The 2003 World Cup was held in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. It was the eighth edition of this blockbuster tournament. Australia came into the tournament as the defending champions, having beaten Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup final. It was a 14-team event. The previous seven editions did not have as many teams.
54 matches were played in total during this World Cup. The teams were split into two groups and top three teams from each group played the Super Sixes. The tournament had many upsets as the hosts South Africa were eliminated in the group stage itself as they misread the Duckworth Lewis method and lost a crucial group match by one run against Sri Lanka.
Top teams like England, Pakistan and West Indies were also eliminated in the group stage. Australia defeated India in the final to defend their title. The 2003 tournament is still the best World Cup ever played, both in terms of quality and entertainment. Here are four reasons why.
#4 The Sachin Tendulkar show
The iconic Indian batsman probably had his best World Cup during the 2003 edition. The Little Master's batting was one of the key reasons why the tournament caught the attention of everyone’s eyes. Sachin Tendulkar had a dream run in the tournament.
Tendulkar smashed 81 runs off 91 balls against the host Zimbabwe and followed that up with 151 runs against Namibia which is his highest ever score in the World Cup. Thereafter, he scored a half-century against England and a match-winning knock of 98 runs against Pakistan, which was his best innings of the World Cup.
Tendulkar ended up scoring four consecutive 50+ scores. He also scored 97 runs against Sri Lanka in a Super-six game and 83 runs against Kenya in the semifinals. He almost single-handedly took India to the final. The champion batsman won the player of the tournament award for his 673 runs in the tournament. It is still the record for the most runs ever scored by a batsman in a single World Cup edition.
#3 The best India vs Pakistan clash
Whenever India plays Pakistan, the entire nation comes to a halt as everyone is glued to their TV sets to witness this epic clash. India played Pakistan in the group stage of the 2003 World Cup. Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat first.
Opener Saeed Anwar smashed a century and helped them post 273 runs on the board. Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar came out all guns blazing and treated Indian fans with some delightful strokes.
Tendulkar and Sehwag went after the bowlers and the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Shoaib Akhtar had no answers. Those uppercuts for six from both openers were a treat to the eyes.
India were off to a flying start as they reached 50 runs in just five overs. Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly got out on consecutive balls but Tendulkar continued his phenomenal innings. He got out just two runs short of a well deserved century. Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh ensured that India crossed the target without much trouble.
#2 The two best teams making the final
The 2003 World Cup saw many big teams knocked out from the group stage like England, Pakistan, South Africa, and West Indies. But still, there was no dearth of entertainment. Australia, who dominated the tournament, reached the final without losing a single game.
India, having lost only against Australia, reached the final as the second-best team. Sourav Ganguly won the toss and elected to bowl first in the final. It turned out to be a decision which he would go on to regret for the coming years.
The Australian openers gave them a solid start as they crossed the 100-run mark within 14 overs. Damien Martyn joined Ricky Ponting and the duo smashed the Indian bowlers all around the park. The Australian captain smashed 140 runs off just 121 balls with 8 huge sixes.
Chasing a humongous target of 360 runs to lift the trophy, Indian openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar walked out to bat. To add insult to injury, the latter got out to Glenn McGrath in the first over of the chase.
India kept on losing wickets regularly but Sehwag kept on going from the other end. In the end, it was not enough as the Men in Blue were bowled out for 234 runs inside 40 overs. Australia lifted their second consecutive World Cup.
#1 Underdogs punching above their weight
Cricket has always been dominated by only a few countries. The 2003 edition was a 14-team event and teams like Kenya and Zimbabwe defied all the odds and reached the Super Sixes stage.
England forfeited their encounter against Zimbabwe due to political reasons which helped them reach the Super Sixes stage. Kenya beat teams like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the group stages.
Some teams refrained from visiting Kenya for the scheduled matches; hence them forfeiting games helped Kenya reach the next stage of the tournament. They then went on to reach the semi-finals as they managed to beat higher-ranked Zimbabwe while also benefiting from points carried forward from the group stage.
Kenya are the only non-Test playing nation to reach the World Cup semi-finals. However, they lost to India by 91 runs in the semi-final as Indian captain Sourav Ganguly struck a crafty century in that encounter. It was the end of a dream run for the aspiring country but they walked away from the tournament with their heads held high.