Arthurton was the Bevan of West Indies during this period. Until an opposition picks his wicket, there is no security of a win. Many pundits tipped West Indies to win the Trophy. India scratched its way to the playoffs, but the journey was a roller coaster.
First they beat Sri Lanka without hassles and then lost to West Indies badly. Also the game against West Indies was disrupted due to crowd behavior for 45 minutes. If I remember correctly there was a cracker burst on the face of Keith Arthurton. At last India was asked to chase a total of 170 odd in 38 overs, but then bundled for 100 by West Indies pace battery. In the third game against Zimbabwe, no second guess after India put 248 on board. But then Flower & Co had other plans. Though India was getting wickets at regular intervals no Zimbabwe batsmen gave up the fight and kept raising the adrenaline. In the final over Zimbabwe needed 10 runs to win with 1 wicket in hand and Prabhakar bowled that over. Streak and Rennie scored 8 runs of 5 balls and Zimbabwe now needed 2 to win in 1 ball. The last ball turned to be a leg bye; Streak attempted a double and ran himself out. In the end the result was announced tie despite India lost only 5 wickets compared to Zimbabwe’s 10. India played the final league match against South Africa. India won this game comfortably after Rhodes got out during the chase.
During the Semi Finals against South Africa
Once more, India had to face South Africa in the Semi Finals and fate played its part. India bundled to a paltry 195 and South Africa begin the pursue ease. South Africans tradition to choke in the knockouts is actually a history dated from 1993. From a very comfortable situation, the batsmen suddenly panicked and started giving away their wickets in flurry. The final equation read 1 over to bowl, 6 runs to win, 2 wickets in hand. With Kapil, Prabhakar, Srinath left to bowl two overs apiece, the question loomed who will bowl the last over? In an unexpected twist, Tendulkar was given the final over which also happened to be his first over of the match. Everyone astonished at the choice. In the seat edge thriller, Tendulkar held nerve and finally India prevailed conceding just 3 runs including a wicket. If you could remember, the same ploy was repeated in the semi finals of 2002 mini World Cup against the same opposition. With dangerous Klusener at the crease, India chose to bowl Sehwag to trump South Africa.
Sachin bowls the Final Over

The Finals held at Calcutta. India batted first to score 225. Having won the Semi Finals from a very tight spot, India bowled with lots of confidence. About one lakh people in the stadium, the roar from the crowd blew the sky away. From 57/1, West Indies lost the remaining wickets in a bout for another 66 runs. Anil Kumble bowled magnificently his last spell of 4 overs to grab 4 wickets. His final tally comprised of 6-2-6-12 that also won him the man of match trophy. I still fondly remember running in the streets insane screaming after the triumph.
Azhar with the Hero Cup

Team celebrating the Hero Cup Victory
The young duo of Srinath and Kumble rocked the entire series while Kambli was our star batsmen. The lineup comprising the youth brigade of Vinod Kambli, Ajay Jadeja, Sanjay Manjrekar, Sachin Tendulkar, plus Azhar in top form and the senior pros Kapil Dev & Prabhakar guiding the side, I started sensing India to win the 1996 World Cup. Tendulkar was a big let down with the bat in the Hero Cup. But then how did I know he will be the trump card for India in 1996 World Cup and future editions to follow.

To be continued…

MB (Memory Bytes): It was during the Hero Cup, Jayasuriya was elevated to open the batting for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka mostly played the same squad for 1996 World Cup.

By Dinesh in the VISION OF BALA
Next Episode, Next Monday: India’s Run Machine

1 comment:

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