Shailesh Kapoor: Ranking The World Cups: 1983-2011

13 Feb,2015

By Shailesh Kapoor


We are a day away from the 11th edition of the Cricket World Cup. The 1983 World Cup was the absolute initiation into cricket for me, at the age of eight. The eight World Cups from 1983-2011 have left lasting memories behind them, driven by two strong factors – India’s performance and the media experience they created.


Here’s my ranking of these eight World Cups, from the worst to the best.


8. The Cup That Ended Before It Started: 2007

I still thank my stars that I decided against a West Indies vacation for the Super Sixes at the eleventh hour. I suspect if there was a list of the worst World Cups, 2007 will top it even 100 years from now. It had nothing going for it. And as it turned out, late night match timings, no crowds and poor television viewing experience were only the smaller problems. Both India and Pakistan were eliminated in an ill-thought-out qualification format. When a coach’s (Bob Woolmer) mysterious death is the lasting image of a big tournament, you know it didn’t go as planned at so many levels.


7. The Something-Was-Missing Cup: 1999

England is a good venue for a World Cup, except that rain can spoil the fun far too often. 1999 was the introduction of the Super Sixes format, which died a death after the 2007 fiasco, with ICC going back to the safe 1996 format. After 1983, this was the World Cup I was least engaged with. Our team was not exactly consistent (that loss to Zimbabwe seems bizarre after all these years too) and I was settling into my first job. The classic tied semi-final was followed up by a damp squib finale, which started Australia’s World Cup dominance. The famous story about Tendulkar flying to Mumbai (for his dad’s funeral) and back, and scoring that century, is going to endure. Not much else from 1999 may stand the test of time.


6. The Small-Nations-Can-Win-Big Cup:1996

The sub-continent hosted this World Cup, which I have to admit, looked rather tacky on television, much in contrast to 2011 which had superlative production. The knock-out format (where only seven games effectively decide who wins the title) was introduced here, and then brought back in 2011. It’s a format so evidently lacking in logic. But commercial interests, especially after 2007, have ensured it stays. 1996 was Sri Lanka’s World Cup in every respect. It changed their cricket forever. The India-Pakistan game at Bangalore was entertainment of the highest order, but it was followed by our semi-final defeat at Eden Gardens was perhaps the most torturous cricket game I have ever seen. If only we had batted first after winning the toss…


5. The How-The-Hell-Did-We-Win Cup: 1983

To be honest, I have little memories from this World Cup, except listening to the commentary of the finals while on vacation in Srinagar, and then reading the papers the next morning. 1983 was also the last World Cup that had limited media coverage in India, including a broadcaster strike that meant Kapil Dev’s 1983 not out at has no video footage available.


4. The Long-Forgotten Cup: 1987

Very little has stayed from the 1987 event. It was the last white-clothing World Cup, and the footage looks un-broadcast-able on TV by today’s standards. I’m not even sure if anyone has the rights to it. There were some gems, like that absolutely superlative batting performance by Zimbabwe’s Dave Houghton in an early match. But it was Graham Gooch sweeping India out of the cup that would remain the lasting memory for me. The 1987 edition ranks high on my list because it was my first World Cup as a proper cricket fan. It was also my second experience of the sheer devastation a fan can feel, the first being the Australasia final (the Chetan Sharma match) a year before that.


3. The Cup-That-Got-It-All-Right: 1992

I have to confess I absolutely loved the 1992 World Cup, and if India had done any better, it could have been right at the top of my list. The format was to kill for. Everyone plays everyone and the top four go through. You can’t beat that on fairness and excitement. It was the first cricketing event I watched on satellite television, with world-class commentary, nothing short of a luxurious experience back then. It was also the Cup that had the best jerseys. Take that laughable rain rule out (really, what did they smoke up while deciding on it?), and you have what a World Cup should be. That Pakistan won it, after being on the verge of elimination, in many ways sums up the spirit for the 1992 event.


2. The So-Near-Yet-So-Far Cup: 2003

Memories of that excruciating final at Wanderers still haunt many of us. But the 2003 World Cup was a lot more than that for India. After a slow start that included decimation by Australia and a scrape-through vs. Holland, India got into its own and showed a streak of dominance that one had not seen since the 1985 World Series. I remember the loss in the finalleading to a mixed sense of dejection and pride, the latter for having played the way our team did, under Ganguly, over the previous three weeks. This was also the MandiraBedi World Cup, for the record.


1. The Yes-We-Can Cup: 2011

The 28-year-long wait had to be end at some stage. The three matches – Australia at Ahmedabad, Pakistan at Mohali and Sri Lanka at Mumbai – that led to the title were individual celebrations in themselves. I was there at the finals at Mumbai. After that high, watching any other limited-overs cricket in a stadium seemed pointless. There’s so much to remember from 2011, yet so little needs to be said, because it’s all fresh in everyone’s memory, like it happened last week. Hope the wait doesn’t last another 28 years.


I’m off for a cricket vacation to Australia and this column will take a two-week break, to be back on March 6.


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