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Two youngsters, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif scripted a glorious act to take India to a fabulous win over hosts England in the NatWest tri-series final at Lord’s in 2002. Bharath Ramaraj reflects back on that memorable day in Indian cricket.
In the year 2002, India reached the NatWest tri-series final against hosts, England under the stewardship of Sourav Ganguly. However, those footprints of less than impressive performances in a slew of One-Day International (ODI) finals had a singeing effect on the soul of battle-hardened cricketers from the country. In short, India were in the throes of a prolonged period of a win-less drought in ODIs. But in sports, where you always know that with hardwork one can script a sparkling turnaround and taste the glory of well-earned success to uncork the champagne.
This is what exactly happened in the NatWest final at Lord’s in 2002. In what turned out to be a glorious day with what seemed like Lord’s ground being bathed in the arched dome of sky, two young men; Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif with fearless courage enacted an act of brilliance that continues to remain as a symbol of crowning glory in the history of Indian cricket.
When England won the toss and elected to bat in slightly overcast conditions, it didn’t feel like India would script a memorable victory. Marcus Trescothick, batting with a cloak of impregnability around him clouted Indian bowlers. Ganguly introduced his spinners; Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh to stem the run flow. But Trescothick, with his feared willow either slog swept them or essayed shots in the arc between long on and long off. Nasser Hussain, his captain, and batting at the other end too made a century. However, it was an innings that was made up of edges rather than the ball finding the sweet spot of the bat. His knock is remembered more for the “three fingered salute” to his critics — Bob Willis and Ian Botham in the commentary box. Some fine defensive bowling by the Indian team then saw England being restricted to 325.
With it being a featherbed of a track, India still had a chance. Yet, would the ghosts of losing all those finals were haunting the Indian unit. Ganguly and Virender Sehwag didn’t seem to think so, as with a magical wave of brilliance, both flayed the English attack. Once Ganguly and Sehwag departed, there was that all too familiar collapse. Sachin Tendulkar, the diamond of Indian line-up, batting as low as No 4 was cleaned up by Ashley Giles bowling negative line from over the wicket. When Tendulkar trudged back to the pavilion, there was a sense of doom and despair among the Indian diaspora at the ground.
Kaif and Yuvraj though, were still at the crease. The two were the toast of the nation when they helped the country to lift the Under 19 World Cup trophy in 2000 in Sri Lanka. With boyish enthusiasm and an unwavering loyalty to the cause, both decided to counter-attack the England camp.
When Yuvraj smashed three thundering boundaries off Andrew Flintoff in the 38th over of the innings, there was genuine belief that India could win. Yuvraj got out, but Kaif, just like a Buddhist Monk seemed to be unruffled by that dismissal. Despite the jangling nerves shown by the tail-enders, India won the match. In the last over of the game, Zaheer Khan and Kaif ran to complete two runs as a result of an overthrow. There was unfettered celebration in the Indian camp and the flames of passion got to the skipper, Ganguly, as he removed his shirt!
Now 12 years have gone by since two crusaders helped India to conquer compelling peaks. Reflecting back on that win, it was the time when a bunch of young and fearless cricketers had started to emerge out of the Indian cricket stables to glisten the world of cricket. The fearlessness and that willpower to win was perhaps a microcosm of a young and robust India, where the ambitious youth of the country aimed at reaching the pinnacle of success. Undoubtedly, it was a red letter of Indian cricket that made people in the country believe that sky is the limit.
England 325 for 5 (Marcus Trescothick 109, Nasser Hussain 115; Zaheer Khan 3 for 62) lost to India 326 for 8 (Sourav Ganguly 60, Yuvraj Singh 69, Mohammad Kaif 87; Andrew Flintoff 2 for 55, Ronnie Irani 2 for 64, Ashley Giles 2 for 47) by 2 wickets.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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