Starting off on the wrong foot

Manoj Prabhakar during the 1996 World Cup. In the match against Sri Lanka at the Kotla, Prabhakar was bludgeoned by Sanath Jayasuriya.-V. V. KRISHNAN

Australia and the West Indies not turning up for their matches in Sri Lanka was one of the downsides of the Wills World Cup. A bomb explosion in Colombo had killed many people. The incident not only dented Sri Lanka’s image but also cast a doubt over the possibility of any matches taking place in the island. Things improved after India and Pakistan played a friendly match that went a long way in boosting the confidence of the Sri Lankan board. Australia and the West Indies, however, lost many friends for refusing to travel to Sri Lanka despite the International Cricket Council giving the green signal. It was not the start the cricket-crazy public in Sri Lankan had expected. However, in the end, the Sri Lankan cricketers brought joy to their nation by winning the Cup.

The mauling of Manoj

The Feroz Shah Kotla witnessed the sad exit of Manoj Prabhakar from international cricket. The Indian medium-pacer, playing on his home ground, was handed the task of containing Sanath Jayasuriya. But the attacking Sri Lankan opener ran away with the contest single-handedly. Prabhakar came a cropper in front of his home fans. It was an embarrassing situation for Prabhakar as his seam and swing bowling did not work, and prompted by skipper Mohammed Azharuddin, he shifted to off-spin.

It was one of the worst moments of Prabhakar’s career, as he was carted around the Kotla by Jayasuriya. Prabhakar thereafter faded away from the scene, never to play international cricket again.

Ignominious defeat

The match against Kenya in Pune was the one that the West Indies would like to forget. Its reputation having taken a severe beating already after refusing to travel to Sri Lanka owing to security fears, the West Indies suffered an ignominious 73-run defeat to the minnow of international cricket.

Kenya, making its World Cup debut, successfully defended a total of 166. Shivnarine Chanderpaul (19) and Roger Harper (17) were the only batsmen to achieve double figures, as seamer Rajab Ali and skipper and off-spinner Maurice Odumbe picked up three wickets each to plot the West Indies’ downfall.

It’s not cricket

The match referee, Clive Lloyd, awarding the game to Sri Lanka that left India in a state of shock was one of the most disappointing moments for Ajit Wadekar and Mohammed Azharuddin. The semi-final against Sri Lanka was a big match for India. After a long deliberation, India had decided to bowl first — a decision that manager Wadekar and player Navjot Singh Sidhu had opposed. But having made what was called ‘a team decision’, India asked Sri Lanka to bat, and then made a mess of the target of 252. The pitch broke up and India slid to 120 for eight when crowd ran amok. With no sign of the situation improving, Lloyd awarded the match to Sri Lanka.

The crowd behaviour was abysmal and Eden Gardens earned a bad name.

Sohail’s silly act

The sight of Aamer Sohail gesturing to Venkatesh Prasad to follow the path of the ball he had hit to the boundary was a low point in Pakistan’s campaign. The Pakistan opener lost his composure, and soon, his wicket too. This cost Pakistan, which was cruising merrily at that stage, the match. Imran Khan slammed Sohail for his silly act.

Vijay Lokapally