2000 review: Looking for light in a once dark continent

The match-fixing scandal had rocked the cricketing world and so the second edition of the mini-World Cup held in 2000 was an important event for the ICC to help win back the trust of the fans. The tournament also marked an important milestone as it was for the first time that an ICC event was being held in Africa. Kenya’s capital Nairobi hosted all the games.

The New Zealand team celebrates after beating India in the final of the ICC Knockout Trophy at the Gymkhana Ground, Nairobi, in the year 2000.   -  Getty Images

In the months leading up to what was the second edition of the mini World Cup or the ICC knockout trophy, the air was vitiated by the match-fixing scandal that had engulfed the cricketing world. In that context, it was an important event for the ICC to help win back the trust of the fans.

The tournament also marked an important milestone as it was for the first time that an ICC event was being held in Africa. Kenya’s capital Nairobi and its lone venue — the Gymkhana Club ground — hosted all the games.

The second edition had 11 teams — up from the nine in the first edition in 1998 — with nine Test teams and two associates, Bangladesh and Kenya, being a part of it. Following the 1999 World Cup that carried the ICC branding, the Kenya edition too followed suit after the first mini World Cup had been called the Wills International Cup.

The format was tweaked, the top five teams from the 1999 World Cup being seeded and getting direct quarterfinal berths. The six remaining sides had to play a knockout match, with the winner securing the three remaining berths.

Teams like England, India, Sri Lanka and West Indies, which had a forgettable World Cup, had to play in the pre-quarterfinal stages. Except West Indies, the other Test teams progressed to the knockouts with easy wins, with the two-time champion losing to Sri Lanka.

The Indian team, too, was battered and bruised by the fixing scandal. It was the first big assignment for Sourav Ganguly, who had taken over as the captain earlier in the year and needed a good performance to redeem Indian cricket in the eyes of the public. 

In its first match against Kenya, the side fielded debutants Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh. The left-arm pacer gave a good account of himself, with three wickets, in the match against Kenya. However, it was in the quarterfinal against Australia that the duo came into its own. After Sachin Tendulkar had taken Glenn McGrath to the cleaners, Yuvraj, playing his first innings, smashed an 80-ball 84 to power the side to a competitive score. He then effected a run out and took a brilliant catch, while Zaheer produced a brilliant yorker to dismiss Aussie skipper Steve Waugh as India scripted a shock win over the World champion. 

The tournament also saw the left-handed batsmen shine, with Saeed Anwar and Sourav Ganguly slamming back-to-back centuries. While the Pakistan opener Anwar’s first hundred came against Sri Lanka in the quarterfinals, his century in the semifinal against the Kiwis was trumped by Roger Twose and Craig McMillan’s fifties.

The Indian skipper led from the front against South Africa, stroking an unbeaten 141 and striking a 145-run partnership with Rahul Dravid for the second wicket. Yuvraj’s cameo (41 off 39 balls) piloted India to 295. 

The Proteas’ chase never got going once Zaheer picked up two early wickets. Ajit Agarkar, Anil Kumble, Tendulkar, Yuvraj and Ganguly chipped in as the side romped home by 95 runs. 

The summit clash saw two sides with contrasting strategies face off. While India preferred to post big totals and defend them, the Kiwis were more comfortable chasing any target, thanks to the presence of Chris Cairns, Chris Harris and McMillan in the middle-order.

In the final, India was put in to bat and Ganguly once again led from the front, smashing his second century in as many games. His opening stand of 141 with Tendulkar threatened to take the game away from New Zealand before the latter was run out for 69. However, the middle-order failed — no batsman crossed 25 — and the team finished with 264 for six in 50 overs. India began its defence well, reducing the Kiwis to 132 for five. However, the latter was scoring at nearly six per over despite losing wickets.

Cairns and Harris steadied the ship, forging a 122-run partnership for the sixth wicket. Harris, the grafter, held one end, making a patient and valuable 46; at the other end, Cairns smashed eight fours and two sixes. By the time the alliance was broken in the 49th over, only 12 were needed. 

Cairns guided the side home, remaining unbeaten on 102 and taking New Zealand to the title, its only ICC crown till date.

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