India’s previous best was eight wins in a row at the 2003 World Cup when they beat all sides, except Australia. They lost twice to Ricky Ponting’s side including in the final. A member of the 2003 side, wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel recalls that campaign after India’s ninth successive win in World Cups.
“Honestly when we started the 2003 World Cup, we didn’t start that well. Everyone talks about losing to Australia and getting all out for 200 against Holland. But not many remember that we even lost to Natal’s B team in the warm-up. We didn’t start the tournament well, but we then made a remarkable comeback,” recalled Parthiv in an exclusive interview with www.indianexpress.com.
There was outrage in India after the league game loss to Australia in the 2003 World Cup, but then the campaign was brought back on track. “Team got together. We took one game at a time. We went to Zimbabwe after that. We were looking good as a side and playing well. We decided to forget all about losing. Obviously the senior players took it in their hands,” added Parthiv.
The best moment of that 2003 campaign in Parthiv’s view was the match against Pakistan at Centurion. The atmosphere in that game still brings back fond memories for the dimunitive wicket-keeper. “It was my first game against Pakistan and that too at a neutral venue, a World Cup game. I had never experienced something like that. There was tension in the air. It will always stay fresh in my mind,” said Parthiv.
Asked to compare the 2003 campaign with the 2015 World Cup, Parthiv pointed to the difference in formats. “Then we had league games followed by Super Six, semi-final and final. Now you have league games, but you need three very good days to win the World Cup. Looking at the current Indian team and the one in 2003, there is not much difference. You can see the hunger to win every game is the same.”
One thing in common between the two sides is the fact that then there were three players, Ajit Agarkar, Parthiv and current assistant coach Sanjay Bangar who did not get a game in the entire tournament. Something similar might happen in this tournament with the benched players unlikely to get a game.
“Honestly when you are on a World Cup trip or any tour with India, you want to be part of the playing XI. To be fair, then the team was doing well, so there was no chance for us. John (Wright), the coach played a big role. He told us ‘you guys have no chance to be in the playing XI. Just try and help the guys at practice’,” recalled Parthiv. Hence Parthiv’s advice to the benched players at this World Cup, is simple: “Enjoy every moment of the tournament. Not many great players have got a chance to be part of World Cups, so enjoy the moment.”
However, Parthiv found it difficult to point out which side was stronger. He is after all one of the few who can relate to both sides as he started off at 17. Parthiv who turned 30 on Monday, started off playing with the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. He has also played with the current bunch. “This time they have a great chance of winning World Cup and let us hope they go one step higher than we did in 2003,” concluded Parthiv.