Diwali, the popular festival of lights, has been a joyous occasion not only for the entire nation but also for the Indian Cricket teams in the past. Diwali seems to bring out the best out of Indian cricketers.
With Diwali just a day away, it is worthy to recall some of the moments when Team India light up a million hearts through their performances during this specific festive season.
#1 India vs England, 5th ODI at Kolkata, October 2011
This was the fifth match of the series and India had already won the first 4 matches and was looking for a clean sweep. While Dhoni was the captain for Team India, England were led by Alastair Cook.
England won the toss and put India into bat. The Indian openers Ajinkya Rahane and Gautam Gambhir gave India a splendid start, as they put on 80 runs for the first wicket. With the Indian score on 80, disaster struck for India as they lost 3 wickets at the same score. Rahane, Gambhir and Virat Kohli departed with the Indian score on 80.
Dhoni had to be hurried to the batting crease and he played a captain’s innings of 75 off 69 balls with 3 fours and 4 sixes. Manoj Tiwary(24), Suresh Raina(38) and Ravindra Jadeja (21) gave able support to Dhoni and in the end, India reached a par score of 271.
In reply, the England openers Cook (60) and Craig Kieswetter (63) managed to score 129 runs for the first wicket in just 20 overs. At that stage, England looked like achieving a consolation win and preventing the whitewash. However, the first wicket of Cook brought about a collapse in the England batting order. Cook was bowled by an express delivery from Varun Aaron. That opened the floodgates as the Indian spinners Ashwin and Jadeja sliced through the England middle-order.
Ashwin finished with 3 for 28 while Jadeja took 4 for 33. England, from a comfortable position at 129 for no loss, collapsed to 176 all out. Jadeja for his all-around efforts was adjudged the man-of-the-match. Dhoni scored a total of 212 runs in the series without being dismissed once. Dhoni was the deserving player of the series.
For India, it was payback time as they swept England by a margin of 5-0, the same margin by which they lost to England earlier in the year in England.
#2 India vs Australia, Reliance World Cup, 1987
This was the 15th match of the Reliance World Cup 1987. In the earlier league match played at Chennai, India lost to Australia by one run.
Australia won the toss and elected to field. For India, four batsmen, Sunil Gavaskar, Navjot Sidhu, Dilip Vengsarkar and Mohammad Azharuddin scored fifties and India reached a commanding score of 289. A score of 289 in those days was considered as a mammoth total.
In reply, Australia at one stage were 100 for 1. But the introduction of spin in the form of Maninder Singh and Ravi Shastri slowed down the run rate. Maninder Singh took the important wickets of Geoff Marsh, Dean Jones, and Allan Border. At the other end, Ravi Shastri took care of the dangerous David Boon.
An injury to Chetan Sharma forced captain Kapil Dev to bring Azharuddin to the bowling crease. He finished off the Aussie tail by taking 3 wickets in 3 overs. India won by 56 runs and Azharuddin was named the Man-of-the-Match.
While Austraila went on to with the Reliance World Cup 1987, then-defending Champion India crashed out in the semi-final when they were swept aside by Gooch and Gatting.
As an aftermath to the World Cup defeat, Kapil Dev was removed from captaincy.
#3 India vs South Africa, Hero Cup semi-final, Kolkata 1993
India batted first and were all out for 195. Captain Azharuddin scored 90 and Pravin Amre scored 48. By the end of the Indian innings, it became quite clear that India needed a miracle to with the match.
That miracle for India came in the form of run-outs when three South African batsmen ran themselves out. In the end, it came down to 13 runs of the last 2 overs. South Africa scored 7 runs in the 49th over but lost the wicket of David Richardson through a run-out.
South Africa needed 6 runs in the last over with 2 wickets in hand. There was a conference in the middle. Azhar did not know who to throw the ball to. Kapil Dev was a little bit reluctant to bowl the last over. But Sachin grabbed the ball from Azhar to bowl the last over.
The burly South African all-rounder Brian McMillan was on strike. McMillan scored a run of Sachin’s first ball but an attempt for a second run cost the wicket of Fannie de Villiers. Allan Donald came to the crease as the last wicket.
All that South Africa wanted was a single and McMillan back on strike. But Sachin’s second, third and fourth balls to Allan Donald were all dots. Donald could not put bat on the ball. Donald took a single off the fifth ball which left McMillan to score 4 off the last ball.
He swung his bat around but could manage just one run off the last ball. India won by 3 runs. Sachin was India’s unexpected here with the ball. India went on to win the Hero Cup 1993 beating West Indies in the final. The 1993 Diwali will forever be remembered for Sachin’s last over heroics against South Africa.
#4 India vs New Zealand, 5th ODI at Vizag, October 2016
India played New Zealand in a five-match ODI series in 2016 at home. At the end of the fourth match, the series was tied at 2-2. The last match was played at Visakhapatnam.
India won the toss and elected to bat first. For India, Rohit Sharma made 70 while Kohli contributed 65. Dhoni, batting at No 4 scored 41 off 59 balls. In the end, some lusty blows from Kedar Jadhav (39) and Axar Patel (24) took the Indian total to a respectable 269.
In reply, at one stage, the Kiwis were comfortably placed at 63 for 2. That was then Dhoni decided to introduce the leggie Amit Mishra into the attack in the 12th over of the innings.
In his 3rd over, Mishra got rid of Ross Taylor and B.L. Walting. In his 5th over, Mishra took two more wickets that of Jimmy Neesham and Tim Southee. Mishra took his 5th wicket of the innings when he removed Sodhi for a duck. Mishra claimed his 5 wicket haul in his bowling spell of just 6 overs.
It was only Amit Mishra’s second five-wicket haul in ODIs. India won the match by a massive margin of 190 runs. Amit Mishra was the Man of the Match and Man of the Series as well. India won the series 3-2. That was the last time a visiting team had ever won two matches in an ODI series in India.
#5 India vs Sri Lanka, Jaipur, October 2005
This was the third match of the series. India won the first two matches. Sri Lanka batted first and backed up by contributions from veterans Kumar Sangakkara(138) and Mahela Jayawardene(71) amazed 298 for 4 in 50 overs. Sangakkara’s 138 came off 147 balls with 13 fours and 2 sixes.
Needing to score 6 runs per over, India lost Sachin Tendulkar early in the innings for just 2. When everyone expected the captain Rahul Dravid at the wicket at the fall of Sachin’s wicket, Mahendra Singh Dhoni walked in. It was an instinctive move by skipper Dravid.
Dhoni was quite for the first 7 balls he faced. The 8th ball he faced in his innings from Vaas was wide outside the off-stump. Dhoni reached for it and smacked the ball over cover for a six. An extraordinary shot from Dhoni to begin with.
Dhoni repeated the same shot in Chaminda Vaas’s next over. Atapattu replaced Vaas was with Maharoof who was hit for a six and a four in his first over. In his next over, Maharoof was plundered for 3 fours by Dhoni. Dhoni reached his 50 off just 40 balls with 6 fours and 3 sixes.
To slow down the pace of the innings, Atapattu brought in spin from both the ends. The introduction of Muralitharan led to the fall of Sehwag’s wicket for 39. India were 100 for 2 when Dravid joined Dhoni.
Dhoni continued with his merry ways and there was carnage out there in the middle. Chandana was lifted over square leg. Even Murali was not spared as he was hit for two fours in his 5th over. In the 20th over of the innings bowled by Chandana, Dhoni hit a six and a four and moved into the 90s.
In the next over, Dhoni lofted Murali over long-off and reached 96. Dhoni reached his century off 85 balls with 10 fours and 5 sixes. At the other end, Murali removed Dravid for 28 with the Indian score on 185.
After reaching his hundred, Dhoni turned his attention once again to Maharoof who was hit for a six and a four. Atapattu in a desperate attempt introduced part-time off-spinner Dilshan into the attack. Dhoni took him on scoring 11 runs in that over.
Atapattu re-introduced Vaas who was thrashed for 3 fours in one over. Dhoni reached his 150 off 123 balls. Dhoni finished with 183 off 145 balls with 15 fours and 10 sixes. Due to Dhoni’s innings, India successfully chased down the stiff target with 23 balls to spare.
On the Diwali day in 2005, a legend had arrived in Indian cricket. India have historically performed well during the Diwali season and their fans will hope for the trend to continue tomorrow in the T20 match against the West Indies.