23rd March, 2003 – The final of the blockbuster tournament 2003 world cup. After the 20 long years gap of 1983 world cup, the men in blue had reached the final of 50-overs tournament. Losing the finals of any tournament is not easy for the team and if it's 50-overs then it is very much painful for the team along with its fans across the world. Like in the 2003 world cup, the broadcasting channels have the better quality of matches for the audience from the previous world cups – the viewership quality in the 2003 world cup was the best.
Apart from the viewership, the jerseys of the teams have been modified with eye catching design. The tournament saw the numerous upsets in the group stage round by the underdogs against the A-list teams. Apart from the semi-final matches which were one-sided the tournament was completely unpredictable from the start. The quality of fast bowlers were the best in the 2003 World cup like Shane Bond, Brett Lee, Wasim Akram, Shoiab Akhtar and Javagal Srinath.
For the first time ever the 14 teams were the part of the world cup across the 54 games to be played in the tournament including finals. For the super six stage seven teams were divided into two groups with top three teams from each group qualified for the super six stage. India, Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Kenya were teams in the super six stage. Surprisingly teams like England, South Africa, Pakistan and West Indies were eliminated before the super six stage made the tournament more entertaining and unpredictable.
The most shocking part of Super six stage was when Kenya qualified for the semi-finals with India, Australia and Sri Lanka. New Zealand eventually lost his chance to qualify due to the security reasons for not playing against Kenya which enabled them to entered the semi-finals as a non-test playing nation where they later on lost to India eventually to end the fairy-tale campaign. As a Indian fan I believed if Kenya had qualified for finals and beat the Australia that could've been most surreal world cup finals ever even not comparable to 2019 world Cup.
Australia entered the finals after defeating Sri Lanka and remained undefeated throughout the tournament. Where on the other side, team India was beaten by Australia earlier in the tournament which remained the only defeat for them in the tournament before the finals. Like the semi-final, the final was expected to be more entertaining like the group stage matches but it had been turned down to be one-sided after match winning knock from the captain leading from the front Ricky Ponting.
The Finals at the Wanders Stadium, Johannesburg
It is the same venue where South Africa chased down the surreal target of 438 runs against Australia in the final ODI of 5-match series in 2005. Men in blue captain Sourav Ganguly had won the toss in the finals and decided to bowl against Australia in their prime was the first biggest mistake made by Indians. Which team prefers to chase in the finals after winning the toss, probably no team in the world ever wants to chase against invincible Australia team.
Although the kind of the form and ruthless cricket Australians had played in the tournament so far was very clear they were the favourites once again after 1999 world cup. But cricket is the game of uncertainty so maybe the result could've been different if team India had batted first in the finals as in the chase many great teams were derailed with the pressure.
Team India decision to bowl first was proved wrong from the first over which was turned out to be 10-ball over bowled by Zaheer khan to help Australia reach 15 runs by the end of first over. With the clear intentions Australia scored 125 runs for the loss of two wickets in first 20 overs. Both the openers were removed by Harbhajan Singh to set up the plan to restrict the Australians. But it was Australians era which was already begun and they proved it in their style with the ruthless cricket played once again in the finals.
At 125/2, team India fans were like Australia's at the back foot with two quick wickets. But Indians have completely forgot that they provked the captain of opposition with two early wickets. The time Ricky Ponting walked in he was very angry and looked to punch back which he did with his complete match winning knock of 140 runs off 121 balls while remained unbeaten alongside Damien Martyn who scored 88 runs off 84 balls.
Ponting 8 sixes in the finals was the record that time and with Damien Martyn both added 234 runs in last 30 overs to help Australia posted 359 runs for the loss of 2 wickets. Team India experimented the 8 bowlers against Australia but was unsuccessful to provide any help. The target of 360 was complete out of reach against that pace attack of Australians but team India had won the Natwest 2002 final so the hopes were there.
Sachin Tendulkar Wicket Derailed The Chase And India Was Out Of The Match Completely
Especially in those years team India rely mostly on Sachin Tendulkar performance in such big match. So Sachin performance was going to be matters the most in the first 15 overs and boundary on the fourth ball of the first over made the intentions cleared. But on the next ball, Glenn McGrath had picked the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar who was caught by McGrath to gave first shock to the every Indian fans in the crowd.
It was not going to easy from here but Virender Sehwag had other thoughts in mind that day and the way he start hitting every Australian bowler it looked team India had the chance to go close to the target. But that run-out of Virender Sehwag who scored 82 runs at last had ended the hopes of everyone from the team India but I believe if Sehwag stayed there for long team India could easily chase down the total before the 45th over.
Some of the glorious drives, cuts and big sixes from the Virender Sehwag bat alongside Rahul Dravid in 88 runs partnership for the fourth wicket at once had brought everyone into the match. But again pressure again it was of chase couldn't let that happened as team India innings was came to an end in the 40th over and they lost the match by 125 runs.