PARTAB RAMCHAND | 11 NOVEMBER, 2020
Down Memory Lane
In October 2000 the Indian team performed admirably in making the title clash of the ICC knockout tournament (later the Champions Trophy) in Nairobi before losing a close final to New Zealand by four wickets with two balls to spare. On their way to the final India had got the better of Australia in the quarterfinal and South Africa in the semifinal. It was a heartwarming show and the Indians were confidence personified as they headed straight to Sharjah for the Coca Cola Trophy tournament which involved a tri series the other participants being Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
Both these teams were eliminated in the quarterfinals in Nairobi and so India was installed as clear favourites to win the cup. The format involved each team playing each other twice before the final and not unexpectedly Zimbabwe proved to be the punching bags losing all their four matches. But Sri Lanka won both their games against India serving enough notice that Sourav Ganguly’s men would have to be at their best if they hoped to turn the tables in the final.
None however could have bargained for what actually happened. Sri Lanka elected to bat on winning the toss but in the 28th over they were rather shakily placed at 116 for four. Romesh Kaluwitharana, Marvan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara were the batsmen dismissed but Sri Lanka were comforted by the fact that skipper Sanath Jayasuriya was still there dominating the scoring. Joined by another left hander Russel Arnold the experienced 31-year-old left hander renowned for his swashbuckling strokeplay enhanced his reputation with an array of breath taking shots which saw Sri Lanka take the initiative – an advantage they never relinquished thereafter.
Reeling under Jayasuriya’s onslaught the Indian bowling and fielding wilted. Arnold was content to play the ball into the gaps to give Jayasuriya most of the strike. The captain was clearly in a belligerent mood and his iron wrists and bulging forearms created immense power in his shots. Indeed he was in charge from the very first delivery he faced which was dispatched to the boundary and thereafter there was no looking back. In fact after reaching his hundred he ran amok smashing 89 runs from just 43 balls.
The fifth wicket pair added 166 runs off 20.2 overs with Jayasuriya scoring over 100 of those runs. By the time he was out stumped by Vijay Dahiya off Ganguly off the first ball of the 49th over Sri Lanka were a commanding 282 for five. In a typically buccaneering display Jayasuriya scored 189 off 161 balls with 21 fours and four sixes. It equaled the second highest score in ODIs drawing level with Vivian Richards’ famous 189 against England in 1984 with only Saeed Anwar’s 194 for Pakistan against India at Chennai in 1997 ahead. Arnold happy at playing a supporting role as his captain blazed away ended with an unbeaten 52 from 62 balls as Sri Lanka posted 299 for five in 50 overs. Venkatesh Prasad and Ajit Agarkar were the bowlers to suffer most from Jayasuriya’s punitive blade conceding 140 runs from 17 overs without a wicket.
A target of 300 was clearly a tough one but what followed was absolutely inexplicable. The bowling had not exactly covered itself with glory but the batting went to pieces. The star studded batting line-up that started with Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar and continued with Yuvraj Singh, Vinod Kambli, Hemang Badani and Robin Singh just had no answer to the pace spin duo of Chaminda Vaas and Muthiah Muralitharan. One by one they succumbed meekly. The rot started with the early dismissals of Ganguly (3) and Tendulkar (5) midway through the fifth over and there could be no recovery after that. The slide just continued dramatically but for Robin Singh no one made it to double figures.
The left hander top scored with 11 off 38 balls as India were shot out for 54 off 26.3 overs the third lowest total in ODIs. While Vaas was the wrecker in chief with five for 14, Murali chipped in with three for six. The overall Indian performance touched abysmal depths and the margin of defeat by 245 runs was the heaviest suffered by any team in ODI history. Till today 20 years later it is still the worst defeat suffered by India in terms of runs and that 54 remains their lowest total.
At the awards function it was all Jayasuriya as he won best batsman, best fielder, fastest fifty, most sixes, man of the match and man of the series. For India it was a steep climb down from the high they achieved at Nairobi just two weeks before.