Chronicling India’s journey through the World Cups

Aakash Kumar-

They say “in India, cricket is not just a game, it’s a religion”. The sport is followed by nearly everyone across the country and with the 2019 edition of the World Cup underway, the buzz around cricket in the country is at its peak.

It is in such an environment that celebrity broadcaster Ashis Ray has launched his new book, “Cricket World Cup: The Indian Challenge” where he has penned down the journey of the Indian cricket team at the World Cups since the inaugural edition in 1975.

In his book, Ray takes the readers down the team’s journey since the inaugural 60-over World Cup in 1975 which the West Indies won.

The book has a foreword by former Indian captain and batting legend Sunil Gavaskar in which he talks about the turning point in India’s attitude towards ODI cricket. “It was only after India had participated in a tri-series in Australia in 1980-81 where they played five matches against each of the other teams that they began to think about tactics and strategies to win the game. Till then, it was mostly a format played for fun and the results did not really affect any player’s position in the Test team,” writes Gavaskar.

All matches of India, since the inaugural World Cup 44 years ago, are recorded in detail as well as every semi-final and final regardless of whether India featured in them or not. Not only has Ray detailed the scores but also the environment surrounding the matches.

The book consists of nine chapters in total where Ray talks about all the facets of Indian cricket, details India’s performance in each World Cup, and also talks about the controversies around the sport in the country.

In one of the chapters under the heading “1983: Ecstasy” which talks about India’s maiden World Cup win under the captaincy of Kapil Dev, Ray says that tickets for the final had been sold out in advance with English buying most of them. “They expected England to qualify for this culmination like they had done four years earlier. So, their hopes were dashed by England’s capitulation to India,” Ray writes.

Ray also pens down what Mohinder Amarnath, who was the vice-captain of the team for the showpiece event, said about India’s preparation for the World Cup. “There was no planning, no team discussion; no strategies were discussed…I think the motto was very simple in those days: that cricket we played very hard on the field and we used to party in the evenings.”

While talking about the 2011 World Cup which India won in the chapter under the heading “2011: Triumph”, he reveals how Australia and New Zealand were provisionally designated as hosts for the showpiece event. “But persuasive money talk on the part of Sharad Pawar, as head of BCCI and then the International Cricket Council (ICC), not merely snatched the privilege away from their grasp, but ensured that the capital of his home state of Maharashtra, Mumbai — not undeservingly, though — would stage the final.”

Talking about the final where India defeated Sri Lanka on April 2, 2011, Ray quotes Sachin Tendulkar as expressing: “It was a night that India could never forget and we, having played a part in it, will never want to forget.”

The book ends with a preview of the ongoing World Cup and India’s chances at the 2019 edition of the showpiece event.

Published by Bloomsbury, the book is available on leading e-portals including Amazon.

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