5. Yuvraj Singh 84(80) vs Australia (ICC Knockout Trophy, Nairobi, 2000)
This innings by Yuvraj Singh was one of the most extraordinary innings played under a lot of pressure. With Sachin and Dravid gone, India were struggling at 130/4 in 25 overs and in came in Yuvraj Singh for his first innings in International Cricket. Calm and Composed, he ripped the Australian bowlers apart all round the park. The way he smashed the bouncers of Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee gave a clear example of his ability. He hit 12 boundaries in his innings of 84 which helped India register a fighting total of 265. Yuvraj was also electrifying in the field as he held a snorter of Venkatesh Prasad’s bowling to dismiss Ian Harvey before running out the dangerous Michael Bevan. It was because of his efforts that the team got lifted, and Australia eventually crumbled, losing the match by 20 runs and getting eliminated from the tournament.
4. Ajit Agarkar 67*(25) vs Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe tour of India, 2001)
He has been one of the best bowlers India has ever had in the ODI cricket. In his 191 ODI’s he took 288 wickets with an economy of 5.07. He was pitched up by many to be India’s next greatest fast-bowling all-rounder after Kapil Dev, but due to inconsistent performances, he had to settle with the fast-bowler tag only. However, during Zimbabwe’s tour of India in 2000, he made a solid mark as he became the first Indian to score the fastest 50 in the ODI’s in just 21 balls. India was struggling at 216/6 in the 44th over and Agarkar, out of nowhere, scored 67 off 25 balls with 7 fours and 4 sixes, helping India secure a series victory against Zimbabwe. He also took 3 wickets in the match.
3. Rahul Dravid 92*(63) vs England (India’s Tour of England, Natwest Series, 2007)
Probably the best counter-attacking innings The Wall played in his entire cricketing career. Lead by a good start from Tendulkar and Ganguly, India reached 180/2 in 31 overs. Dravid came in at 4 and without wasting a single delivery, he started to smash the bowlers all round the park. His partnership of 69 in 6 overs with Dhoni got India past a total of 300. In his innings, he smashed 11 fours and 1 six. What was enlightening in this innings was that we saw a different Dravid. He was never seen scoring at a strike-rate of 146.03 and when he played this out of the box innings, it not only lifted the team’s morale but also helped them play competitively throughout the series.
2. Gautam Gambhir 97(122) vs Sri Lanka (ICC World Cup, Asia, 2011)
I would never say that it would have been great that Gautam Gambhir would have got to his hundred as this would have made this victory more sweeter for him. It’s because getting a hundred was not that important than winning the watch. To play such an innings and that too in a high-pressure World Cup Final is a very rare opportunity that a player gets in his life. The composure he showed throughout his innings was something that very few players can possess in such high-pressure situations. It’s true that his innings was outshone by Dhoni‘s 91*, but with due respect, I seriously feel that it was Gautam only who laid the platform for India to win the World Cup. He perfectly displayed what role the number 3 batsman has in cricket. At first, he held the innings together with Kohli and then ripped the Sri Lankan bowling apart along with Dhoni. A perfect display in the World Cup final.
1. Sachin Tendulkar 98(75) vs Pakistan (ICC World Cup, South Africa, 2003)
In this match, I think the Master Blaster played one of the best innings of his life. After setting a target of 274, Pakistan looked all set to fire the Indian batsmen with their pace-attack. The likes of Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar were in brilliant form and it looked unlikely that India would win. But, it is saying in sports that “Champion Players Always Rise to the Occasion”, and the same took place in this match. Sachin Tendulkar played the Pakistan’s pace-attack with utmost perfection. The way he hooked Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar became a treat to watch. It was because of his innings that Yuvraj and Dravid were able to win the match for India and this loss knocked Pakistan out of the World.
I remember in his documentary, he said that:
“As I entered the dressing room after Pakistan Innings, I took a bowl of ice-cream and said to John Wright that I’m just going to relax, listen to music, just go out there watch the ball and play my game“.
Image Courtesy: The Hindu