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Feature

India's greatest ODI wins: From 1983 to 2011, and everything in between

As India prepare to play their 1000th ODI, ESPNcricinfo looks back at some of their most iconic moments in the format

Yash Jha
04-Feb-2022
Indian team members proudly hold aloft the trophy, India v West Indies, Lord's, June 25, 1983

Lord's, June 25, 1983 - perhaps still the greatest day in India's ODI history  •  Adrian Murrell/Getty Images

India play their 1000th ODI when they take the field against West Indies on Sunday, becoming the first side to reach the landmark. ESPNcricinfo looks back at some of the iconic moments in India's ODI history, with their first match in the format having come back in 1974.
Belief from the Berbice win
vs West Indies, 1983
Eleven weeks ahead of the third men's ODI World Cup, India's ODI record made for bleak reading: 11 wins in 38 matches. And although six of those wins had come outside India, only one happened to be in a World Cup, when they beat East Africa in 1975.
But in Berbice, and amid a raft of issues - Sunil Gavaskar's sacking as captain, and talk of a zonal rift in the camp - they became the first team to beat a full-strength West Indies in their own backyard.
Gavaskar played one of his finest one-day knocks - 90 off 117 balls - and Kapil Dev bludgeoned 72 off just 38 deliveries as India posted 282 in 47 overs, a score which would remain their highest ODI total till 1987. The seamers Kapil, Balwinder Sandhu and Madan Lal then took two wickets apiece, while Ravi Shastri took 3 for 48, as the two-time world champions were held to 255.
"It's this particular win that helps convince many of us that we may well be able to pull our weight together as a team," Kapil would write in his autobiography Straight From The Heart.
Turnaround at Tunbridge Wells
vs Zimbabwe, 1983 World Cup
The game that no one saw; yet the game that no one has forgotten.
India began their 1983 World Cup campaign with a famous win over West Indies at Old Trafford - the first time the champions had lost a World Cup match - but one week on, having suffered a heavy loss to Australia before West Indies avenged their defeat, India had entered virtual knockout territory.
And against Zimbabwe, the pressure told: the wheels had come off less than an hour into the match. After deciding to bat, India's top five were all gone with the total at 17, as Peter Rawson and Kevin Curran did the early damage. And it was after this that Kapil cracked 175* off 138 balls, single-handedly taking India all the way to 266.
Quite possibly, it was the most important innings in Indian cricket history, arguably one of the finest ever in limited-overs cricket and certainly the greatest knock for which there is no footage available anywhere.
As Kapil soared to a then world-record ODI score, India's flight of fancy had truly taken off.
Zimbabwe had been defeated, Australia were brushed aside in a virtual quarter-final and England were eliminated in the semi-finals. Yet, no one gave India a chance in the final, as they stepped onto Lord's to take on West Indies for the third time in the tournament.
With India bowled out for 183 and Viv Richards having led West Indies to 50 for 1, even the optimistic few had given up. But that is when Richards top-edged a pull off Madan Lal, and Kapil at square leg turned around and ran, and kept running until he completed the catch close to the boundary rope.
A few hours later, with West Indies crumbling as Lal and Player-of-the-Final Mohinder Amarnath bagged three wickets each, the Indian flag was flying over the home of cricket. The world champions had been dislodged; a force had awakened.
Less than two years after the 1983 World Cup triumph, another ODI crown was up for grabs - this time the World Championship of Cricket in Australia. The reigning world champions lived up to their billing with an unblemished group-stage display, earning comfortable wins over Pakistan, England and Australia, before overcoming New Zealand in their semi-final to set up a title clash with Pakistan.
Kapil - no longer captain, with Gavaskar reinstated in 1984 - provided a dream start with the ball along with Chetan Sharma, as Pakistan crumbled to 33 for 4. Just as Javed Miandad and Imran Khan appeared to be stitching a recovery, up stepped Laxman Sivaramakrishnan to have Miandad stumped, and Pakistan eventually ended with 176.
A century opening stand between Kris Srikkanth, who was the Player of the Final, and Shastri, the Player of the Tournament, rendered the chase a mere formality, as India won by eight wickets. As far as India-Pakistan showdowns go, this was far from a classic, but it stamped India's arrival as a consistent side in the format.
Less than two weeks later, the arch-rivals were locking horns in another multi-team tournament, all the way across from Melbourne to Sharjah. Pakistan seemed headed for instant redemption when Imran Khan's stunning 6 for 14 saw India dismissed for just 125.
But Kapil - clearly the man for rainy days - wasn't giving up so easily, and with spinners Sivaramakrishnan and Shastri providing admirable company, India bowled Pakistan out for just 87. No lower total had been successfully defended in men's ODIs at the time; only once has the mark been bettered since.
India and Pakistan have met several times at the World Cup, but hardly any of their contests have had the edge of this feisty encounter at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium: co-hosts against defending champions in a knockout clash.
Pakistan captain Wasim Akram's last-minute pullout added to the tension, but it wasn't a patch on the drama that was to follow. Navjot Singh Sidhu's 93 gave India a platform to build on, before Ajay Jadeja's stunning assault on Waqar Younis propelled them to 287, as 50 runs came from the last three overs.
But Pakistan blazed away to 84 in their first ten, and despite Saeed Anwar's dismissal, Aamer Sohail continued hitting. He took on Venkatesh Prasad, at one stage gesturing to the local boy to go fetch the ball from the boundary. Prasad, though, had the last laugh. Eventually, India waltzed into the semi-finals, where their hopes were dashed by Sri Lanka.
Another decider, and another India-Pakistan match
vs Pakistan, 1998 Independence Cup final, Dhaka
Before this match, India had only ever posted 300-plus twice in ODIs, and only once in the history of ODIs had a target of 300-plus been successfully chased down.
Saeed Anwar - that constant thorn in India's flesh - and Ijaz Ahmed hit hundreds to take Pakistan to 314 for 5, but the Indian top order seemed to have it covered: they had coasted to 250 for 1 in 38 overs, on the back of Sourav Ganguly's 124 and Robin Singh's 82, to go with a 26-ball 41 from Sachin Tendulkar.
With 65 required from the last ten overs - the match had been reduced to 48 overs each - a mini-collapse ensued, and it boiled down to three to win off the last two balls. That is when, in the fading Dhaka light, Hrishikesh Kanitkar swatted Saqlain Mushtaq for four and made himself a pop-quiz favourite for the ages.
It had already taken one of India's most classic losses for them to be in this final - Tendulkar's desert-storm epic two days earlier against the same opponents had been enough for India to cross the score they required to qualify for the title clash. But in the final, Tendulkar went the distance to celebrate his 25th birthday.
Nearly 25 years on, the sights and sounds of that April evening remain a clear memory for so many: Tendulkar dancing down the track for fun against Shane Warne, memorably, but also against Tom Moody and Steve Waugh; the spectators, immortalised by the words of Tony Grieg on air, dancing in the aisles, and India acing a steep chase to land another multi-team trophy.
And this one also had Kanitkar applying the final touch with a boundary.
Miracle at Lord's - again
vs England, 2002 NatWest Trophy final
The trophy cabinet had started to run dry post the 1998 high - after winning five out of six multi-team tournament finals in 1998 alone, India had lost nine successive finals from 1999 to 2001. There was a loss in the ICC Champions Trophy final in 2000, there were maulings to sub-continent rivals, there were tough defeats to higher-ranked teams, there were unexpected losses to lower-ranked teams… it was becoming an unwanted specialty.
With this backdrop, cut to the halfway stage of the second innings at Lord's: chasing 326, India were 146 for 5 after 24 overs, Tendulkar had just walked back to the pavilion, and at the crease were two youngsters with less than 60 matches between them.
That was when Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif conjured something magical. Yuvraj dominated the 121-run association, and Kaif kept his nerve in a tense finish.
It was, at the time, the second-highest successful chase in ODIs. And Ganguly, captain through most of that barren finals run, expressed his relief with a topless celebration on the Lord's balcony.
On top down under
vs Australia, 2008 CB Series finals
Twenty-three years on from their World Championship of Cricket triumph, India hadn't won another final in Australia. In three attempts, they had failed to take any of the best-of-three finals to even a third game. This time, they were up against an Australian outfit that might have been on their final legs, but were still three-time defending ODI world champions. India, starting their own transition, faced an early test in their three-year plan towards world domination with a new captain at the helm.
For all the talk of transition, and in the midst of some high-profile exits, it was the old guard who dominated the deciders: Tendulkar chose an opportune moment to register his first ODI hundred in Australia, helping India complete a 240-run chase in Sydney. He almost got another two days later, scoring 91 in Brisbane, before Praveen Kumar and co defended 258.
The third final wasn't needed this time either; the wheels had been set in motion.
A little over three years later, and almost exactly eight years on from the day Australia demolished their World Cup dream in Johannesburg, India ended the longest reign in the history of the competition.
While they didn't quite have the same aura as earlier, this was still an Australia that hadn't lost a World Cup knockout game since 1996, and Ricky Ponting wasn't done: the Australia captain's century took his team to 260.
Only twice in the history of the World Cup had higher totals been successfully chased down in knockout contests. Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir made fifties, but a middle-order meltdown meant that when MS Dhoni departed, India still needed 74 from 75 balls with the last recognised pair in the middle.
Yuvraj and Suresh Raina, two men who hadn't entered the tournament in the best vein of form, fought resolutely at the erstwhile Sardar Patel Stadium, and gave wings to India's title hopes.
Raina made among the more vital 30 not outs India have ever seen, and Yuvraj - well on the way to winning the Player-of-the-Tournament award - followed his 2 for 44 earlier in the day with an unbeaten 57, belting a drive through the off side for the winning runs before letting out a guttural roar to belie the physical strife through which he was playing the tournament.
The vision from 2008 came to fruition in 2011. No team had won a world title on home soil until then, and the ride had been far from smooth for India: they lost to South Africa and tied with England after scoring 338 in the group stages before the aforementioned quarter-final win against Australia, and then defended 260 against Pakistan in the semi-finals.
Mahela Jayawardene's majestic 103* led a late onslaught that took Sri Lanka to 274; no team had ever chased more than 250 to win a World Cup final. And when Tendulkar exited the World Cup stage with India 31 for 2, the nerves were beginning to fray.
But Gambhir kept the Lankans at bay, stitching two of the most important partnerships in modern-day Indian cricket: 83 with Virat Kohli, and 109 with Dhoni. He fell on 97, meaning Yuvraj - who had to contend with a demotion as Dhoni promoted himself to tackle the threat of Muthiah Muralidaran - joined the skipper for the final act.
Dhoni finished off in style, Tendulkar finally got his hands on the trophy, and a generation of Indian fans got to live what they had only heard of so far: a World Cup victory.