Virat Kohli’s India will kickstart their quest for a third title at cricket’s biggest event when they take on South Africa at ICC Men’s World Cup on Wednesday in Southampton.

India are the last of the 10 teams to launch their challenge in England and Wales and they start against a South Africa side that is struggling after losing their first two matches.

The two-time world champions could push South Africa towards elimination should they keep up their tags of being the favourites, and by virtue of being one of the in-form sides.

Also read: India’s tournament preview — If middle order strikes form, few teams can stop Virat Kohli and Co

And ahead of India’s 12th campaign, we take a look at the colourful history of the two-time world champions.

From underdog champions in 1983 to having to forfeit a semi-final at home because of rowdy crowd in 1996, from the crushing final loss in 2003 to becoming the first team to lift the trophy at home in 2011, there is no shortage of drama whenever India play at the marquee event.

In between 1983 and 2011, India has seen the best of World Cup cricket, especially when a certain Sachin Tendulkar played, and the worst of losses that actually prompted the entire World Cup format to change. The team has reached the semi-finals thrice (1987, 1996 and 2015) and have been knocked out in the Group stage four times (1975, 1979, 1992 and 2007), to go with the two titles.

India's history at the World Cup

Edition Played-Won-Lost (Tied / NR)
1975 3-1-2
1979 3-0-3
1983 8-6-2
1987 7-5-2
1992 8-2-5 (1 N/R)
1996 7-4-3
1999 8-4-4
2003 11-9-2
2007 3-1-2
2011 9-7-1 (1 tie)
2015 8-7-1

The lasting memory of India’s first World Cup in 1975 is not a positive one: the controversial 36 off 174 by Sunil Gavaskar. India won just the one match against East Africa.

The second edition in 1975 was not any better: a disastrous campaign marked by the low of losing to then-minnows Sri Lanka. Not once did India cross 200 in their three matches (in the 60-over format back then).

But third time was the charm as Kapil’s Devils pulled off one of the greatest underdog triumphs of all time by beating two-time defending champions West indies not once but twice, including the 1983 final.

In their first tournament as defending champions, India were out in the semi-finals in 1987. After a famous one-run defeat against Australia in the group stages, India’s other defeat came in the semi-final against England, led by Graham Gooch’s century.

While this was Gavaskar’s last international outing, the next was Sachin Tendulkar’s first. India played Pakistan for the first time at a World Cup in 1992 and kick-started a win streak that is yet to end. But the campaign was a dud overall.

In 1996, high-flying Indian side, riding on Tendulkar’s incredible batting form, was brought crashing down to earth in the semi-finals against Sri Lanka in Kolkata.

The 1999 was a start-stop campaign that fizzled out in the Super Six stages where India finished last. Defeating Pakistan was the high point, an earlier defeat against Zimbabwe the definite low.

The next edition in 2003 was a very important one for India. Overcoming poor form ahead of the tournament, Ganguly led his team brilliantly till the final where Ricky Ponting’s Australia overpowered them. India’s only two defeats came against the eventual champions in the tournament.

The 2007 one was a forgettable tournament for many a reason. One of the strongest Indian sides on paper crashed out in the group stages after defeats to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. This had far-reaching effects on the format.

In 2011, India became champion for the second time and the first host nation to win the World Cup as Tendulkar finally had the trophy in his hands, in his sixth attempt.

Despite a difficult summer preceding the 2015 tournament in Australia, India went on an unbeaten run (riding on superb bowling displays) before the eventual champs ended that streak in the semi-finals. No shame in that well-fought campaign, though.

Head-to-head records

India's head-to-head record

Opponent Matches Win Loss
Australia 11 3 8
Bangladesh 3 2 1
Bermuda 1 1 0
East Africa 1 1 0
England 7 3 3 (one tie)
Ireland 2 2 0
Kenya 4 4 0
Namibia 1 1 0
Netherlands 2 2 0
New Zealand 7 3 4
Pakistan 6 6 0
South Africa 4 1 3
Sri Lanka 8 3 4 (one no result)
United Arab Emirates 2 2 0
West Indies 8 5 3
Zimbabwe 9 8 1

India have a 46-27 win-loss record at the World Cup, with one match being tied and another one being abandoned.

India have lost the most matches in World Cup history to Australia, having played them in most number of matches too. In 11 matches, India have beaten the record five-time champions only thrice at World Cup – in 1983, in 1987 and of course, the quarter-final in 2011. Next on this list in New Zealand, who they have lost four out of seven matches to.

Of the former 10 Test playing nations, India has a 100% win record against just one team. No prizes for guessing this one, it’s arch-rivals Pakistan against whom they have a solid 6-0 record.

India have had just one tie in World Cup, the 2011 game against England.

India’s top performers at the World Cup

No one name in Indian history is as closely associated to the World Cup as that of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. One could write a separate article on just Tendulkar’s journey from his first edition in 1992 to the most satisfying end in 2011. The Master Blaster jointly holds the record of appearing in most editions, tied alongside Javed Miandad at six. In terms of matches played, only Ricky Ponting can better Tendulkar’s 45, thanks mainly to Australia’s habit of going deep in the tournament in the last two decades.

Most appearances for India in the World Cup

Player Span Matches 
Sachin Tendulkar 1992-2011 45
Javagal Srinath 1992-2003 34
Moh Azharuddin 1987-1999 30
Kapil Dev 1979-1992 26
Zaheer Khan 2003-2011 23
K Srikkanth 1983-1992 23
Yuvraj Singh 2003-2011 23
Rahul Dravid 1999-2007 22
Virender Sehwag 2003-2011 22
Sourav Ganguly 1999-2007 21

In terms of run-getters, again, no surprises that Tendulkar dominates the charts. He is not just India’s most prolific batsman, but the tournament’s overall: leading run-scorer, top century-maker and also boasts the most number of 50-plus scores. Tendulkar is the only player to have amassed 2000-plus runs in ICC Cricket World Cup matches.

The only other Indian to score more than 1000 runs at the World Cup so far is Sourav Ganguly.

The highest individual score for India at a World Cup came in that storied match against Sri Lanka at Taunton: Ganguly’s 183.

Highest run-getters for India

Player Matches / Innings  Runs Average
Sachin Tendulkar 45 (44) 2278 56.95
Sourav Ganguly 21 (21) 1006 55.88
Rahul Dravid 22 (21) 860 61.42
Virender Sehwag 22 (22) 843 38.31
Mohd Azharuddin 30 (25) 826 39.33
Yuvraj Singh 23 (21) 738 52.71
Kapil Dev 26 (24) 669 37.16
Virat Kohli 17 (17) 587 41.92
Sunil Gavaskar 19 (19) 561 35.06
Ajay Jadeja 21 (18) 522 34.8
Kris Srikkanth 23 (23) 521 23.68
MS Dhoni 20 (17) 507 42.25
Navjot Sidhu 12 (10) 454 45.4
Shikhar Dhawan 8 (8) 412 51.5
Gautam Gambhir 9 (9) 393 43.66

In the tournament’s history, only one Indian has taken a six-wicket haul: Ashish Nehra’s 6/23 against England in Durban 2003 was a spell for the ages. Among the names that does not appear in the table below is Chetan Sharma, but he will always hold a special place in the World Cup record books for taking the tournament’s first hat-trick which was also India’s first in ODIs.

Zaheer Khan leads the charts for the wicket-takers alongside Javagal Srinath (44 wickets) but the former achieved that tally in 11 fewer appearances.

Highest wicket-takers for India

Player Matches Wickets  Average 
Zaheer Khan 23 44 20.22
Javagal Srinath 34 44 27.81
Anil Kumble 18 31 22.83
Kapil Dev 26 28 31.85
Manoj Prabhakar 19 24 26.66
Madan Lal 11 22 19.36
Harbhajan Singh 21 20 40.4
Yuvraj Singh 23 20 23.1
Roger Binny 9 19 20.1
Ashish Nehra 12 18 22.72
Umesh Yadav 8 18 17.83
R Ashwin 10 17 24.88
Mohammed Shami 7 17 17.29
Venkatesh Prasad 14 17 34
Mohinder Amarnath 14 16 26.93

India have crossed 400 just once in the tournament and that incidentally was the only win they managed during the wretched 2007 campaign. India’s lowest total came in 2003, when Australia blew Ganguly’s men away for the first of two times in the group stages.

Highest completed innings totals

Score Teams Venue Season
413–5 (50 overs) v Bermuda Port of Spain 2007
373–6 (50 overs) v Sri Lanka Taunton 1999
370–4 (50 overs)† v Bangladesh Dhaka 2011
338 (49.5 overs)† v England Bangalore 2011

Lowest completed innings totals

Score Teams Venue Season
125 (41.4 overs) v Australia Centurion 2003
158 (37.5 overs) v Australia Nottingham 1983
182 (55.5 overs)† v New Zealand Leeds 1979
183 (54.4 overs)† v West Indies Lord's 1983
185 (43.3 overs) v Sri Lanka Port of Spain 2007

When you say World Cup and partnership, the first thing that would come to the minds of most Indian fans is the marathon effort between Ganguly and Rahul Dravid at Taunton in 1999.

Highest partnerships

Runs Players Opposition Venue and Season
318 (2nd wicket) Sourav Ganguly (183) & Rahul Dravid (145) v Sri Lanka Taunton, 1999
244 (2nd wicket) Sachin Tendulkar (152) & Sourav Ganguly (111) v Namibia Pietermaritzburg, 2003
237* (3rd wicket) Rahul Dravid (104*) & Sachin Tendulkar (140*) v Kenya Bristol, 1999
203 (3rd wicket) Virender Sehwag (175) & Virat Kohli (100) v Bangladesh Dhaka, 2011
202 (2nd wicket) Sourav Ganguly (89) & Virender Sehwag (114) v Bermuda Port of Spain, 2007

All in all, India boast a rich history at cricket’s biggest event: many memorable, some forgettable moments. What does 2019 have in store?

(All statistics courtesy ESPNCricinfo and valid as of 5 June 2019)