The breathing space between the World Cup and this triangular tournament in Bangladesh was 19 days. The difference in significance was measured in light years. There was no side at full strength, no television or radio coverage in South Africa, and no sniff of Bangladesh breaking their 34-match oneday losing streak. And, to top it all, there was no result: the South Africa-India final was washed out - twice.
What media attention there was focused on how South Africa would recover from their humiliating first-round exit at the World Cup. Graeme Smith became officially the second-youngest captain in one-day internationals at 22 years 71 days (the youngest was Waqar Younis, whose age is disputed). Almost his first decision was to demote Shaun Pollock, his predecessor as captain, from opening bowler. It upset Pollock - "I like bowling with the new ball," he said later - and he looked impotent without the hard Kookaburra, conceding 54 in nine overs. India went on to crush South Africa by 153 runs, their second-heaviest one-day defeat in terms of runs.
But Smith and South Africa came back strongly. With Pollock given the harder ball again, they won three in a row, including their second match against India. Neil McKenzie scored 186 in the tournament, and the other major performances also came from players who did not play in the World Cup: Jacques Rudolph began his one-day career with style, and Alan Dawson's nagging swing went for just above three and a half an over and lured out 11 batsmen.
If this was a new beginning for South Africa, it was the end of 19 months (and 21 Tests and 63 one-day internationals) on a treadmill for India, whose players were about to have a six-month break. They were without Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. At times the rest looked very end-of-term, particularly in their lackadaisical fielding.
While India and South Africa were keen to be considered the second-best side in the world, Bangladesh were content to prove that a World Cup defeat to Canada was a one-off: Akram Khan, Habibul Bashar and Khaled Mahmud, now captain, injected a little fight into a demoralised team. Reaching 200 twice in a row was an achievement; that it was cause for celebration was a measure of how low they had fallen.
Match reports for
Final: India v South Africa at Dhaka, Apr 20, 2003