On June 25, 1983, the India cricket team had won the ICC Cricket World Cup 1983 and images of the team holding the trophy were inspirational for the entire nation.
I was just 10 years of age and have fond memories of that victory. My parents allowed me to celebrate the victory till late in the night. I was also inspired to take up playing the game with the season (hard) ball after the World Cup victory.
My first 'live' piece of World Cup action was during the 1987 edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup, which was co-hosted by India and Pakistan. I was fortunate to be among the volunteers to be picked as a ball boy for the matches played in Mumbai. As I stood there watching the Indian greats on the field, I kept telling myself that I need to be a part of the action in the middle.
In 1992, I made my maiden appearance in an ICC Cricket World Cup match against England in Perth. This tournament was different to the previous events as it was the first time that coloured player clothing, white cricket balls and black sightscreens were introduced in ICC's pinnacle event with a number of matches being played under floodlights.
I did not have an exceptional match; going wicketless in my 10 overs and scoring 35 runs, including sharing a 63-run stand with Ravi Shastri. We fell short of the target by nine runs.
India failed to qualify for the knock-out stage with the only consolation being in defeating Pakistan, the eventual champion, in a match where I also received my first man of the match in the ICC Cricket World Cup.
I scored my first century in an ICC Cricket World Cup during this tournament and also scored another one against Sri Lanka, the eventual champion, during the group stage. The highs experienced during the group stage came crashing down and we were left to enjoy the brilliant batting of Aravinda de Silva, whose partnership with Arjuna Ranatunga on the television set as Sri Lanka won its first World Cup defeating Australia.
The ICC Cricket World Cup 1999 was a difficult tournament for me personally as I had to cope with the loss of my father in the midst of the tournament. It was very difficult as I tried to focus on the game in spite of my grief. Â
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 was the closest I had come, till then, to lift the coveted trophy.
The entire team had been playing well and we were extremely charged up to take on Australia in the final. A little too charged up, as we realised, as we lost the final by a big margin! I had a memorable tournament scoring 673 runs in 11 matches - the most by any batsman in a single World Cup. The player of the tournament award I received was little consolation for ending up on the second best side.
The most forgettable ICC Cricket World Cup for me has to be 2007 edition in the West Indies. The early exit from the tournament ranks among the worst moments of my cricketing career. We had a fantastic team but it was not to be! My pursuit to be a part of the World Cup winning team continued.
The disappointment in the tournament served as a boost to prove many naysayers wrong.
I remember in 2009, I spoke to the media about looking forward to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 and 'being able to achieve what we want to achieve'. As the tournament progressed, we did worry our fans in the group stage with our performance but started generating momentum as we entered the quarter-finals.
In defeating top sides like Australia, Pakistan and eventually overcoming Sri Lanka in the final, India emerged as the first nation to win the ICC Cricket World Cup on its home soil. It was even more special as I had finally been part of the World Cup winning team after 22 years of pursuit. The victory in 2011 was the highest point of my career as a nation unified in its celebrations.
The India team's preparation to defend the title in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 began some time ago and I look forward to following its performance in February and March 2015 when I return to the World Cup as an ICC Ambassador.
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