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India's ODI cricket journey


India_Cricket_ODI_journeyA few months back, India became the second country to register their 500th win in One Day International matches, beating Australia. In 12 Cricket World Cups, India finally earned a reputation as the favorites in 2019, a long way from the underdogs tag in 1983. The ODI journey for India is a fascinating one with many memorable moments.

The Beginning

India started their ODI journey in 1974 under the captaincy of Ajit Wadekar with two matches against England. The 12th and 13th ODIs ever played and India lost both. 1975 saw the first ever Men’s Cricket World Cup. India faced England at Lords in the first match of the tournament, now infamous for Sunil Gavaskar’s 36* from 174 balls in 60 overs. Whether it was the conditions or the little master showing his disapproval for ODIs is up for debate. India lost the match by 202 runs. In the next match, India got their first ODI win against East Africa which was a minnow team and a 10 wicket win was easily achieved. India lost to New Zealand and crashed out of the group stage from the first World Cup.

The story did not change much in the next four years. Between the two World Cups, India played just five ODIs, winning one against Pakistan, the first match between two fierce rivals. The 1979 World Cup was a disaster as India lost all three matches including the contest against Sri Lanka, then not a Test-playing nation. Things started to change in the early 80s when India began producing more players suitable for the ODI format. Kapil Dev was the leading all-rounder along with handy batsmen like Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Sandeep Patil. Still, the big leap was pending and wins were not frequent. From 1980 to 1982, India had a 33% success rate.

The Game Changer

The 1983 World Cup changed everything. India’s last assignment before the 1983 World Cup was a tour of West Indies, where India won their first ODI against the mighty West Indians, the World Cup champions in 1975 and 1979. If that was not enough, India repeated the result in their first match in that World Cup.

Led by young Kapil Dev and a team full of all-rounders like Mohinder Amarnath, Madan Lal and Roger Binny, the Indian team looked to have a good balance for the first time in ODI history. But a couple of not so great performance put the pressure back on them and then India met Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells in a must-win game. Soon India were 9 for 4 and then 17 for 5 and all the hopes were gone when Kapil Dev changed everything. He shaped the future of Indian cricket by majestic innings of 175. India won the match and from there looked destined to win the tournament which they did in a low-scoring final at Lords by beating West Indies. That was one of the biggest ever upsets in the history of the game. Mohinder Amarnath was the hero of the match and interestingly India’s first ODI World Cup win came on 25th June, the day on which 61 years ago India started their Test journey at the same venue.

Kapil’s 175 was the first ever ODI century by an Indian. Kapil also became the first Indian to take an ODI five-wicket haul during the tournament.

The World Cup win had an everlasting impact on Indian cricket. Till then cricket was a pastime of the elites and although during ’70s common people did relate to Gavaskar’s patient approach it could not become a game for the masses. But the World Cup win broke all the boundaries and cricket came down from riches to common people like never before. For some of the future ODI legends of the ’90s, the 1983 World Cup win was a part of their early cricket memories which inspired their career plans.

In another two years, India won another major trophy in Australia, the world championship of cricket. The young all-rounder from Mumbai, Ravi Shastri, was the player of the tournament and won an Audi car from the sponsors. The entire Indian team taking a lap on that Audi at Sydney cricket ground is an enduring memory from the ’80s for Indian cricket fans.

The ‘Marketer’

In the mid-’50s a young wicketkeeper and opening batsman for the prestigious Rajasthan Club in Kolkata Maidan came from a Marwari business family. He expected to leave cricket and join his father’s business, which he eventually did but his love and passion for the game did not diminish. He was part of the Cricket Association of Bengal and from there he became the part of BCCI in 1979. He went on to become the treasurer in 1983 and in the next few years played a key role to bring the World Cup to the sub-continent for the first time.

He was none other than Jagmohan Dalmiya. He played a big role to shape the Indian cricket history, and arguably the biggest. A tactical mastermind, Dalmiya realized the value of the commercial side of the game and after long legal battle finally got the broadcasting rights out of the home television network ‘Doordarshan’ to external parties like ESPN. It was a massive step which along with the economic reforms of the early ’90s made cricket as the biggest and most marketable sport for India. From paying Doordarshan to showing their matches, BCCI started to earn in millions in advertisement deals and TV rights and commercial side of the game changed forever. Dalmiya was also involved in other key decisions like bringing back South Africa to international cricket and also served as ICC president from 1997 to 2000. During his tenure, the ICC fund increased from 16,000 GBP to 15 million USD.

The ‘God’

The early 90’s saw cricket’s first global superstar. The hype was there from the late ’80s but when the baby-faced, curly-haired teenager Sachin Tendulkar entered the cricket world as India’s youngest ever player and no one expected him to become a legend within next few years. He started solidly and within first three years established himself as one of the game’s leading players. The ’90s were full of his heroics including his battle against Australian master spinner Shane Warne, his glorious centuries in Sharjah in the final of a tournament on his 25th birthday, his century in the 1999 World Cup after his father’s death are all part of Indian cricket’s folklore. No other player could ever generate the fandom which Tendulkar received and still gets whenever he is in front of the public eyes. Tendulkar also proved himself as the definitive ODI player during its glory days in the ’90s and currently holds the record for the highest runs and centuries. His contract with Worldtel changed the entire approach of cricket marketing and made him one of the richest sports stars in the world. Cricket is the religion of India and Sachin Tendulkar is the ‘God’.

Team India

During the early 90’s India’s most of the hope while batting used to be on Tendulkar. In the second half of the ’90s, India got two more strong players in Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly. Later along with VVS Laxman, they developed the ‘Fab Four’ of Indian cricket. The opening partnership between Tendulkar and Ganguly was legendary and still considered as one of the best opening duos. India reached new heights during this phase including some of the biggest 300+ chases in ODIs, a first-ever series win in Pakistan and even another entry to the World Cup final in 2003 which they, unfortunately, lost to a very strong Australian side.

Under Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy, the concept of Team India was formed. A team with players from various corners of the country with diverse backgrounds playing aggressive cricket and not giving any undue importance to their opponents emerged. The other aspects of the game like fielding, running between the wickets and fast scoring were given importance. Players like Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan turned out to be match winners for the team.

Gen Next

The journey which was started by Ganguly and Tendulkar along with other greats was taken to the next level by the intelligent captaincy of MS Dhoni and unparalleled skill of Virat Kohli. Under MS Dhoni, India won the World Cup after 28 years in 2011. Dhoni and Kohli are two of the biggest names in the game currently. India have now become a stronger team with better bowling attack. They have won ODI series wins in Australia and South Africa in recent years. Virat Kohli’s ODI batting is already taking him above all the past greats including Tendulkar and his ability to complete chases during limited over matches are legendary. Virat Kohli is certainly the next big thing in Indian cricket after Tendulkar era.

India’s first 100 ODI win took 232 matches whereas the last 100 wins came in 155 matches. These highlights India’s gradual movement towards the top and now establish them as favorites whenever they play.

The Journey Continues

India began World Cup 2019 campaign in three months from registering their 500th ODI win as one of the favorites. Everyone expected India to have a comfortable reach to the finale. But the cricket God had something else in store. India, although reached quite convincingly in semi-final failed to make it to the final. They were defeated by New Zealand in a rain-affected encounter which made the loopholes evident. Yes, India is one of the most well-balanced teams currently in the world in limited over cricket. Virat Kohli, Indian captain can easily be proud of the top order and bowling unit but the middle order needs some stability. And the lack of inconsistency in the middle order was the primary reasons for India’s exit from the 2019 World Cup.

But Indian cricket has come a long way. The players now know how to move on and how to improve. They will mourn this loss, this will hurt forever but they will learn from this. The current set up of Indian cricket has the ability to work on the gaps and come back stronger. The cricketers can embrace struggle and work for the betterment at the same time now. And, probably this is the best outcome of this memorable ride!

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