The Collapse at Eden Gardens

illustration by Delaney Kuric 

-March 13th, 1996-

India were heavy favourites to become the first host country to win the World Cup, having just defeated the defending champions in the quarter-finals. They went into the semifinals with confidence playing at home in Eden Gardens to a crowd of over 100,000 screaming Indian fans. In their batting arsenal, they had Sachin Tendulkar during the peak of his career, widely regarded as one of the best batsmen to have ever played the game.

India’s confidence skyrocketed when Sri Lanka’s groundbreaking opening duo, Sanath and Kalu both got out within the first six balls of the game. The Indian crowd could feel an easy path to the World Cup final. However, Sri Lanka fought back, and with Aravinda de Silva and Roshan Mahanama at the helm, posted a respectable score of 251. It was now up to Murali, Chaminda Vaas and the rest of the revered Sri Lankan bowling attack to finish the job.

As expected, India started fast and Tendulkar looked unstoppable, reaching 98 with ease before disaster struck. Ironically enough, it was the dynamic batting duo of Sanath Jayasuriya and “Little Kalu” that made the difference. With India cruising, Kalu stumped Tendulkar, setting the stage for one of the worst batting collapses in Indian cricket history. One by one, wicket after wicket, the Indian crowd watched helplessly as their powerful batting line up collapsed under the hands of Murali, Vaas and Jayasuriya. After starting 98/1, India lost 7 wickets for only 22 runs, sliding to 120/8 with only 16 overs left in the innings. Outraged at their team’s performance, Indian fans began to throw bottles and debris and lit the stadium on fire, causing the first default in Test and One-Day International cricket history.