As memorable as India’s 2003 World Cup campaign was, with the team reaching the final, the one game players from that team and fans alike would not want to remember is the final against Australia on March 24. Australia steamrolled India by 125 runs with Ricky Ponting scoring a ballistic 140, and along with contributions from Adam Gilchrist (57) and Damien Martyn (88), propelling the total to 359/2.
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Needing 360 to win, India were in with a herculean task of chasing down the total. As stiff as the target was for 2003, India depended on their opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar to provide them a start. The onus, as was the case back in the day, was on Tendulkar – who had amassed 669 runs in the tournament before the final – to produce a classic. But those plans were thwarted away as McGrath, bowling the first over, dismissed the master batsman for 4.
More than 17 years later, McGrath recalled that over, that set the tone for Australia’s win, revealing how he still comes across Indian fans who have not forgiven him for bowling the over and dismissing their beloved batsman, Tendulkar.
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“I remember that game quite well and I have a lot of people from India coming up say that they’ll never forgive me for the first over. First two balls were dot balls and Sachin just picked me off length, hit me straight over mid-on for four. And the crowd was going for India except for a tiny little portion for Aussies,” McGrath recalled on the ‘Extraaa Innings’ show ahead of the second ODI between India and Australia in Sydney.
“The noise was amazing and the next ball, just bounced a bit more and Sachin tried to repeat it. The ball went straight up in the air and I took quite a comfortable caught and bowled. I was quite happy but obviously for billions of Indians, it wasn’t the case.”
McGrath finished with 3/52 off 8.2 overs as India were bowled out for 234 in the 40th over. Only Sehwag’s 82 was the face saved for India, with the next highest score being a 47 from Rahul Dravid. Having said that, McGrath said he always enjoyed bowling to the best batsmen of that generation, of which Tendulkar was right up there.
“Always enjoyed those challenges against the batsmen who were the best. Sachin was definitely one of those. He was a big key wicket in the Indian team. Our batsmen, Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn set it up,” the former Aussie quick added.