The 1999 World Cup was not going well for India. The team lost to South Africa in the opening game and they suffered a bigger calamity both on the field and off the field. Off the field, Sachin Tendulkar’s father died and he was forced to miss the game against Zimbabwe in Leicester. In his absence, India struggled and they lost to Zimbabwe by three runs to put them on the brink of elimination. There were some moments of inspiration when Tendulkar returned for the game against Kenya. He scored an emotional century and India won the game. Heading into the game against Sri Lanka at Taunton, it was a do-or-die situation.
Against Sri Lanka, India had the baggage of disappointment in the World Cup. In 1979, as an associate nation, Sri Lanka defeated India in Manchester. In 1996, India lost to Sri Lanka in New Delhi thanks to Sanath Jayasuriya’s blitz. In the semi-final at Eden Gardens, Aravinda de Silva hit a brilliant 66 and collapse from India saw them get eliminated. The aftermath of the match saw the crowd pelt bottles and disrupt the game.
Sri Lanka chose to bowl and they immediately got success when Chaminda Vaas got rid of Sadagoppan Ramesh for 5. Sourav Ganguly was then joined by Rahul Dravid and the duo proceeded to change the course of the match. In the process, they also changed world cricket.
Ganguly started the carnage by hammering two boundaries off Eric Upashantha while Dravid matched him for aggression by smashing three boundaries in one over off Pramodya Wickramasinghe. Dravid continued the carnage with two boundaries off Chaminda Vaas as India laid a platform for a big score. Ganguly and Dravid found the boundary on a regular basis, with Dravid scoring at a rate of over 150. Dravid scored his fifty first and Ganguly joined him later as the partnership looked ominous.
Ganguly smashed a six off Aravinda de Silva and both he and Dravid neared their centuries. Dravid reached a century and showed his intent by hammering a four and a six off Wickramasinghe and Muttiah Muralitharan. Ganguly reached his century and launched Muralitharan for a four and a six. In the 42nd over bowled by Sri Lanka’s ace spinner, Ganguly blasted two sixes and a four and Sri Lanka was reeling.
Dravid hit three more boundaries off Vaas while Ganguly blasted three fours and a six off Upashantha. The partnership ended when Dravid was run-out for 145 but India notched up 373/6. Sri Lanka was never in the game and Robin Singh’s 5/31 gave India their first World Cup win against Sri Lanka.
The 318-run partnership between Ganguly and Dravid was the highest in ODIs for a year until Tendulkar and Dravid broke the record with a 331-run stand against New Zealand in Hyderabad in 1999. This was the first 300-plus stand in ODIs. Ganguly’s 183 remained his highest individual score while Dravid dispelled the notion that he could not fit in the ODI team. India managed to reach the super-six stage after beating England and despite losing to Australia and New Zealand, India notched up a win against Pakistan in Manchester. However, the World Cup will forever be remembered for the exploits of Ganguly and Dravid. It was Ton-Ton in Taunton and May 26, 1999, established the duo of Ganguly and Dravid as legendary.