This article is part of a series in the lead up to India’s first match at the World Cup. India at the World Cup will explore India’s highs and lows over the years in cricket’s premier tournament.  

“We’ll have a bowl”.

And with those words, so began what would later turn out to be one of the most traumatic days of Indian cricket, a memory seared into the collective conscience of Indian fandom.

Live Mint

The World Cup final represented so much for Indians. No more were we the supposed pushovers of the 90s. No more did Sachin’s wicket mean the sounds of televisions and radios turning off everywhere in the country. Ganguly and his men signalled a new era for Indian cricket.

ESPN Cricinfo

And on a personal note, a victory in the final was to be the ideal celebration, just the day after my final exam of the Class 10 boards.

A Sunday afternoon, no exam stress, and on top of the match was in the afternoon. Not too late but not too early either. Just right. Exam down, just a final to go. One conquest after the other. It was meant to be perfect.

It couldn’t have been further from it.

Cricket Country

The match is a minefield of ‘what ifs’. What if Ganguly had chosen to bat?

What if Zaheeer Khan had held his nerve a bit better in that first over?

What if the entire Indian bowling attack didn’t let Ponting and Martyn get inside their heads in the death?


What if Sachin Tendulkar hadn’t skied the fifth ball of the Indian innings?

ESPN Crickinfo

What if the rest of the Indian lineup didn’t cave under the pressure of chasing 360 in a World Cup final?

Every Indian knows what happened after Ganguly put Australia in to bat. That first over from Zaheer Khan set the tone for the rest of the game. Yes, the young quickie – in his first ever World Cup, his first final and the country’s first since 1983 – made mistakes.


We all know what happened. 2 no balls, and 1 wide which resulted in a 4, another 4. 15 runs in total. 

Like I said, seared into the memory.

Which is ironic because it’s easily forgotten that in between all that, 24-year-old Zaheer Khan beat both Gilchrist and Hayden once, and had Gilchrist get an edge, that luckily went past the slips and to third man.


Most fans have probably blocked that out, like the rest of the final. But it wasn’t just the manner in which we were beaten. Like I said before, this match meant so much more than a World Cup final. The Indian Team were evolving into a unit that wouldn’t give up, that would continue fighting till the last player. A team and not a one-man-batting unit. It was a sign that things were changing.


But they didn’t. India collapsed, and we were left with ‘what ifs’ and a scarred memory.

And for a long time, that’s what it was, a scar. Until 11 years later, when Zaheer Khan himself set the record straight at the Wankhede.