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2002 Natwest Final : When A Bus Driver Had Driven India Over The Line

After being down and out losing the big five men in the side, India shouldering on Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif came earned victory in the 2002 Natwest Trophy Final

Winning against a powerful side or on a ground that speaks history itself or testing victory coming from far behind with the opponents have hardly any plan to play or having success making a bold statement can be a remarkable achievement. But to add all the flavors in a single recipe will make it extra-ordinary.


India Wants to Remove the Growing Chokers Tag:

It had been just over a year since that Rahul-Laxman show that created a miracle at Eden. But the team had to face a different challenge wearing the blue shirts having lost quite a few tournaments and that too closely; coming second in most of the games. The chokers baton was so on the verge of passing to the Indians. But then…

On a bright sunny Saturday morning, the “Home of Cricket” was hosting the ‘Natwest Trophy Final’ between the hosts and India. One of the silent grounds of the Cricketing planet is Lord’s, where you can hear the sounds of the foot steps of the people coming in or opening the bottle of Champagnes but July 13, 2002 found an absolute different image with thousands of Indians playing the drums or shouting to create a noisy atmosphere.

When English captain Naseer Hussain selected the right side of the coin, without a slight doubt in mind, he opted to bat on a ground where chasing could never be easy with the finals pressure. The moment opener Nick Knight got out playing a Zaheer delivery, the commentator Barry Richards kept the words on the next man: “Here is Nasser Hussain, fresh from his OBE, strike rate not great, neither is the average.”

India Leaked Few Runs at the End:

He took the best seat on the central stage watching his partner Marcus Trescothick hitting the round shaped article all over the park with a close eye on a huge score. The introduction of the two spinners Kumble & Harbhajan didn’t have any effort in the calculation either. With a six the prime English opener brought his fifty off just 40-balls. Ganguly brought himself into the attack, a strategy, what had helped the bunch in the past, but the momentum of the game quite interestingly got changed in the opponent’s way this time.

Hussain after gaining some trust on his opposite number’s over, he went with the flow and brought the partnership of 185 off 177 balls with the left-hander. The latter finally knocked down thanks to the sweep of a fast Kumble delivery but the destruction had already been done by putting an 89-ball century. It was now the skipper’s turn to take a note on the critics that had been fingering to him. “For about a year, Wills, Botham and Agnew on the radio had been saying, Hussain shouldn’t be batting at number three.” Spoke out the captain on a Sky show“He is rubbish at white-ball cricket. It did wind me up.”

No sooner than reaching to the one and only hundred of his career, he turned back and pointed three fingers at the com box and what I find really funny was that all three were present at the box at that time. “I was bit feisty at the best of times.” England finished on a mountain of 325 in their 50-overs.

The Fiery Start of Sehwag-Ganguly Stunned Naseer Hussain

It was going to be a huge task because 19-years ago, one hardly found 300+ to chase but India had the famous fab-5 but did they have the mental toughness to climb the Everest; to achieve something that hadn’t been done by their side??

When Ganguly and Sehwag walked out through the stairs in the middle, they had a brief conversation on their planning. Generally, it was the latter who takes charge on the bowlers but the day was all about twists and turns. The stick in the hands of Ganguly, threw the English pacers Gough, Flintoff and Tudar all over the ground. “By the time…, I looked out in the balcony and Ind were like 40-0 off 3 with Tresor, our vice-captain, scratching his head.” Hussain remembered.

In the mid of the 13th over, the men in Blue raced to the 100 without any damage. It appeared that the dreams of winning a big trophy is just couple of yards back. The television screen slowly started to attract the fans back home with everyone was in a joyous evening. But, suddenly the wheels came off again. Dinesh Mongia could not make his dream into reality following Ganguly’s wicket.

Dravid did not stay long and when the opponent side got the better off India’s rest of hope, Sachin Tendulkar, the glued fans back home with the telly screen, changed the channels as some of the Indian fans left the ground for their work. Even Ganguly’s uncle who had come to the iconic stadium to see his nephew holding the trophy at the Lord’s balcony, went to enjoy some films watching India’s half-destroy. A dream was about to break. “We got wickets at regular intervals and got them 146-5.” Hussain remembered.

A Bus Driver Arrives To the Crease:

When the seniors had returned back to the hut, an young Mohammad Kaif strives to the crease and to give someone his address, Hussain replied saying, “I think he must drive the bus, he drives Tendulkar around.” The called-driver soon joined by Yuvraj Singh made a steady partnership with one and twos. Their appearance was frustrating the bowlers.

And then the famous man appears; quite a few persons who had both the best and worst place in my eyes, this time he helped India, Umpire Steve Bucknor. After inspecting the ball, he decided to change it, “There you go skip, ball with it.” Hussain claimed all the plans of keeping his reverse swing bowlers in the tank went for a toss. “All those plans I had of holding back my reverse swing bowlers, went in the air.”

The aggressive shots started to take place as the chaos in the field re-appears. The channels made a look back as Uncle drove back to the ‘Home of Cricket’.

India reached to the 314 in 48th over thanks to a 121-run partnership between Yuvraj and Kaif in mere 60-balls. On the third ball of the last over, Zaheer scampered through for a single as a desperate overthrow produced India & Kaif the magical chance to repay his banter. “Not bad for a bus driver. Was it?”

India Have Done Something Special:

The stadium erupted, the Lord’s balcony found skipper Ganguly waving his shirt to make a bold statement. 2002 Natwest final on 13th July changed my life, retired on 13th July 2018 to make it memorable.” Remarked the man of the moment, Kaif. If Flintoff could do it in Wankhede, we can do it at Lord’s. Lastly, the camera found captain Naseer Hussain standing lonely in a blank zone. “All that bothers you that an hour and half ago, we had the top 5-out; how did that happen? What could I have done differently?”

The 6-hour show is over and you could smell different fragrances from the balconies. The Indian team had made it real again and to be fair, because it was because of that two young lads and not of the same faces, it was more special and memorable to all of us. The trophy was too much essential to the cause.

The self-belief from Eden Gardens has made a journey to the Iconic ‘Mecca of Cricket’.

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