Manoj Prabhakar top-scored in the match and bowled the all-important last over © Getty Images (file photo)
Manoj Prabhakar top-scored in the match and bowled the all-important last over © Getty Images (file photo)

November 18, 1993, barely a week after Diwali. Following a humiliating defeat against West Indies in the CAB Jubilee Tournament (Hero Cup), India played a humdinger against Zimbabwe at Indore that went till the last ball, resulting in a tie, bringing a decade-long streak to an end. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at the only tie.

The CAB Jubilee Tournament acquired Hero as a sponsor, but that was all that went right for them for a while. It started with Pakistan backing out of the tournament citing security reasons, which meant that it was a five-way thing involving West Indies, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe, along with hosts.

This made little sense, for there would be 10 league matches, followed by semi-finals and a final (the last three would be the first matches to be played under lights at Eden Gardens). In other words, 5 teams would play 10 matches to decide which 4 would qualify for the final 3 matches.

But the woes of Jagmohan Dalmiya (the brain behind the Hero Cup) did not end there. Earlier that year, on March 15, they had sent a letter to Director-General, Doordarshan. Till that point of time Doordarshan had a monopoly of matches played in India. In fact, there was a time when BCCI actually paid them to telecast matches.

But things changed with Star coming into the fray. CAB gave exclusive television rights for the tournament to Trans World International (TWI). While Doordarshan had bid a mere INR 10 million, TWI guaranteed a minimum of INR 17.6 million in addition to 70 per cent of gross revenue.

It was a no-brainer. Even if CAB had to pay INR 1.5 million to VSNL, who would, in order, instruct Intelsat to help TWI carry out their operations, it made sense to give TWI the rights.

Doordarshan were not going to give in easily. There was no way they would allow solo rights to a foreign organisation. The fun began.

Doordarshan started by announcing that they would not telecast the matches all over India. Thus, when India were beating Sri Lanka at Kanpur, there was minimal advertising in the ground, leading to substantial financial loss for CAB.

CAB’s revenues took a toll. When they insisted Doordarshan telecast the tournament, the company asked for INR 0.5 million per match.

Things would get only worse from there. TWI equipment was seized at Bombay Customs (“claiming it had not obtained the requisite government permission,” wrote Rohit Brijnath). There was no telecast of West Indies vs Sri Lanka from Wankhede.

When TWI reached Chinnaswamy to cover South Africa vs Zimbabwe, the local police stopped them.

Interest around the match had already dwindled after Pakistan pulled out. It did not help that the spectators never got to see the first couple of matches. Some spark was ignited in a battle between the two strongest teams (on paper, at least) when Jonty Rhodes took 5 catches to defeat West Indies

And when India played West Indies at Motera, the tourists scored 202 for 7 and rolled over India for a mere 100. The Motera crowd did not help things by disrupting the match for 40 minutes. Mohammad Azharuddin called it “the worst crowd I have ever seen”.

The Indians travelled to Indore, where they would have a single day’s practice before playing Zimbabwe. Azhar and Pravin Amre were late to arrive for practice, and when they did, the policemen refused to let them enter.

Once they got in after some convincing, Azhar lodged a complaint, and was not in the best of moods when he reached the practice pitches. He lambasted the photographers verbally before asking the security to clear the crowd.

The inevitable happened next day. N Prabhaker reported in The Indian Express the following day: “For the second time in the last seven days the local cops got a booty. After the Diwali baksheesh came the one-dayer. It was a case of making hay while the sun shines. Some of the policemen were collecting money from the public and allowing them inside the stadium. For those who don’t have the patience and energy to stand in serpentine queues outside the stadium for tickets, this came in handy. The rate, according to a spectator, was Rs 50 for the pavilion seat and Rs 10 for a place in the stands.”

Apparently, there was also apparently public betting, albeit on the weather, not the outcome. “The locals had so much confidence in their team,” reported Prabhaker.

A stop-start effort

By the time the match was played, Kapil Dev had relinquished the baton of India’s bowling spearhead and leading all-rounder to Manoj Prabhakar. Prabhakar opened with WV Raman after Andy Flower put India in.

Raman had scored 0 and 4 in the tournament, but with Navjot Sidhu ruled out due to an injury, he was retained. He fell to David Brain for a duck.

This brought Vinod Kambli to the crease. At this point of his career Kambli was considered equal to Sachin Tendulkar, at least in talent if not in performance. The pair took things cautiously, adding 122 before Kambli perished against the off-breaks of Stephen Peall for a 96-ball 55. The strike rate had a lot to do with the fact that he hit a solitary boundary.

At this stage Azhar did something curious. He held himself, Sachin Tendulkar, and Amre back to promote Vijay Yadav. Exactly why he did this was a mystery, for if he wanted a big-hitter, was Yadav a better option than Kapil?

The experiment did not work. Two balls later Yadav went for an almighty heave and fell for a duck. Azhar joined Prabhakar to break the shackles somewhat, placing the ball with soft hands to get those valuable singles.

Prabhakar eventually gave Peall the charge and was stumped for a 126-ball 91 (4 fours, 1 five). Tendulkar smashed a 16-ball 24 before hitting one back to Heath Streak. And Azhar, unleashing slog mode in the end overs, remained unbeaten on a 56-ball 54 (4 four, 1 six).

India finished on 248 for 5. It was a formidable target given the age. Furthermore, the fact that India had beaten Zimbabwe in each of their 10 previous encounters must have played at the back of the minds of the hosts.

The chase

Zimbabwe had dropped Mark Dekker to make way for Grant Flower. The move did not work. Opening batting with big brother Andy, Grant played down the wrong line to Prabhakar and was bowled.

Alistair Campbell, next man in, tried to leg-glance Javagal Srinath; the ball was too fast for him, and crashed on to the stumps. 23 for 2.

Dave Houghton, veteran of three World Cups, joined Andy Flower to steady ship. Azhar replaced his new-ball bowlers, first with Tendulkar, then with Kapil — and Houghton retaliated.

Houghton smashed 3 boundaries and lofted Kapil into the long-on stands to bring back life into the match. Unfortunately, Kapil trapped him LBW just after the first drinks break. The score read 67 for 3, but Houghton had already got the chase on track.

Andy Waller scored a brisk 33, but just when it seemed Zimbabwe would run away with the match, he cut Tendulkar to Azhar at gully. And Flower, after a polished 82-ball 52, attempted a premeditated slog off Rajesh Chauhan and was stumped. 143 for 5.

At this stage young Guy Whittall joined the experienced Ali Omarshah. Omarshah, the first non-white cricketer to play for Zimbabwe, sometimes reported as Omar Ali Shah by the press, invariably leading to puns involving Alisha Chinai.

But let us not deviate. Whittall and Shah launched a furious onslaught, adding 54 in 9 overs. Not only did they slash the required runs by half, they also kept the required rate in control.

Sloppy fielding did not help India’s cause. Raman, especially, was poor, and was booed by the Indore crowd. Azhar later wrote of Indian fielding in his column in The Indian Express: “I’ve seen some poor performance by India in the last nine years, but this one was simply out of the world. As I sat in the dressing room, and believe me there was steam there, I still couldn’t believe what we had done on the field.”

He added: “It was pathetic. It was shocking. No doubt, this wasn’t a very easy outfield but we should be used to these conditions. After all, if Zimbabwe can adapt to the conditions and field outstandingly, surely every member of the Indian team should be stung to perform better. But no. Even the example of a couple of teammates fielding desperately was lost. If we continue to field like this, we need to score 350 in every match so that we can donate 75 to the fielders.”

Once again the match tilted, this time in one over from Srinath. Shah went first, playing a lifter straight to Chauhan at fine-leg. His 37 came off 31 balls, and included only 4 fours (this means he ran 21 singles in 27 balls in addition to runs for Whittall).

Peall got a single off the first ball. This brought Whittall back on strike. The youngster stepped out, but only managed to play it back to Srinath. At this stage of his career Srinath was as agile as he was at any point of time in his career. He threw the ball back to send Whittall back.

Brain hit one to Azhar, who got his hands to the ball; the ball flew in the air, but the Indian captain, supreme fielder that he always had been, caught it on second attempt. 212 for 8. Zimbabwe needed 37 from 31.

Streak was yet to become the quality all-rounder of the late 1990s and early 2000s, but he still had the ability to play big shots. Surprisingly, Peall took charge, smashing Srinath (who was at the fastest of his career) to the mid-wicket fence.

The equation came down to 15 from 10 balls. Srinath ran in. Streak hit one high in the air. Everyone — batsman, bowler, fielders, spectators — were sure that Kapil would catch it.

He would have, had Kumble not gone for it as well. The two big men collided, and the ball fell harmlessly. The batsmen ran three.

12 from 9. Now Peall went for a heave — he hardly had an option — but once again Srinath’s pace did the trick; the ball made it way to the big gloves of Yadav.

237 for 9. Zimbabwe needed 12 from 8 as last man John Rennie walked out. The batsmen got a single each.

10 from 6. Kapil had bowled 6 overs and Kumble 8, but Azhar entrusted the ball to Prabhakar, the man who brought reverse-swing to India and perhaps the best man to bowl yorkers at this stage. He did not consider Tendulkar, who would bowl one of the most famous last overs later in the tournament.

Rennie had a heave but missed. 10 from 5. Surely it was India’s match from there?

Rennie connected this time. The desperate batsmen ran a single. Streak did the same next ball. 8 from 3.

Rennie swung again, and connected this time. Had the ropes been drawn inside, it would have crossed them. Luckily for India, the ball fell just short of the ropes and went for four, first bounce. 4 from 2.

Prabhakar ran in. “I am quite ashamed to say that when Manoj ran in for that last ball, I was wishing there was no top edge because, believe me, on the day Zimbabwe would have run two and we gladly allowed them to.”

Rennie swung again. He connected, but the timing was not as good. They ran desperately, securing a second run. Had the previous ball gone for a six, Zimbabwe would have won the match. In this case, they needed another 2 from the final ball.

The elusive yorker came now, perfect in line, but Rennie was equal to the task. He managed to deflect it, and he and Streak ran maniacally to secure the tie before turning for the second run. Unfortunately, the throw came in time, Streak falling short of his ground.

And Indore witnessed a tie.

What followed?

– With 3 points in 3 matches India still had a chance, though they would have wanted a much-needed morale-booster in the last league match against South Africa. A composed 86 from Kambli and some excellent bowling from the unlikely duo of Salil Ankola and Ajay Jadeja gave India a 43-run victory.

– India beat South Africa again in the first semi-final after Azhar scored a fabulous 90. Jadeja again bowled well, but in the end the match was decided in the final over: asked to defend 6, Tendulkar conceded a mere 3.

– West Indies brushed Sri Lanka aside next match, but faltered while chasing 226. Kapil started the rout with 10-3-18-2. Then Kumble mopped things up with 6 for 12, which would remain the best figures by an Indian for over two decades.

Brief scores:

India 248 for 5 in 50 overs (Manoj Prabhakar 91, Vinod Kambli 55, Mohammad Azharuddin 54*; Stephen Peall 3 for 54) tied with Zimbabwe 248 in 50 overs (Andy Flower 56; Javagal Srinath 3 for 44).

Man of the Match: Manoj Prabhakar.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)