Looks like ICC a k a International Cricket Council cannot get their arithmetic right. It has only been 3 years since 96 and world cup was round the corner back to where it all Started England. English always being sticklers for exactitude reversed backed the clock to correct the extra year added to the world cup cycle by the Aussies in year 92. To be precise it was UK who was playing the hosts as Scotland and Ireland also joined the bandwagon as co hosts with their big brother England… Now I was no longer a student and moved on to a routine 9 to 5 job. I was now pretty much used to following all the cricket action on the cricketing websites and decided to watch the Indian matches on a big screen aired in a local theater in New Jersey.
Looking back at 1999 Clinton was in the last year of his presidency and as they say Americans were experiencing Clinton Fatigue with the Monica Lewinsky episode playing loud on American TV channels.. On the other side of the World India and Pakistan were fighting it out not in a cricket match but in a real war no kidding!!. Kargil war now consigned to the history text books was keeping the emotionally charged Indian and Pakistan Media busy with the spin doctors having a field day on both sides of the Aisle. The Indian blogosphere was full of stories of the brave Indian Soldiers who had laid their lives for the honor of their Home land. This really put the notion of the so called sporting hero’s into context.. Society as such has given a larger than life role for Sports in our culture but in the bigger scheme of things sports at its best mimics the real world and produces great sporting hero’s who are no match for the real life real hero’s!!
War and Peace make for strange bedfellows and they go hand in hand… It was unreal for Pakistan and India playing in the same world cup but that’s how the world of diplomacy works.. So coming back to cricket we had a new country now our Eastern Neighbor Joining the world Cup. Eastern Neighbor? Take a guess No it was not Bhutan but Bangladesh which was playing the world cup.. Oh Boy they did announce their entry into the Cricketing world in style by beating their estranged brothers Pakistan in a league game and were instantly awarded the TEST status for their achievement..
Scotland, Kenya joined Bangladesh to make it a twelve nation tournament and no prizes for guessing the remaining nine. The happenings in the 96 world cup provide a food for thought to the cricketing bosses. In 96 we had a team South Africa which won all the league matches but came a cropper in the quarters invalidating their performance in their league stage. In order to make amends the format was changed to make the performance in the league matches count. The organizers came up with a super six format where in a team would carry forward the points against the teams they had beaten in the league phase provided the other team also qualified in super six. Well Cricket and Math’s go together that’s right. What it all meant was that three team in each group would qualify for the next group and play the other 3 qualifying nations from other group in super six. Can’t make it simpler than that..
Australia and Pakistan were hyped as the pre tournament favorites. Indian Cricket team was now abuzz with names like Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid and of course the constant Sachin Tendulkar. Remember Azharuddin he was still at the helm of the affairs sure his days were numbered… Indian Cricket team had a bizarre start to the tournament as they lost to Zimbabwe and this was to really cost them eventually.. England and west indies were no longer really talked as a great ODI teams and really there were no real expectations from them. Kiwis as usual punched above their weight and Pakistan was in Cruise mode expect for their shock defeat against their Bangladeshi brothers . Battle Hardened Australia really struggled and made it to the super six without any carry over points and India found itself in a very similar predicament with their loss to Zimbabwe having a amplified effect as under dogs Zimbabwe joined them in super six. South Africa as expected made it to the super six and the defending champions Sri Lanka failed to recreate the magic of 96 and exited the tournament after the league phase leaving a lot of heart broken Sri Lankan fans.
Both India and Australia had a mountain to climb in Super Six as they had no carry over points . The other four teams Zimbabwe, South Africa, Pakistan and New Zealand had the luxury of carry over points.. Australia under real pressure came on the top while India in spite of beating Pakistan in a emotionally charged encounter could not get past both the kiwis and the Aussies in the super six .The battle lines were drawn for the semis with the Aussies facing the Proteas and Pakistan fighting the Kiwis for the coveted spots in the Final..
These were the memorable lines uttered by Steve Waugh in the humdinger of a semifinal match between Australia and South Africa ” You Just dropped the World Cup Mate” after a catch offered by Steve Waugh was dropped by Herchelle Gibbs as Steve Waugh capitalized on it to make a century that day.. The match produced moments of sheer madness in the End when South Africa almost near the finish line thanks to the histrionics of “ZULU” Lance Klusner finished on par with the Aussies as Allan Donald ran himself out with the scores tied offering the Spot in Finals to Australia as they had finished better of South Africa in the Super six Stage. In the other Semis Pakistan brushed past the Kiwis setting up a Australia Pakistan final Clash
In the End Pakistan Flattered to Deceived as they were bamboozled by Shane Warne batting first and fell of like a pack of cards to offer the World Cup on a Platter to the Aussies led by Steve Waugh on June 20 1999 at Lords in one of the most one sided finals in the history of the world cup starting the era of Invincible Aussies.