The game of cricket is a great leveller. On some days, you could be sitting easily on the skies and on others, it humbles you by throwing you right down to the ground.
The World Cups throughout history have given us many such moments of tears and misery that were just too sad to watch.
1. Mike Gatting’s dismissal after playing a reverse sweep triggered a collapse and England lost the World Cup 1987 final to Australia.
Gatting’s batting had made England the favourites to lift their maiden World Cup trophy but then the legendary batsman had a brain-fade moment when he tried to reverse sweep part-timer Alan Border and was dismissed for 41, effectively swinging the game back in Australia’s favour.
2. South Africa was very close to qualifying for the 1992 World Cup final, but the rain rule ruined it for them.
SA’s return to cricket after Apartheid was a glorious one. They stormed into the semi-final of the tournament in 1992 on the shoulders of their fast bowlers and let’s just say, Jonty freaking Rhodes.
In the semi-final against England, South Africa was chasing 253 to win. After initial hiccups, they found enough batting prowess to score 231/6 in 42.5 overs, needing 22 more to win after 13 balls.
A 12-minute rain break saw the controversial rain rule being applied to the game, which meant that the least productive overs of the opposition had to be cut. So when South Africa returned to the field, the equation was an impossible 22 runs to score from 1 ball.
3. Indian fans burned the seats at Eden Garden after the Men in Blue had another batting collapse that would have meant certain defeat against Sri Lanka.
Chasing 252, India got off to a good start with Sachin Tendulkar at his flamboyant best. Along with Sanjay Manjrekar, he put on 90 in the board and made India the favourites to win the World Cup semi-final of 1996.
However, Tendulkar’s departure triggered a collapse and India were reduced to 120/8. After this the angered crowd did not let the match continue as they threw bottles on the ground and set the seats on fire.
The match referee then awarded the game to Sri Lanka.
4. Courtney Walsh had a brain fade moment that triggered a collapse as Australia snatched victory from the jaws of a certain defeat.
After a fiery spell from Curtly Ambrose and Ian Bishop early in the game, Australia was struggling at 15/4. But then Stuart law and Michael Bevan came together for a 138-run partnership, propelling the Aussies to 207.
Chasing the small total, the West Indians were chilling at 165/2 in 41 overs when calamity struck. In the matter of a few overs, they went to 187/7 and 202/9 with skipper Richie Richardson waging a lonely battle.
With 6 needed off 4 balls, Richardson desperately needed Courtney Walsh to knock the ball around and give him the strike. But Walsh went for a wild slog and Damien Flemming shattered his stumps to send the West Indians back home.
Mark Waugh later wrote in his autobiography about the match:
How the bloody hell did we win that?”
5. Herschelle Gibbs dropped Steve Waugh and the latter won the game for Australia. This win would go on to haunt the Proteas in the 1999 World Cup semi-final.
Having lost to New Zealand and Pakistan in the group stage, Australia had their work cut out for them. Going into the final Super Six encounter, they had to defeat the Proteas. But Herschelle Gibbs’ magnificent hundred meant that they needed 272 to win.
But the South African bowlers reduced the Aussies to 48/3, which is when captain Steve Waugh came to bat. He counter-attacked with Ricky Ponting and both of them had a good partnership.
Then on 56, Waugh flicked one straight to Gibbs, who took the catch but in seemingly attempting to celebrate, let the ball slip from his grasp.
You’ve just dropped the World Cup.
Waugh went on to score a hundred and Australia won the game. And although it didn’t affect South Africa much at that time, this loss came back to haunt them in the semi-final.
6. South Africa choke again, as a mixup in the last over of the game, tied them with Australia and they were knocked out of the 1999 World Cup.
The Proteas, on the back of some great bowling, restricted Australia and had to chase a mere 214. But Shane Warne erupted on the grand stage and reduced the Proteas to 61/4.
Then Kallis and Rhodes came together and stitched 84 runs together. But as overs went by, the chase kept getting more difficult. However, the unassailable player of the tournament, Lance Klusener kept them in the game with his power hitting.
With 9 required off the last over, he scorched two boundaries off the first two balls.
Alan Donald tried to sneak a single off the third ball but was denied by Klusener. The next ball, however, Klusener went looking for an impossible single but Donald did not reciprocate.
By the time, Donald walked out of the crease, he had to watch agonisingly as the Australian took off the bails at the striker’s end and were celebrating.
Had Gibbs not dropped Waugh in their previous encounter and they had won that game, a tie would have taken them to the final.
7. India fought against impossible odds and bad form to reach the final of the 2003 World Cup only to have Ricky Ponting single-handedly take it away.
India in the World Cup final was a dream that millions of Indians thought would have been fulfilled in the 90s, during the rise of Sachin Tendulkar.
So getting to the final of the 2003 World Cup under Sourav Ganguly, that too after terrible performances in the tournaments leading up to it was a big deal for India.
Even though India was playing the invincible Australian side in the final, they still had a fighting chance, until Ricky Ponting came to the crease.
Along with Damien Martin, Ponting went on a rampage and led Australia to a score of 359. But unlike the Indian side of today, that team simply did not have what it took to chase down a total that big.
8. Shaun Pollock’s mathematical goof up led South Africa to an early exit from the 2003 World Cup in yet another rain-affected match.
After losing to the West Indies and New Zealand, South Africa had to face Sri Lanka in a do or die match.
Sri Lanka had a respectable 268 runs on board after the first innings and South Africa was well on course for a win until Herschelle Gibbs and Boeta DIppenaar were dismissed off successive deliveries.
With 46 from 32 to win, Mark Boucher hit Muralitharan for a six to apparently take South Africa past the par D/L total. Then the rain came pouring down and Boucher defended the last ball before play stopped.
9. India lost to Bangladesh and later to Sri Lanka to crash out of the 2007 World Cup in the first round.
Leading up to the World Cup, India had quite a squad for the tournament. With youth on their side and the veterans of the tea, at their peak, India was one of the strongest contenders for the World Cup, along with Australia.
The team, however, lost their first game against Bangladesh. Although they did make up for it by decimating Bermuda, Sri Lanka proved too much for the Men in Blue as India lost the game again and was crashed out of the World Cup way too early.
10. Rain messed with South Africa again, as they managed to lose a close game against New Zealand in the semi-final.
Until 2015, South Africa had not won a single knock out match in the 6 World Cups they had featured in. But after defeating Sri Lanka in the quarter-final, they were high on confidence and had the team to go all the way.
They proved as much when they smashed their way to 281 in 43 overs but the rains made sure that 7 overs were reduced and the Kiwis were given a total of 298 to chase in the same time.
South Africa looked like they were easily going to get past 300 but D/L had put the match in the Kiwis’ favour.
But good bowling brought the game down to the last over with 12 needed off 6 balls with Grant Elliot batting on 77. Dale Steyn bowled well, despite conceding a boundary to Daniel Vettori. The equation read 5 runs in 2 balls when Elliot smashed Steyn over long on to end South Africa’s journey.
11. MS Dhoni cries during the presentation ceremony after India loses to Australia in the semi-final.
2015 was not a great year for MSD – the captain. There were noises in the media calling for him to step down for not being bold enough. Also, at 33 years of age, we all believed that the 2015 World Cup would be his final battle.
India played well in the tournament to reach the semis. But playing against Australia in their backyard is always a tough job. Michael Clarke’s team proved too much to handle for the Men in Blue as India crashed out of the World Cup.
The normally cool Dhoni was then seen teary-eyed during the presentation ceremony after the game.
Cricket is a cruel sport and more often than not, it does find a way to bite you right in the ass.