The 2011 Cricket World Cup (CWC) is almost here. It’s in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Should be good, loud, colourful and all that given India’s recent experience in handling cricketing events (read: IPL). But the last time this event happened in India, it wasn’t the happiest of endings. We all remember Vinod Kambli crying his way off the field. Soon after, he was pretty much lost to the annals of has-beens of cricket.
I vaguely remember the 1987 CWC in India. I distinctly recall the 1992 edition in Australia – it was one when I was in class VII, very bad at Maths and was attending extra classes at 7am every day. I would do my best to miss these or catch the match at the tutor’s house. I also remember getting up early and being amazed at the quality of grounds in Australia. Not to mention the coloured clothing and the white ball. And then, there were some terrific matches as well. India beating Pakistan at Sydney was especially sweet since it was spoken about for at least the next four years. Then Ajay Jadeja happened! But that’s for another time.
The 1992 World Cup is a cherished memory because it was the first time the world “LIVE” cricket meant something. Not only at our house, but most friends’ houses, TV sets were bought (colour if they had B/W as was our case) and cable connections were bought. This would change our life forever. That, again, is a topic for another time! Waking up at 5.30am with the permission of my father to watch cricket was the best thing to do. No other day since would I be caught awake at 5.30am with so much enthusiasm! It was a pity when India all but whimpered out of the cup. And it also brought to an end Ravi Shastri’s career. Garlands of slippers awaited him at the Mumbai Airport, if I recall correctly for his slow batting that is claimed to have caused India some losses.
The 1999 World Cup in England was not a typically British affair. With coloured clothing becoming the norm for ODIs, this was an unusually bright event. Tendulkar going home for his father’s funeral and returning to score a 140 against Kenya remains the highlight. India’s wins over Sri Lanka and England saw them scrape through to the next round, but it wasn’t convincing! The most exciting match of the tournament remains Australia beating South Africa in the semi-final. Who knows if Australia would have dominated cricket the way they did since had they lost on that day!
Despite all this, my favourite CWC will be the 2003 edition in South Africa. Yes, India lost the final rather tamely. But it was the first time in a long time that fans felt this team could do something. They went off even worse in 2007, but so did the entire tournament! Yet again, the best memory remains the win over Pakistan and especially, Sachin Tendulkar bludgeoning Shoaib Akhtar. Rumour has it that when Sachin Tendulkar was dropped by Shahid Afridi, he was asked if he knew whom he had dropped… Akram has denied it since, but these things aren’t forgotten or erased that easily!
Another prejudice for the South Africa edition of the CWC is that I have since visited that country and most of the cricket grounds there and can well imagine what an exciting place it must have been for watching the CWC.
What can 2011 offer? The facilities are better, the teams stronger but the format, one feels, is still too long drawn. A month-and-a-half for the tournament is way too long. The good stuff starts almost three weeks into the tournament. Let’s hope there is more excitement on offer than we saw in 2007.