At the start of the 1999 World Cup, India provided an object lesson in how not to play a one-day international.
The game was played in the shadow of the tragic demise of Sachin Tendulkar’s father. The maestro had to fly home and missed the match, and gloom must have descended on the Indian camp.
But this was a World Cup tie and the Indian team players would have tried to put these setbacks behind them when they took the field. Unfortunately they did not succeed in that, or so it seemed.
The Indians gave away as many as 51 extras in the match against Zimbabwe, including 21 wides and 16 no-balls. They thus virtually sent down six extra overs. They were also penalised four overs for not completing their 50 overs on time. Zimbabwe too conceded 39 extras, inclusive of 10 no-balls and 24 wides.
In defence of the bowlers, it could be said that the ball was swinging considerably and it was difficult to control it. But then they should have heeded Sir Alec Bedser's advice: "If the ball is swinging it must be bowled at a full length, but not a half-volley."
The 51 extras conceded by India were the highest in the World Cup until then, exceeded only by minnows Scotland who gave away 59 against Pakistan the next day. The match total of 90 extras was also exceeded on the morrow when Pakistan and Scotland logged up 96.
Zimbabwe, on their part, fought back through the Flower brothers after a poor start. The Indian seamers bagged three wickets for 87 but Andy and Grant Flower put on 57 off 59 deliveries.
Andy Flower found another ally in skipper Alistair Campbell, and they added 60 for the fifth wicket in just 9.2 overs. Andy, often India's nemesis, remained unbeaten with 68 off 85 deliveries, curiously with just two boundaries.
Zimbabwe’s total of 252 for nine was bound to test an Indian team sans Tendulkar, especially since they were docked four overs.
It did. Three of their stalwarts Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and captain Mohammad Azharuddin fell cheaply. Opener Sadagoppan Ramesh and the ebullient Ajay Jadeja were associated in a retrieving stand of 99 in 18.5 overs, but a mini-collapse followed and at 175 for six, India seemed to be fading.
Another 78 were required off 76 deliveries. And then Robin Singh and Nayan Mongia added 44 off 45 balls. Just when India were breathing easy, Mongia tried a horrendous slog off Guy Whittall and was bowled.
There were still 34 runs to get off 5.1 overs with 3 wickets left. The pot was beginning to boil.
It was time for Javagal Srinath to pull off some heroics. He slammed two sixes as the partnership thrived.
Nine runs were needed off 2 overs. Two runs came off the first ball from Henry Olonga. Robin then fell off the second ball.
Seven runs were needed off 10 deliveries, with two wickets in hand. Three runs were scored off the next two balls. Then Srinath, who could have easily been a hero, played an ill-advised swipe to be bowled for 18 off 12 balls.
Speedster Olonga had his tail up. He trapped last man Venkatesh Prasad first ball.
Zimbabwe won by 3 runs with one over left. For Campbell it was the last throw of the dice to bring on the wayward Olonga. The prodigal paceman said later: "When Alistair asked me to bowl I was a bit surprised. Stuart (Carlisle) told me it was my chance to make history."
For India this was further bereavement, losing the second of the two matches they had played in the tournament. They lost this one after already having scented victory.
Zimbabwe: 252 for 9 wickets (50 overs), India: 249 all out (45 overs) (CWC 1999)