On July 13, 2002, India had pulled off an improbable chase at Lord’s against England in the Natwest Trophy final.
Chasing an imposing 325, Sourav Ganguly and Co were struggling at 146/5 before Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh’s resolute 121-run sixth-wicket stand put India on course to victory. Kaif then joined hands with tailenders Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan to take the team home with three balls to spare.
Till date, it remains one of the greatest One-day International wins in India’s history, and many pundits have observed that the win changed how opposition teams looked at Men in Blue. Here’s what the main protagonists of the final had to say about that epic encounter:
Kaif, who had a lean patch, became an overnight hero: When I returned home to Allahabad, I was put on an open-jeep procession,” the 39-year-old told Indian Express.
“It took us nearly three-four hours to travel the five-six km to our home. People lined up on the roads. Garlands, chants, happy faces. When I was a kid, I had seen Amitabh Bachchan in an open jeep after he had won an election in my hometown. That day, I felt like Amitabh Bachchan.
Ganguly’s shirt-twirling celebration after India hit the winning runs became a talking point, almost as much as the game.
“No, no I didn’t believe at all [that we could win],” Ganguly told India Today. “I thought one more final was gone. And I was sitting in the corner, angry with myself and the team that we let teams to get 300 in a final; Why can’t we get them out for 250 in a final and then chase it”
“I never believed we could win but then Yuvraj and Kaif did wonders for us during that period. Lot of other games, not just that final. I remember after we came back from England, we played the Champions Trophy in South Africa, and again against Zimbabwe in the first game we were 50/5.
The former India captain added: “Madness [Taking off the shirt]. It was just happiness. We had never won a final up until then. We had lost 3-4 finals before that. Then we came here and we were down and out. 146/5 and the game was over. One wicket and we would have been done.”
Rajiv Shulka, team manager: “I remember Sourav wanted to give it back to Andrew Flintoff, who had taken off his jersey and waved at the crowd in Mumbai [earlier that year].
“Actually Sourav wanted the whole team to take off their jerseys and wave it. But Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman all had politely declined Sourav’s request of doing the same,”
Nasser Hussain, England captain, admitted that he had a few words to say to Kaif: “I remember him [Kaif] coming in and there was a bit of sledging, because we had them five wickets down, and someone said - ‘who’s this, skip’.
“So, I said ‘I think he might drive the bus, he might drive Tendulkar on the bus’. When he hit the winning run, he gave me that look – ‘not bad for a bus driver!’,”
Yuvraj Singh: “We were pretty down after England made 325. Back then targets like that used to be very difficult to chase,” he told India Today recently.
“We got a good start but when Sachin Tendulkar got out I remember England players started celebrating like they had won the match.”
Yuvraj, one of the younger members in the side at the time, revealed that he had also taken his shirt off. “I had removed my shirt but I was wearing another t-shirt underneath because it was cold in England. Nobody noticed it so I was saved.”
Batting legend Tendulkar: “Before we realised what I was happening, it was over. We came out from nowhere and won. It was incredible. I have seen many kids doing that [Ganguly’s celebration]. I still can’t stop laughing when I see that.”