July 13, 2002 was a red-letter day in Indian cricket. Not only because Sourav Ganguly’s Indians painted London red that evening through their amazing two-wicket victory in the NatWest Series final at Lord’s, but because Indian cricket started believing in themselves as a one-day unit.
The match fixing controversy and the disastrous 1999-2000 tour of Australia had left Indian cricket lovers distressed. The well-meaning officials in the Indian cricket board started to think ahead. They named Ganguly as captain after Sachin Tendulkar decided that his crown of thorns was becoming unbearable.
Young players were drafted in and the Board gave in to the needs of senior players, who wanted a foreign coach. Thus, John Wright was picked and didn’t take long to make a difference. Of course, he could never have done it without a spirited team.
At Lord’s, needing 326 for victory, India got a 100 plus start to their innings but lost wickets regularly which brought two young guns at the crease — Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh, who put on 121 runs to give India hope. Victory was achieved with three balls to spare.
This win did wonders to the team’s 2003 World Cup fortunes. Yuvraj and Kaif went from strength to strength; Virender Sehwag became a destructive force and seniors like Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar took on enough responsibility to help India reach the World Cup final. Their only hurdle was Australia, who they finally conquered en route to the 2011 World Cup win. Sure, there was a dark phase in 2007 when India crashed out in the first round of the tournament. That, now, looks a mere bump on the road.
The impact of Lord’s 2002 was unique if not the biggest. Captain Ganguly’s shirt-waving act on the Lord’s balcony that evening wasn’t appreciated by the purists, but it sent out a signal to world cricket — India means business.