India have come a long way in men’s One-Day International cricket since playing their first 50-over match in 1974. With 987 games under their belt, they are at the top of the list when it comes to most number of one-dayers played by a team. India’s win-percentage of 54.70 is impressive as well – they are third on the all-time list (minimum 20 ODIs).
Over the years, India have notched-up some truly memorable victories in this format. From clinching the odd important win early on to now becoming a powerhouse in the game, India have grown in stature consistently in ODI cricket.
While it’s near impossible to suggest which Indian victory is the greatest of them all, this write-up will look at five triumphs that stand out more than most. These matches remain significant in Indian cricket history for a number of reasons – they came on the biggest stages, they had unforgettable individual performances, and they helped usher in new eras.
Here are the five greatest moments for the Indian men’s cricket team in ODIs (ranked chronologically):
1983 – World Cup
Less than three months before the start of the 1983 World Cup, India defeated the West Indies by 27 runs in an ODI in Berbice, Guyana. Then, in the opening match of the World Cup, India got the better of the Windies again by a margin of 34 runs.
These results provided a huge morale boost for the players, but did it mean that India were suddenly being looked at as legitimate contenders for the world title? No. And did it mean the West Indies weren’t the favourites to win the World Cup that year? Again, no.
India’s win percentage in ODIs up until the tournament (12 victories in 40 games) was only better than Sri Lanka’s, while Clive Lloyd and his men were the two-time defending champions and the strongest team in the world by a fair distance.
Thus, when India, a team that was hardly known for pulling off upsets back then, came back from the dead to beat the West Indies at Lord’s on June 25, 1983, it was a watershed moment in more ways than one. Not only did it provide an impetus to the team, it also instilled a sense of belief in the entire country.
It changed not just Indian cricket but the global game too.
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1985 – World Championship of Cricket
This tournament wasn’t a World Cup, but it had the seven Test-playing nations participating in it. India were the reigning world champions at that time but they weren’t really considered the best team in the world.
In fact, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that some considered their 1983 World Cup triumph to be an aberration. Perhaps West Indies lost the World Cup more than India won it, some thought.
The 1985 World Championship of Cricket victory went a long way towards changing that perception.
India were undefeated right through that tournament in Australia. They beat Pakistan, England and the hosts in the league stage, before knocking-out New Zealand in the semi-final. And in the summit clash, they outclassed Pakistan once again with an eight-wicket victory.
The player of the tournament was, of course, Ravi Shastri. The right-handed opening batsman and left-arm spinner took eight wickets at an average 20.75 and scored 182 runs at an average 45.50 in the tournament. One of the highlights of that victory for India was Shastri being awarded an Audi car and his teammates driving it around at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
“They (team of ‘85) will give any team that India puts up in white-ball cricket, a run for their money. No question about that,” Shastri had said in an interview last month. “I’ll go one step ahead and say the team of 1985 was a stronger team compared to 1983. I was part of both teams, when you look man to man, 80% of that ‘83 team was still there, but then some of the youngsters that you got in there like a Sivaramakrishnan, Sadanand Vishwanath, [Mohammad] Azharuddin, those kind of guys came in to add to the experience you already had of ‘83 and it was fantastic.”
1998 – Coca-Cola Trophy
Sachin Tendulkar’s ‘Desert Storm’ in the 1998 Coca-Cola Trophy will go down in history as one of the greatest performances in the game. It was a story of one man’s will against all odds. The way he batted in that tournament had a far-reaching impact on Indian cricket as a whole.
It was a triangular series, with Australia and New Zealand being the other teams participating. In their last league match against the Aussies, India needed to get 237 runs in 46 overs to pass New Zealand on net run-rate and book their spot in the final.
With a sandstorm hitting Sharjah that night and Australia boasting of a world-class attack, Tendulkar went on to put up a masterclass. He scored 143 off 131 to help India edge out New Zealand.
He couldn’t help India win that match, as the records show, but the way he toyed with Shane Warne and Co was simply extraordinary.
Tendulkar wasn’t done, though. In the final, he scored another century and this time it was in a winning cause. The right-hander had been playing international cricket for nearly a decade and was regarded as one of the best batsmen in the world, but his heroics in that tournament elevated his status to an all-new level.
“There wasn’t much time between those two matches. I remember not getting enough sleep before the final, I was too excited,” Tendulkar recalled. “I wasn’t feeling too comfortable with my game when I started batting in the final. But I was confident and decided to give myself time. It was important for me to remain at the crease even if I wasn’t batting with a high strike-rate. Soon enough, I started timing the ball well and it all fell in place. The best part was that we won the trophy.”
But, to pick one for the five greatest moments in Indian cricket, it is hard to look past Desert Storm. One of the greatest moments in Indian cricket is actually a defeat even though, one can safely say, it doesn’t feel like one to many even today.
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2002 – Natwest Series
Teams scoring totals in excess of 300 runs in one-dayers may be the norm these days, but that wasn’t always true. When a team got 300-plus runs on the board batting first, the chances of them going on to lose the match were really low at the turn of the century.
Which is why India’s victory against England in the 2002 Natwest Trophy final was truly significant. India defeated England in their own den, at the iconic Lord’s Cricket Ground, that too after chasing down a mammoth 325 runs in a high-pressure final. It was a lot to take in for Indian cricket fans.
Of course, the other important aspect of that triumph was the manner in which it all happened. India were reduced to 147/5 in 24 overs with Tendulkar back in the hut. It came down to two young guns – Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh – putting on a partnership for the ages to take their team home. Their performance that day showed the world that India was ready to play a new, fearless brand of cricket.
The icing on the cake was captain Sourav Ganguly getting back at Andrew Flintoff by twirling his shirt ferociously at the Lord’s balcony. That moment is sure to be etched in fans’ minds for a long, long time.
2011 – World Cup
One cannot understate the pressure Indian players must have felt heading into the 2011 ODI World Cup.
India hadn’t won the prestigious title in 28 long years. Since 1983, they had only reached the final once (in 2003) and that ended up leaving a jarring memory. Tendulkar was playing his last World Cup after failing to get a hold of the trophy in five previous attempts. And the tournament was happening at home, which brought along with it it’s own set of expectations.
Despite knowing everything that was at stake, for Indian cricket fans, that moment which clinched the trophy was sweeter than anything they had dreamt of.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, one of the most admired and respected personalities in the country, hitting the winning six. Yuvraj Singh, who later revealed he was diagnosed with cancer, in tears and being awarded the player of the series trophy. And Tendulkar, one of the game’s greatest servants, being held on his teammates’ shoulders in a victory lap. It all came together in the most surreal fashion.
“This goes out to all the people of India. This is my first World Cup and I couldn’t have asked for more. Tendulkar has carried the burden of nation for 21 years, it was time we carried him,” current India captain Virat Kohli had famously said after the victory.
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Agree with this list? Which other moment would you rather see in the top five? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter by tagging @thefield_in.