Indian cricket has its share of glorious moments. The national team have won the best of ICC silverware including World Cups and Champions Trophies. They have been victorious in important triangular series both at home and away (1993 Hero Cup, 1985 Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket etc.) and Test series in all top-ranked Test playing nations, barring South Africa.
While the last twenty years or so have been the best ever for Indian cricket, there have been several lows (such as the 0-4 losses to England and Australia, as well as a first-round exit in the 2007 Cricket World Cup) to accompany these highs.
There have also been moments when Indian fans look back and wish for a different ending, as the team has come close but fallen short of tremendous achievements.
3 times when Team India came close and missed out
1. 2000 ICC Champions Trophy Final
Many fans rue Sourav Ganguly's decision to bowl first in the 2003 ICC World Cup final.
We won’t ever know if India would've fared any better had they batted first in that game. But given the fact that they were up against one of the greatest teams of all time, it would have been a tough task nevertheless.
A better opportunity presented itself when India took on New Zealand in the 2000 ICC Champions Trophy finals at Nairobi. A young side, under Sourav Ganguly, had reached the finals after defeating the likes of Australia and South Africa.
New Zealand had staved off Pakistan in a good fight in the semi-finals and looked all set for the finals. They were also boosted by the return of Chris Cairns.
India were put in to bat and got off to an excellent start. They were 141 without a loss before Sachin Tendulkar was run out. Despite a brilliant hundred by Sourav Ganguly, the Indian batters couldn’t take the initiative and the total stood at 264 for 6.
The bowlers started well for India, and New Zealand were rattled at regular intervals. Their scoring rate was good, but with half the Kiwi side back in the pavilion at a total of 132, the game seemed to be in India’s pocket.
However, Chris Cairns and Chris Harris ensured that New Zealand batted their way out of trouble.
Chris Cairns scored an unbeaten 102, which proved to be the difference between the sides.
2. Border-Gavaskar Trophy, 2003
One could say that India punched above their weight in the 2003 Border-Gavaskar Trophy, but things could have been way better.
Sourav Ganguly’s 144 at Gabba set the tone in the first Test at Brisbane and India came back to win a hard-fought encounter at Adelaide. In Melbourne, Virender Sehwag went berserk on the first day of the Boxing Day Test. He hit a total of 30 boundaries, 25 fours and 5 sixes in his aggressive 195 off 233 balls.
India sat at 329/4 at the end of Day 1, and looked all set to take advantage of the start given by Virender Sehwag. However, they collapsed to a 366 all out. A Ricky Ponting-inspired Australia took advantage of the same and were able to win the game comfortably.
The final Test saw India bat their way into an unassailable position, posting a total of 705. At one point, India were in a situation where they could enforce the follow-on.
However, the captain chose otherwise. The logic behind the move seemed to be that India’s star bowler Anil Kumble had bowled a load of overs throughout the series and would be better off getting some rest. In the end, India got a total of 94 overs to have a go at Australians and were able to dislodge only 6 Australian batters.
The game ended in a draw and the Border-Gavaskar Series stood drawn at 1-1. It was an exceptional performance, yet also a missed opportunity, as India had never won a series in Australia.
3. 2014 ICC World T20 Final
India had an average record in ICC World T20 tournaments after winning the inaugural edition in 2007.
The 2014 edition was a different story though. They switched on as soon as the tournament arrived, and brushed aside every side as they stomped their way into the finals.
They did well as a unit and didn’t rely too much on big hitting or mystery bowlers. Virat Kohli was in the right zone, while Amit Mishra and Ravichandran Ashwin were the pick of the bowlers, being among the top 5 wicket takers of the tournament.
It seemed that India would become the first team in history to complete the trio of an ICC World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy and ICC World Twenty20.
In the finals, India had a troubled start, with both Ajinkya Rahane (3 off 8) and Rohit Sharma (29 off 26) failing to take off. However, they still had Virat Kohli and the big-hitting Yuvraj Singh in the middle.
However, the Sri Lankans were able to bog down the latter to the extent of keeping his strike-rate at 52. MS Dhoni, who walked in next couldn’t get going either and scored 4 off 7.
India finished at a meagre 130, despite Virat Kohli's 77. This total was easily overhauled by the Sri Lankan cricket team who became the World champions.
Questions remain over India’s approach. Perhaps Yuvraj Singh could’ve been told to attack earlier, or maybe Suresh Raina could’ve been sent out in his place.
In the end, India came very close to winning an international tournament and missed out.