India vs Pakistan 2003 World Cup

India vs Pakistan 2003 World Cup clash has been one of the iconic clashes in World Cup history, with India beating Pakistan amidst extreme political tension.

India vs Pakistan 2003 World Cup
Subhayan Dutta

Written by: Subhayan Dutta

(Sports Writer)

Fact checked by: Dillip Mohanty

(Sports Editor)

Last updated: 2023-10-18

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“I have seen Sachin play a lot but the way he batted against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup, I've never seen him play like that before. That was the best innings of Sachin, playing against Wasim, Waqar, and Akhtar in those conditions"

Inzamam-ul-Haq on Sachin Tendulkar's 98 at Centurion

India and Pakistan have played out certain classics over the past few decades, a few of them in the ICC events as well. But, nothing could come remotely close to the India vs Pakistan 2003 World Cup encounter given the political context within which the encounter took place.

February 28, 2003, was one of the most important dates in the history of the India-Pakistan cricket rivalry. The Men in Blue hadn’t played against Pakistan following the Parliament attacks in 2000 and since this World Cup fixtures was announced, the entire nation was waiting for the cricket team to avenge the incident.

Such was the pressure that former Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar had admitted to having sleepless nights for weeks imagining and reimagining the proceedings of this match.

“Such was the pressure that former Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar had admitted to having sleepless nights for weeks imagining and reimagining the proceedings of this match,” Tendulkar had said in Indian Today Conclave 2023.

Though India hadn’t lost to Pakistan in any World Cup encounter until then, they were surely not the favourites coming into the fixture.

Before travelling to South Africa for the 2003 World Cup, the Indian team had played two seven-match ODI series against West Indies and New Zealand, losing them 3-4 and 2-5, respectively. The Men in Blue carried their poor form into the World Cup as well, as they couldn’t bat the entire 50 overs against the Netherlands before slumping to a 9-wicket loss against Australia. India were wrapped up for just 125 runs against the Aussies in their second World Cup game, which was the lowest score tally by India in any World Cup.

India’s Lowest Innings Totals

in ODI World Cup

VsTotal ScoreDateVenueMatch Result
Australia125Feb 15, 2003CenturionLost by 9 Wkts
England132June 7, 1975Lord'sLost by 202 Runs
Australia158June 13, 1983NottinghamLost by 162 Runs
New Zealand182June 13, 1979LeedsLost by 8 Wkts
West Indies183June 25, 1983Lord'sWon by 43 Runs
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The Indian team would go on to win their next three matches against Zimbabwe, Namibia and England and was approaching Pakistan with a potential elimination at stake. With Australia already securing their progression from that group by winning all their games, the race for the remaining spots had a three-way race between India, Pakistan and England.

Interestingly, India had beaten England, who in turn had defeated Pakistan. Now, a loss to Pakistan, following India’s massive loss against Australia and an underwhelming outing against the Netherlands, would have seen India’s net run rate (NRR) decline further and an elimination was a probability, albeit distant.

Though all other permutations and combinations fared well in India’s favour later on, the uncertainty ahead of the Pakistan clash was immense. Shoaib Akhtar’s open challenge to Sachin Tendulkar ahead of the game and Harbhajan Singh’s fight with Mohammad Yousuf had further given steam to the raging fire.

2003 World Cup India vs Pakistan Scorecard

India vs Pakistan 2003 World Cup Centurion Match Summary.png

Playing against his favourite opponents, Pakistan opener Saeed Anwar started strongly yet again forging partnerships with first Taufeeq Umar and then with Mohammad Yusuf. However, quick wickets on the other end meant the Men in Green couldn’t capitalize on Anwar’s 101-run knock, reducing Pakistan to 208/6 by the 42nd over.

Some late gritty knock by Wasim Akram and Rashid Latif added 48 late runs in the last eight overs of the innings as India were handed a target of 274 runs in 50 overs. Though the target looks quite achievable now, prior to this match a target of above 273 runs were chased down only twice in World Cups.

2003 World Cup: India vs Pakistan Sachin and Sehwag

The moment of truth had come for Sachin Tendulkar, who was having multiple apprehensions for months for this match, as he came out to bat alongside Virender Sehwag. It was later revealed that India’s strategy was to see off the first 10 overs safely and the runs would follow thereafter.

Tendulkar would initially stick to the strategy, taking a single after sending Akram for a boundary on the third ball. However, Akhtar’s provocation in the second over didn’t help Pakistan’s cause and he ended up triggering Tendulkar’s best form ever.

A pumped-up Akhtar used all his might to bowl fast and at body length, and Sachin’s calm defence against his second delivery of 150kph further anagered him. He kept bowling outside off provoking Sehwag to play a cut shot. The big shot came, however, from Tendulkar on the fourth ball.

India vs Pakistan 2003 World Cup: Sachin Tendulkar ooze class

Tendulkar played the 2003 World Cup’s most defining shot when he cut Akhtar’s ball outside off over third man for six. The shot had not only rocked the Centurion but also settled the opener’s nerves. He would then hit a boundary off his legs on middle stump towards the backward square leg and end the over with a classy tap towards mid-on for the second consecutive four of the over.

The second over of the match had pretty much decided the outcome, as was known in hindsight. Akram had later stated that Akhtar didn’t want to bowl following that spell and Tendulkar had revealed that those three big hits had calmed his nerves.

Tendulkar and Sehwag would have a 53-run opening stand, before the Master Blaster took the game away from Pakistan with a mammoth 102-run partnership with Mohammad Kaif.

Former Pakistan batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq had pegged that to be Tendulkar’s best knock against Pakistan.

“I have seen Sachin play a lot but the way he batted against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup, I've never seen him play like that before. That was the best innings of Sachin, playing against Wasim, Waqar, and Akhtar in those conditions" Inzamam had stated.

Tendulkar would unfortunately fall short off a century by two runs and eventually be dismissed by Akhtar himself in the 28th over. However, by that time he had put the match beyond doubt by hitting 12 boundaries and a six, leaving just 96 runs to be scored for the incoming duo of Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh in 22 overs.

Yuvraj went on to score a fifty while Dravid remained unbeaten on 44 to take India home in inarguably the most important India-Pakistan clash in all World Cups. Not only did the victory almost guarantee a qualification for India into the semi-finals but also eliminated Pakistan from the World Cup in that edition. The consequences were massive as vice-captain Inzamam ul Haq resigned immediately after the defeat with skipper Akram, coach Richard Pybus and eight other players fired.

Photo

While Sachin was hailed as a hero for the rest of his career following that knock, captain Sourav Ganguly had reportedly been on a call with India’s Chief of Army Staff following their win over Pakistan. Nothing could define the importance of this win any better.

Sachin Tendulkar was named the Man of the Match for the win and he would repeat this feat eight years later during India’s 2011 World Cup game against Pakistan as well.

After qualifying second from the group stage, India would beat Kenya in the semis and book a place in a World Cup final for the first time since 1983. Though India had lost to Australia in the summit clash in a one-sided encounter, this campaign is widely remembered for this Centurion clash.   

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Subhayan Dutta

Subhayan Dutta

An M.A. in English Literature, Subhayan is an experienced journalist and sports writer. Having worked as a journalist at Hindustan Times, Subhayan covered diverse beats including sports, education, and health, showcasing his versatility and in-depth understanding of various subjects.

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