The ICC World Cup is the biggest fanfare event for our beloved sport. Therefore, to keep the entertainment quotient going, almost every edition throws at us some unexpected surprises where a perceived minnow plays out of its skin to land a deadly punch on the heavyweight it finds itself pitted against. There have been occasions where such unexpected victories have resulted in the complete transformation of the cricketing landscape in the country. The cases of India and Bangladesh would serve as the ideal examples of such a transformation.
Here, we take a look at 10 biggest upsets in the 44-year journey of Cricket World Cup:
Zimbabwe makes the first giant kill in the World Cup arena, 1983
Duncan Fletcher, as a 34-year old captain in Zimbabwe’s maiden World Cup campaign, couldn’t have asked for more when he took the field at Trent Bridge on 9 June 1983. The minnows were pitted against the mighty Australians led by Kim Hughes who won the toss and asked his bowlers to feast on the Zimbabwean batting unit.
For a brief period, as Zimbabwe reached 55/0, it looked as if the Africans were there to fight but such notions got withered away soon as the Australian bowlers reduced them to a sorry looking 94/5. Fletcher, after watching the mayhem at the other end, decided to take charge of the situation and cruised his way through to an unbeaten 69 from 84 balls which helped Zimbabwe limp up to 239/6.
The Australian openers began on a similar note, adding 61 for the first wicket but the Zimbabwean bowlers maintained their discipline to not let them run away with the chase. Their efforts paid off as Australia started throwing their wickets away under the influence of a mounting asking-rate. Rod Marsh struck a quick-fire fifty but his impetus came a tad late as Australia managed 226/7 in the end, falling 13 runs short of the target. Fletcher took 4/42 to etch his name, as well as that of his country, in World Cup history.
Kapil Dev lifts the trophy to deny Clive Lloyd his third, 1983
India had huffed and puffed their way into the final while West Indies had cruised their way on the back of five wins on the trot. Indian batsmen found it too hard to handle the fearsome pace and aggression of the West Indian bowlers as India slumped to 6/111, with only Kris Srikkanth (38) and Mohinder Amarnath (26) contributing something of note with the bat. The lower order resisted a bit to further drag India up to 183 before they too eventually gave in. Andy Roberts was the pick of the bowlers taking 3 wickets for 32 runs.
A target of 184 was hardly a challenge for the West Indians, who had made a mockery of the same total against Pakistan in the semi-final clash. What followed was Indian bowlers showing tremendous discipline with the ball, Kapil Dev’s great running catch to get rid of Vivian Richards and West Indian batting line-up crumbling like a house of cards against the medium pace of Madan Lal (3/31) and Mohinder Amarnath (3/12) to hand India a 43-run victory. Dev lifted his maiden World Cup trophy, denying a hat-trick to 'Big Cat' Clive Lloyd.
Zimbabwe blues for England in the first colorful World Cup, 1992
England, in 1992, did the same mistake which the Australians committed nine years back in the 1983 World Cup i.e. write Zimbabwe off. The match progression reflects an almost similar curve on both the occasions — Zimbabwe's sorry batting in the first innings bailed out by an out-of-the-skin bowling effort. On a lively pitch in Albury, Ian Botham (3/23) and Richard Illingworth (3/33) condemned Zimbabwe to 134 all out, giving their mighty batting line up of Graham Gooch, Botham, Allan Lamb, Alec Stewart, Graeme Hick, and Neil Fairbrother a very modest total to chase. But Eddo Brandes (4/21), supported by Ali Omarshah (2/17) and Iain Butchart (2/32), refused to give up and orchestrated one of the greatest giant-killings in the World Cup arena by bowling England out for an ignominious 125.
Kenya trump West Indies to continue the African surprise element, 1996
If it was Zimbabwe in 1983 and 1992, Kenyan cricketers put their hands up in the World Cup of 1996. West Indian cricket’s downhill path had already begun but they were still a decent force with the likes of Brain Lara, Richie Richardson, Ian Bishop, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh in their ranks. Batting first, Kenyan batsmen proved to be no match against the rampaging trio of Ambrose (2/21), Walsh (3/46) and Roger Harper (3/15) who shot them out for a paltry 166-run total. But such small chases are always tricky and Kenyan bowlers stood up to vindicate the age-old adage. Led by Maurice Odumbe (3/15) and Rajab Ali (3/17), the Kenyan bowlers just didn’t allow the West Indian batting line-up to settle in the middle, as vindicated by the West Indian scorecard which reflects only two, Shivnarine Chanderpaul (19) and Roger Harper (17), getting into the double-digit scores as the whole team found itself into the dressing room at a total of just 93, conceding the match by a whopping margin of 73 runs.
A small victory for Bangladesh, a giant leap for Bangladeshi cricket, 1999
On 31 May, 1999, Khaled Mahmud immortalised himself in Bangladeshi cricket history as the man who catalysed his nation’s bid to become a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC). Bangladesh were playing Pakistan in the World Cup of 1999 and had limped their way to a face-saving 223-run total as Saqlain Mushtaq wreaked havoc in their batting ranks with figures of 5 wickets for 35 runs. Only Shahriar Hossain (39), Akram Khan (42) and Mahmud (27) could come up with contributions of any substance. In response, the Bangladeshi bowlers started the defense with a bang as Pakistan’s top five were sent back into the hut with the score reading just 42. Azhar Mahmood (29) and Wasim Akram (29) tried to resurrect the chase but their efforts could only delay the inevitable. Mahmud (3/31) starred with the ball too, as Pakistan surrendered at 161. The victory holds great reverence in Bangladeshi cricket as it helped them to further assert their bid for a full ICC membership, which was eventually granted to them in June 2000.
Kenyan Lions hunt down Sri Lankan tigers, 2003
Kenya, in 2003, scripted the greatest rags-to-riches story in the African cricketing history when they made it to the semi-final of the mega-event. During that dream-run, they came face-to-face with the Sri Lankan team in Nairobi. Chaminda Vaas (3/41) and Muralitharan (4/28) set the tone for a Sri Lankan dominance as Kenya got restricted to just 210 runs despite a valiant 60 (of 88 balls) by Kennedy Otieno. The Sri Lankan batsmen, perhaps, took it too lightly as Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara were nipped out for single-digit scores. Soon, the resistance of Marvan Atapattu (23) and Aravinda de Silva (41) ended too, as the Lankans slid to 6 down for 112. It was just a formality from thereon for Steve Tikolo’s men who completed a convincing 53-run victory, with Collins Obuya picking up a five-wicket haul on home soil. Surely, it takes a herculean effort to tame a Sri Lankan side filled with such illustrious names.
Pakistan suffer the Ireland ignominy prior to Bob Woolmer’s death controversy, 2007
The World Cup caravan arrived at the Caribbean shores for the very first time in 2007. It was a sweet-and-sour experience for the Asian nations as Pakistan and India crashed out of the group stages while Bangladesh and Sri Lanka advanced into the Super 8 stages. Ireland, playing their maiden World Cup, were the punishers for Pakistan as they bowled them out for a meagre 132 on a greenish Kingston deck, with their lanky 6'7" tall pacer Boyd Rankin taking three wickets. In response, the Irish chase was in doldrums too when they got reduced to 2 down for just 15 runs but a calm Niall O’Brien carried the Irish innings forward with a gritty 72-run knock which took Ireland within touching distance of the target. Mohammad Sami took three wickets to derail the Irish chase but skipper Trent Johnston smacked Azhar Mahmood for a six in the 42nd over to win the Super 8 ticket for his nation.
India’s biggest ignominy at the World Cup stage hands Bangladesh a ticket to Super 8s, 2007
Bangladesh’s greatest World Cup victory till date is a story of how they conquered the country, on the cricket pitch, which had once helped them achieve an independent nation’s status back in 1971. But this was 2007 and a Mashrafe Mortaza-led bowling attack choked the mighty Indian batting line-up which could only muster a shabby 191 before suffering the ignominy of getting bowled out. The highlight of the innings was a young Abdur Razzak bamboozling Sachin Tendulkar to get him caught behind for just 7 runs off 26 deliveries. Bangladeshi batsmen were too careful to repeat the mistakes of their Indian counterparts as Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, and Shakib Al Hasan notched up half-centuries to take their side over the line comfortably in the penultimate over of the chase. The defeat paved way for India’s early exit from the Caribbean shores while Bangladesh proudly made their entry into the Super 8 stage of the tournament.
England blown away by the Kevin O’Brien storm, 2011
To put it as a team effort will be a gross injustice to the mercurial 113-run effort off just 63 balls which made Kevin O’Brien a household name in Ireland. At the halfway stage in the 15th match of 2011 World Cup in Bengaluru, England looked comfortably placed at 327/8 with Kevin Pietersen (59), Jonathan Trott (92) and Ian Bell (81) doing the bulk of the scoring. Their stocks rose even higher as Ireland lost their fifth wicket for just 111 runs in the 25th over of the chase. The target looked out-of-bounds for almost everybody barring O’ Brien, who put on a hitting spectacle studded with 13 boundaries and 6 sixes to catapult his side to 317 runs in 48 overs. Though he got run-out off the very first ball of the penultimate over, skipper Trent Johnston and John Mooney (33) ensured that their team got the remaining 11 runs comfortably.
Bangladesh knocks England out of the World Cup, 2015
Though it had been almost 15 years since Bangladesh got the full ICC membership in June 2000, they were still considered lambs when pitted against giants like Australia, England, India, etc. But one thing had been ingrained deep in them and that was their habit of occasionally upsetting big teams. England were given a taste of that in a crucial group stage clash in Adelaide in the 2015 World Cup. Riding on a brilliant 103 by Mahmudullah and an 89 from Mushfiqur Rahim, Bangladesh posted a competitive 275/7 in their first innings. Jos Buttler pulled out his pyro-techniques to compose an attacking half-century (65 from 52 balls) but an uncanny Rubel Hossain picked up four English batsmen to catch the English chase short by 15 runs. That was the fourth loss for the English team in the group stage which was enough for them to bid adieu to their Tasman hosts.