A well-contested event

“It was the first (Champions Trophy) for me. The Sri Lankan tournament had its share of surprises. It was known that the sub-continental teams would be comfortable on the slow-paced pitches of Sri Lanka, where the threat lay more from the rain than the playing surface. It proved right towards the end of the tournament when India and Sri Lanka shared the trophy after two frustrating, result-less contests," says the dashing opener.

Virender Sehwag, who had a very good Champions Trophy 2002, poses with the prize that India shared with Sri Lanka.   -  Getty Images

The Sri Lankan edition was the inaugural Champions Trophy competition. It was called the Wills International Cup in 1998 and the ICC Knockout Tournament in 2000 before it was named as the Champions Trophy, the premier one-day competition after the World Cup.

It was the first for me. We had some players who had participated in the first two editions with the one in Nairobi being particularly memorable as India had finished runner-up and the team had found two stars in Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh, who made excellent starts to their careers.

The Sri Lankan tournament had its share of surprises. It was known that the sub-continental teams would be comfortable on the slow-paced pitches of Sri Lanka, where the threat lay more from the rain than the playing surface. It proved right towards the end of the tournament when India and Sri Lanka shared the trophy after two frustrating, result-less contests.

The matches were well-contested and I was particularly happy with my form. I had played seven matches in Sri Lanka prior to the Champions Trophy with a century against New Zealand in the Coca-Cola Cup as my best. I was keen to bring out my best and also play a part in India winning the title.

We had the team to win the Champions Trophy. Batting was our strength no doubt but we had some fine bowlers who could swing the match with their ability. Anil Kumble, Zaheer, J. Srinath, Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra enriched the attack while Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V. V. S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif gave the batting tremendous depth. It was as perfect a combination to win the championship as one could wish for.

My role as an opener was marked. It was obviously to give a blistering start and I had an ideal partner in Ganguly. He loves to get on with the job and dominate. Something that I like too. We opened against Zimbabwe, England and South Africa (in semifinal) before Dinesh Mongia became my partner in the final (against Sri Lanka).

A superbly-constructed century by Kaif at No. 7 saved us embarrassment against Zimbabwe in a narrow finish but we thrashed England by eight wickets. Yours truly was the man of the match and it was one of my finest innings (126) I must say. I and Ganguly (117 not out) put on 192 runs for the opening stand.

I carried on my good work against South Africa as we won by 10 runs. Once again the man of the match award was a well-earned prize for me. We had found the rhythm by now and the team was ready for Sri Lanka.

Unfortunately, the final, with the replaying option too, was rained off. Sri Lanka batted first on both the occasions and I thought the target was within our range. Rain, however, had other ideas and we had to share the trophy with the host.

(As told to Vijay Lokapally)

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