The 51 extras that broke the back!

Venkatesh Prasad traps Salim Malik leg-before. India beat Pakistan by 47 runs with Prasad picking up five wickets.-V.V. KRISHNAN

We had a good team that could have gone all the way, but somehow we failed and yes Australia was a very strong side, yet I think we could have done better. By Venkatesh Prasad.

When we went to England for the 1999 World Cup I strongly believed that we had the right unit and was optimistic that we would either win the cup or finish in the top-four. But we started badly, losing our first game to South Africa but worse was the loss to Zimbabwe in the next game and that affected us completely. We bowled badly and gave away some 50 extras (51) that included too many wides (21) and no-balls (16).

Zimbabwe scored 252, but because we bowled so many extras, our over-rate was too slow and we were penalised and had to chase the target in 46 overs. We still could have won, but there was needless panic, we lost wickets and fell short.

It was hugely disappointing and I also remember the game because on the morning of the match we were informed that Sachin Tendulkar’s father had passed away and that he had left for India. We were so shocked that our pre-match practice had no emotion, we were all depressed. At that time Sachin was like half the Indian team and we were so dependent on him.

Of course, he came back after that and scored a remarkable hundred against Kenya. We then had a good run, we beat the big teams like England, Sri Lanka and even Pakistan. Against Sri Lanka in Taunton, Sourav Ganguly (183) and Rahul Dravid (145) batted brilliantly, it was excellent to watch.

The England game spilled over to the second day because of rain and all of us — Javagal Srinath, Debashish Mohanty and I — bowled well.

However, in the Super Sixes, we lost our first match against Australia. While chasing, we lost Sachin and Azhar (captain Mohammad Azharuddin) in the first seven overs and we hardly recovered though Ajay Jadeja scored a 100 and Robin Singh supported him well.

But we did well to come back against Pakistan in Manchester. We didn’t score much (227), but we remained aggressive throughout. We bowled well, had two slips and a gully, our fielding was top-class and we won the match. I got five wickets (five for 27) and it was unforgettable.

I remember I was at the opposite end away from the dressing room and once the match ended, the crowd spilled over and by the time I reached the pitch, I was lost in the crowd. I was literally carried from there to the dressing room and it was great fun.

Sadly we lost the next game against New Zealand and we were out of the tournament. It was a terrible moment for us. We all came back home after that and I saw the semifinals and final on television. While watching those games and seeing Australia win the cup, I did wonder what went wrong with our campaign.

To sum it up, it was a mixed bag for us. We had some amazing games when we defeated strong teams and we had some below-par games in which we were, to be frank, very ordinary. Probably the fault lay with our inability to click collectively as a batting and bowling unit. At times, we batted well, but the bowling didn’t back that and at times we bowled well, but the batting wasn’t up to the mark.

I still feel we had no business bowling so many extras against Zimbabwe, that loss affected our entire tournament. We had a good team that could have gone all the way, but somehow we failed and yes Australia was a very strong side, yet I think we could have done better.

As told to K. C. Vijaya Kumar