World Cup Countdown: 1996 – India crash out, Eden Gardens burns
Mad Max: Aravinda de Silva swung the 1996 semi-final back Sri Lanka's way. © Getty

In the build-up to the 2019 ICC Cricket World CupCricketCountry brings to you the most memorable moments and matches from the tournament over the years – right from its first edition, way back in 1975. With 56 days to go, in our latest World Cup Countdown, we take a look back March 13, 1996 when India were ousted from the World Cup semi-finals on a dark day for Indian cricket. 

Sri Lanka had beaten India easily in their league match, and when the two teams squared off at Eden Gardens in front of a Kolkata crowd of 110,000 in the first semi-final, tensions were high. (World Cup Countdown: Sanath Jayasuriya knocks England out)

Mindful of the ease with which Sri Lanka had chased 272 in Delhi, Mohammad Azharuddin put the opposition in and when both openers were dismissed in four deliveries the Indians were cock-a-hoop. Then Aravinda de Silva played an amazing innings.

With a seeming disregard for the horror start Sri Lanka had been inflicted, de Silva shut out the roars of a partisan Eden Gardens din and raced to his fifty off just 32 balls. It was a graceful innings punctuated by 11 boundaries, none with any ferocity. (World Cup Countdown: Jadeja’s blitz, Prasad’s bluster eliminate Pakistan)

De Silva’s driving was especially pleasing, with the ball repeatedly caressed between cover and extra-cover as the Indians were left for retrieval purposes only. All the while the run rate hovered near seven, even as Asanka Gurusinha laboured 29 minutes and 16 balls for a single run.

De Silva was finally bowled for 66 off 47 balls in the 15th over, inside-edging Anil Kumble onto his stumps. From 85/3, Sri Lanka rallied to 251/8 on a rapidly waning wicket.

De Silva later picked up a wicket as India’s World Cup dreams came crashing down after passionate fans failed to digest an infamous collapse and expressed themselves by throwing water bottles and other projectiles while setting fire to the seating. (READ: Eden Gardens brings shame to nation)

The hundreds of policemen deployed at Eden Gardens could do little to control the widespread hooliganism. Fielders moved in from the outfield, waiting for the madness to abate, but bottles kept piling up near the ropes. (READ: We were lucky India chose to field in semi-final, says Arjuna Ranatunga)

Fires burn in the stands during the 1996 World Cup semi-final.
Fires burn in the stands during the 1996 World Cup semi-final. © Getty

Clive Lloyd, the ICC match referee, awarded the game to Sri Lanka by default and few could have disputed the verdict.

Not surprisingly, de Silva was named Man of the Match for his game-changing half-century.

The Indian team, skipper Azharuddin in particular, was booed and abused during the presentation ceremony and as they left Eden Gardens.

The rage was not restricted to Kolkata. Effigies of the cricketers were burnt around the country. A guard had to be placed outside of Azharuddin’s house, too.

Brief Scores:

Sri Lanka 251/8 in 50 overs (de Silva 66, Ranatunga 58; Srinath 3/34) beat India 120 /8 in 34.1 overs (Tendulkar 67; Jayasuriya 3/12)  by default.

Man of the Match: Aravinda de Silva.