A dream comes crashing at Eden

Anil Kumble was one of the mainstays of the Indian bowling during the 1996 World Cup.-V. V. KRISHNAN

Individually, I had a good World Cup and was the tournament’s highest wicket-taker (15). I snared a few catches too and particularly remember my sharp effort at short cover to dismiss Sri Lanka’s Romesh Kaluwitharana in Delhi. However, as a team we failed and it was disappointing. By Anil Kumble.

The 1992 World Cup was at home (India hosted the event alongwith Pakistan and Sri Lanka) and it was also my first World Cup. It’s needless to say, that I was very excited. We had a (about) two-week long training camp in Bangalore ahead of the event and we worked hard on our fitness. Going into the tournament our morale was high.

The thrilling quarterfinals victory over Pakistan was the high point of the meet for us, but we had also started the tournament well. I remember the first game against Kenya in Cuttack, and a day before the game I wasn’t feeling well. I was running temperature —around 101 — and found it difficult to get up and even attend the team meeting.

As I stepped out, I bumped into Ajit Wadekar (coach), and he said, “Anil, you are not well, so, no need to attend the meeting and anyways you are playing the match tomorrow.” I asked: “But, I am not well. How can I play?” He said that we’ll take a call about it in the morning.

Next day, I was still running temperature, but Azzu (skipper Mohammed Azharuddin) said that he will finish my spell within the first 30 overs, so that I can come back to the dressing room and rest. But I bowled a four-over spell and was required to bowl later because Azzu wanted to use me during the slog overs. He kept saying “one more over, one more over” and finally I was there on the field for the full 50 overs, picking up three wickets.

We generally played well but had a bad game against Sri Lanka in Delhi, despite scoring 271. Sanath Jayasuriya clobbered everyone and Manoj Prabhakar had to resort to spin bowling to counter him. But there was no stopping Sanath.

But, soon after, we had a huge high, beating Pakistan in the quarterfinals in Bangalore. During the end overs, I actually first hit Waqar Younis for a four and then Ajay (Jadeja) took over, hitting him all over the park. In the end, we had a comfortable victory.

However, in a few days time, we suffered a disappointing loss to Sri Lanka in the semi-finals at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. I still feel that we had a team capable of winning the World Cup. We had the right combination.

Coming back to the semi-final, we had decided to put Sri Lanka in if we won the toss. Our decision was based on the Lankan run-chase in Delhi.

(Javagal) Srinath got rid of the openers: Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana. I opened the bowling with Sri, and we were placed well, but Aravinda de Silva (66) played a fine innings. I finally got his wicket and the target of 251 seemed achievable.

But, the pitch started playing up and once Sachin (Tendulkar) got out, we had no chance. I was with (Vinod) Kambli when the crowd trouble started and it was a disappointing end to the contest.

Individually, I had a good World Cup and was the tournament’s highest wicket-taker (15). I snared a few catches too and particularly remember my sharp effort at short cover to dismiss Kaluwitharana in Delhi. However, as a team we failed and it was disappointing.

— As told to K. C. Vijaya Kumar