On This Day: India vs Sri Lanka 1996 World Cup – An Epic Collapse, Tearful Vinod Kambli
March 13, 1996 was one of the darkest days in the history of Indian cricket and till date, the events that unfolded continues to haunt the sports’fans across the nation.
A city that loves its cricket and worships its players, turned into a violent mob in 1996 when India collapsed in front of a filled Eden Gardens against Sri Lanka in the semi-finals of the World Cup.
When the day started, it couldn’t have gone any better with captain Mohammad Azharuddin winning the toss and electing to field first and getting the in-form Sri Lankan openers out, but the way it ended was the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
Javagal Srinath gave India a great start when he knocked over two of Sri Lankan’s inform batters, Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana with their score on 2. Asanka Gurusinha then hung around with Aravinda de Silva before Srinath struck again to remove Gurusinha and reduce the Lankans to 35/3.
De Silva steadied the ship with Roshan Mahanama and brought up his fifty. De Silva was looking in sublime touch and scoring most of Sri Lanka’s run, but he finally fell when Indian side castled him for a 47-ball-66. It was up to Mahanama and skipper Arjuna Ranatunga to forge a stand.
The pair slowly kept the runs ticking along and Mahanama got his fifty as well but once Ranatunga fell for 35 and Mahanama left the field retired hurt at 58, Sri Lanka’s aim of going big in the end overs fizzled out. However, Hashan Tillakaratne’s 43-ball-32 and some big-hitting from Chaminda Vaas (23 off 16) ensured Sri Lanka post a good total of 251/8 from their 50 overs.
Chasing that, India lost Navjot Sidhu early with the score on 8, but Sachin Tendulkar looked in fine form and along with Sanjay Manjrekar, he took India near 100 before getting stumped to Jayasuriya for 65. It was a huge wicket and both the teams knew that, but with 154 runs to win from 166 balls and eight wickets in hand, it shouldn’t have been a tough ask, especially with the quality India possesed.
But, then calamity struck. Before one realised, India were reduced to 120/8, losing seven wickets for just 22 runs. Azharuddin (0), Srinath (6), Ajay Jadeja (0), Nayan Mongia (1) and Aashish Kapoor (0) were all back in the hut. India now needed 131 runs to win with two wickets in hand from 15.5 overs and Vinod Kambli (10*) and Kumble (0*) at the crease. Jayasuriya had run through the Indian batting line-up, picking up Tendulkar, Manjrekar and Jadeja and India didn’t know what to do.
And, this is when, all hell broke loose.
As the collapse was unfolding before their eyes, the Eden Gardens crowd was getting restless and the fall of the eighth wicket was the tipping point. Bottles, cans, plastic bags were being hurled towards the ground. Sri Lanka captain Ranatunga brought this to the umpire’s attention and the players refused to take the field.
Parts of the crowd torched papers and things were being burnt in the stands. Some ball boys were reportedly hurt too and as this continued to happen, match referee Clive Lyold came out and awarded the match to Sri Lanka and they won by default. The picture of Kambli walking back in tears is still fresh in the minds of many cricket fans who watched that game live.
The day that started with sheer hope and great belief ended in utter chaos to mark a sorry day in the history of Indian cricket. Sri Lanka eventually went on to win the World Cup by beating Australia by 7 wickets, thanks to De Silva, who scored a match-winning hundred and picked up 3 wickets in the first innings.