Sometimes even the best-laid plans come apart. This day 17 March 2007 shocked the world of cricket, the World Cup in particular, like never before or after. The whole tournament seemed to have crashed within a few hours, leaving everyone shocked and dumbfounded.
India, already rocked by Greg Chappell’s controversial coaching stint, faced a tricky opening encounter. The underdogs Bangladesh, on the other hand, had nothing to lose. They were a keen outfit and had prepared well. An inspired performance by them could cause immense damage to the campaign of the Big Brother. The pacy Mashrafe Mortaza reveled in the seaming conditions. Sure enough, in his second over Virender Sehwag chopped his off-cutter onto the stumps.
India plodded on, and as Mortaza moved one away, Robin Uthappa slashed one into the hands of Aftab Ahmed at a point. With the maestro Sachin Tendulkar uncharacteristically subdued and Sourav Ganguly too unable to force the pace, Bangladesh had a stranglehold on the proceedings. The signs were already looking ominous for the runners-up of the 2003 tournament. Tendulkar edged the left-arm Abdur Razzak into the gloves of Mushfiqur Rahim, having taken 26 balls to score his seven runs. Skipper Rahul Dravid could not impart any rhythm either and when he trudged back, the score stood at 72 for four in the 25th over.
Yuvraj Singh was the lone man to exercise any dominance over the Bangla bowlers. He hit up 47 off 58 balls but his dismissal at 157 was just the beginning of a long procession. Before the startled Indians could fathom the gravity of the situation they found themselves floundering at 159 for nine, a delivery into the 46th over. A few old-fashioned swipes by Zaheer Khan and the unlikely Munaf Patel took India to 191. It was still an embarrassing total which never seemed enough, no matter which angle one looked at it. If Mortaza’s four for 38 tore the heart of the Indian batting, the left-arm spinners Razzak and Mohammad Rafique knocked them off their feet as they shared the other wickets neatly.
Any misplaced optimism that the Indian players might have harboured was quickly blown away by three young Bangla tigers. Though they got Shahriar Nafees cheaply, the belligerent Tamim Iqbal, still three days shy of his eighteenth birthday, put his side well on the way to an upset victory. He smashed 7 fours and 2 sixes in his 53-ball 51. Mushfiqur played the anchor while Shakib Al Hasan ensured that the scoring-rate did not drop. Together they added 84 for the fourth wicket, which virtually sealed the game. Shakib fell for 53, having stroked 5 fours and a six, but Mushfiqur calmly carried his side home with his unbeaten 56 that comprised 3 fours and 2 sixes. Hard as they tried, no Indian bowler could compensate for the failure of their much vaunted batting line-up.
It was a stunning reversal that caused further mayhem in the Indian ranks. Not since their defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka in 1979 had the team suffered such humiliation in this premier tournament. They were completely outplayed by rank outsiders. Ian Chappell never misses an opportunity to say that coaches are things people rode to go to cricket matches before the invention of automobiles. His brother guru Greg, from the opposite school of thought, must have now been a very confused man. For Bangladesh, it provided exciting possibilities. Suddenly the plot had started to take unexpected turns. The next few hours and days were to prove even more astounding. No cricket World Cup had provided so much drama, and in a matter of a few days.
India: 191 all out (49.3 overs), Bangladesh: 192 for 5 wickets (48.3 overs) (CWC 2007)
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