New Delhi: In the annals of cricket history, the 1996 Cricket World Cup holds a memorable yet controversial chapter, etched at the iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata. The semifinal clash between arch-rivals India and Sri Lanka witnessed a tumultuous turn of events that marred what was supposed to be a thrilling encounter. The stage was set for a fierce battle, with India chasing a target of 252 runs to secure a spot in the World Cup final. The early departure of Navjot Singh Sidhu did little to dampen India's spirits, thanks to a brilliant innings by the Master Blaster himself, Sachin Tendulkar. His performance gave India a glimmer of hope, propelling the team to a comfortable 98/1.
However, the tide turned dramatically when Sanath Jayasuriya dismissed Tendulkar after his valiant 65-run effort. What followed was a shocking collapse of the Indian batting order, as they lost the next six wickets for a mere 22 runs. As the prospect of a resounding defeat loomed large, the Eden Gardens crowd could not contain their frustration and disappointment. The situation quickly escalated as the disgruntled spectators resorted to violent actions. Bottles were hurled onto the playing field, and some even set fire to their seats in a fit of rage. Despite efforts to restore order, including the intervention of match referee Clive Lloyd, the chaos continued unabated.
In the face of the escalating unrest and security concerns, the match officials made the unprecedented decision to award the match to Sri Lanka. This shocking turn of events not only led to India's unceremonious exit from the tournament but also tarnished the spirit of the game. Sri Lanka went on to claim the 1996 Cricket World Cup title, but the Eden Gardens incident remains an indelible stain on the cricketing history of that tournament. It serves as a reminder of the passion, emotions, and occasional turbulence that cricket can evoke among its ardent fans.
As cricket enthusiasts eagerly await the start of the 2023 Cricket World Cup, they can look back at such controversies and hope for a tournament filled with thrilling matches, fair competition, and passionate yet sportsmanlike fans.