It was the turn of South Africa now called the Rain Bow Nation to host the world cup along with their neighbors Zimbabwe and the other African nation Kenya. After their isolation from the rest of the world South Africa under the leadership of Nelson Mandela were on a path of reconciliation. Mandela realized the power of sport to change the world and used sports to transform South Africa’s Image and worked to get South Africa Involved in International Sports. The Rugby World cup in 1995 was followed by the Cricket World Cup in 2003 finally ending in South Africa hosting the mother of all cups the Football World Cup in 2010…
A lot had transpired since the 1999 world cup. We entered a new millennium unscathed by Y2K doomsayer’s apocalyptic predictions. The 9/11 attacks had changed the political landscape leading to the American war on Terror in Afghanistan and the Iraq war of 2003. Almost all the cricketing nations had no stakes in these American wars apart from Britain and Pakistan the most trusted American Ally. However it was very interesting to note the birth of a Cricketing nation Afghanistan ravaged by war during these times. The story of Afghan cricket starting from the refugee camps of Pakistan was something which grabbed my attention as a keen global follower of the game those days. I no longer identified myself as a Indian cricket fan but broadened my horizons and called myself a global cricket fan more interested in the expanding blue print of cricket throughout the world. I was quite pleased when the Cricket world cup was expanded to a 14 nation tournament with teams from Canada , Namibia Netherlands and Kenya joining the tournament. I am never in conformity with the elitist point of view that these countries have no place in world cup as the elitists argue for a more competitive tournament than a more inclusive tournament.
Indian cricket by the turn of the Millennium had transformed itself into a big money spinner and Indian Cricket was now administered by the business savvy bosses of the BCCI who were flexing their muscle in the closed board room meetings of the ICC. Indian Cricket had established itself as the biggest revenue generator for ICC because of the vast Indian television audience and corporate India recognizing the ability of cricket’s reach to sell their products to the Indian Audience. Saurav Ganguly the prince had taken on as the Captain of Team India. The Indian teams performance ebbed and flowed leading to the world cup but however were in a continuous losing streak before they embarked on the 2003 world cup leaving the Indian fans deeply disenchanted. The format for the tournament was almost similar to the 1999 tournament with seven teams in each group with a super six stage before the eventual knock outs. In the mean time Australian team had become the envy of the entire cricketing world and they had left the rest of the cricketing world way behind.
India, Australia, Pakistan, England , Zimbabwe were in the same group along with Namibia and Netherlands. It was Australian fireworks all around and they stream rolled everyone in their path. India had a very ordinary start to the tournament and their loss to Australia led to street protests in India and the cricketers houses being stoned. A strong appeal for Calm by Sachin Tendulkar Mollified the Indian fans. Sachin Tendulkar did live up to his promise he made to the India fans. He plundered runs by the dozens and Indian team after the Australian loss turned around decimating all the remaining opposition in the group including Pakistanis who had a very pedestrian outing out there. The ugly specter of politics again played spoil sport as England not in conformity with Robert Mugabe’s policies in its erstwhile colony decided not to play in Zimbabwe which helped Zimbabwe qualify at their expense alongside India and Australia into the super six.
South Africa, West Indies ,New Zealand , Sri Lanka , Kenya , Bangladesh, Canada were In the other group hailed as the group of death. South Africa as the hosts was the local favorites but they did not set the scene on fire as expected by the south African audience. Srilanka played jackal and hyde as they were shockingly defeated by Kenya in Nairobi but bowled out Canada for a thirty six all out. After their famed Exit in the 1999 world cup South Africa now labeled the “Chokers” were eliminated in similar circumstances when they misinterpreted the Duck Worth Lewis rule in a rain affected tied match against Sri lanka. New Zeland refused to play in Nairobi, Kenya citing security concerns helping Kenya qualify next to New Zealand and Sri lanka with the maximum carry over points. West indies had a unlucky tournament with Bangladesh just making up the numbers this time around. They could hardly justify their TEST status
The Super six failed to entertain and the carry over points Kenya had from the league stage helped them easily qualify with sri lanka for the semis a highly unlikely scenario before the start for the competition. It was a slap on the face for all those who questioned the participation of the Associates in the world cup. Australia and India Continued with their winning ways and smoothly sailed on to the semis . The Semis were both one sided affairs with both Australia and India getting easily past Srilanka and Kenya.
The Indian Fan in me resurfaced and I was rooting for India as they made to the finals of the world cup after twenty years. The day before the finals all the Indian fans were agog with excitement and entire India was praying for a second world cup win including Prime minister Vajpayee. Strangely on 23rd march 2003 Indian Bowlers had a brain fade as the enormity of the occasion got to them and conceded way too many runs (359) to Australia with the Great Ricky Ponting making merry with a 140 not out to put the match beyond the reach of Indian batsmen at the Wanderers cricket Stadium. In the End Australia led by Ricky Ponting truly deserved the cup as they remained undefeated and defended their world cup in style as Sachin Tendulkar the Man of the Tournament and the rest of India watched with a disconsolate smile.