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Indian cricket

July 15, 2013

The day India learnt how to chase

Shyam Sundararaman


Sourav Ganguly mobs Mohammad Kaif as India steal the most unlikely of wins, England v India, Lord's, July 13, 2002
The Natwest Series 2002 final: an evening of euphoria, relief and important lessons for India © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Mohammad Kaif | Yuvraj Singh
Teams: India

Cricket teams rarely become good overnight. It takes time. They take one step, and then another. The confluence of talented players, intelligent coaches, luck and the best laid plans, help teams become better.

Allan Border and Steve Waugh speak fondly of the '86 tour of India and how big a step that was in their evolution from pushovers to world-beaters. Mark Taylor looks back at their miserable tour of India in '98 and how the lessons learned made Australia a formidable opponent even in the subcontinent for the next decade.

As for the Indian team which had muddled through two decades of mediocrity away from home, July 13, 2002, was a seminal moment.

On that day, a generation of Indian cricketers helped the country and fan base conquer their twin demons of chasing scores and playing away from home, in a dazzling and spectacular manner.

For a generation of fans used to Dhoni's escapades (like the one in the tri-series final), it was not always like this.

Once upon a time, India were bad chasers, with fans dreading a chase which involved Sachin Tendulkar getting out early. To truly quantify the size of the demons we are dealing with here, some cruel numbers need to be revisited. During the period between the 1996 and 1999 World Cups, India heavily relied on the bat of Tendulkar. Sourav Ganguly was able to provide some much-needed support, but India, more often than not, ended up as losers when chasing targets. In a four-year span against teams not named Zimbabwe or Bangladesh, India only had two wins chasing when Tendulkar failed to score a fifty. Between January 31,1999, and July 13, 2002, India lost nine successive ODI finals. Five of those defeats were while chasing.

Cometh the big game, choketh the side, it seemed.

So, when Nasser Hussain and Marcus Trescothick blunted and decimated the Indian bowlers en route to England's highest-ever ODI score, Indian fans like myself had a sense of déjà vu that only a fellow tormented fan could understand.

And when India, after a brisk start, lost five wickets (including that of Tendulkar's) for 40 runs, the déjà vu turned into fatalism and a "why us" diatribe to the cricket gods.

I even turned the TV off and ran away from it. Thank the gods that the protagonists were not as fatalistic as their fans, for two fearless, young men decided that Lord's was not the place for history to supersede the future.

In a partnership of the ilk which was rare at the time, Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh pooh-poohed any possible mental or emotional baggage. Buoyed by an aggressive captain who backed his players to the limit, and a coach who had planned for that very situation, the two turned the game on its head.

I watched every ball from the 35th over onwards. The India fan in me that had been beaten to death by years of futile and failed chases, kept the reverse-jinx going. "Won't last", "eyewash" and "England will win" accompanied every run scored. But the cricket fan in me which sensed talent and special moments, kept telling me that this I was witnessing history in the making.

Deep down, I knew the cricket fan was right. The Indian contingent was rocking, and with 12 needed off 13, this was a 'make or break' moment. Had the cursed chasers of the past two decades carried their rotten luck over to the new millennium? Or was this team going to finally announce itself to the world with the most incredible chase?

Kaif and Zaheer would win with three balls to spare. The eventual euphoria (Ganguly memorably removed and waved his shirt) was drowned out by enormous relief; in one afternoon, a single chase had destroyed years of pent-up defeatism, as the fan base would never fear chasing targets so much, ever again.

In the years to follow, a traumatic 2007 World Cup aside, India built on their new-found fearlessness as the team continued to chase down many more daunting totals.

For a generation who had endured nightmarish losses at so many venues, and for a fan base who believed a chase to be over once Tendulkar got out, that evening in London will forever be etched in memory as the day India learnt to chase.

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Posted by   on (July 22, 2013, 22:05 GMT)

I was there too at Lords.My friend with his Son ( Both English) texted me after 30 overs " Don't you want to go home"? I replied after 43rd Over, " do you want to leave now"? We went out for a meal after the game and I said here comes New Indian team. Looking back Indian team now have done it so many times since then that Euphoria now has turned into sublime confidence when India chasing!!

Posted by ut4me87 on (July 22, 2013, 21:10 GMT)

India was 106 before the first wicket fell in the 15th over and that of Ganguly at 60. That was a brisk start by the openers and that allowed the younger players to play their game. What we saw just before and after 2000, was Ganguly Tendulkar opening partnership and then Dravid and Yuvi or Kaif finishing the game. When Sehwag started opening the batting, Ganguly dropped down the order.

Posted by naren1983 on (July 22, 2013, 13:35 GMT)

Definitely, its indeed the win that shocked almost all. We used to lose so many finals where we saw Sachin getting out and India losing. This was the case While Azhar & Ganguly captained India which I had watched. Ever since the middle order gets strong after the arrival of Yuvaraj & Kaif, we could relax even top orders were getting out. That was the time, India started winning Away under Ganguly captaincy, but the art of finishing the game was still missing. Then the complete arrival of Dhoni, our middle order gets more strong even while finishing the game or chasing. Now what Dhoni brings to the side is balanced one. This is the way we need to carry out the Cricket which will threaten the opposition psychologically.

Posted by spinkingKK on (July 18, 2013, 14:40 GMT)

One thing about this match worth mentioning was, Kaif was not known to be a big hitter and at one stage, the captain Ganguly gestured to Kaif from the balcony to take a single so that Yuvraj can take the strike. On that very same ball, Kaif pulled a Darren Gough bouncer for six. In next over or so, Yuvraj was dismissed and walked away like India's chances were finished. But, Kaif had other ideas and he kept scoring and the rest is history. I have read in the news later on that Kaif's father apparently went to bed, not strong enough to see India lose that match. Next day, he was very much surprised to hear that India had won that match and his son was the man of the match. What a moment. I for one, did always believe that India can win that match, until Yuvraj went out. To see Kaif scoring like the way he did was an inexplicable joy. That is why I still want to see Kaif back in the side. But, I know it won't happen.

Posted by PeterJerome on (July 18, 2013, 9:50 GMT)

@nayonika, In fact I thought that moment of tossing the shirt, was THE moment that laid the path for today's aggressive Indian team. It told A Flintoff and the rest of the world, that India were no pushovers. And if you forgot, it was in reply to what Flintoff did in India. Always thought Ganguly was a meek fella b4 he got to captaincy, but boy what a change in attitude he brought to the Indian team. I remember how pumped up I felt then. Would have been the same with our current players who may have watched that match back then. Salute to Sir Sourav Ganguly. You are a Legend.

Posted by SurinK on (July 18, 2013, 9:27 GMT)

The marvelous article. It makes my memories fresh as every thing happened yesterday. I feeling the same thing what i did feel on that day "stunned and drops of joy are in my eyes". That win made us to believe in our team and i decided no matter what i will be with my team in wins and as well as losses. A very big THANKS to Shyam for such a beauty.

Posted by   on (July 17, 2013, 22:41 GMT)

every one mentions yuvi and dhoni dont forget sehwag o pponents dint fear dhoni and yuvraj as sehwag now he is out but he was the best than any one else

Posted by indianpunter on (July 17, 2013, 14:44 GMT)

will never forget that day. It was the day the results of my MD exams came out. I had passed and with sheer delight, walked into the hostel TV room only to see Tendulkar get out the first ball i watched. But something told me that i wouldnt be let down by my team on such a great day of my life. I watched every ball from then on and wow !! what a game that was !

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