A heartbreak which still remains as fresh as the time it hit hard on the Indian fans - today marks 17 years since India suffered a painful loss in the final of the ODI World Cup to Australia. It was a near-perfect occasion for the stalwarts of Indian cricket - Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath and Rahul Dravid to end the tournament on a high - however, the Australian side was simply too good for the Men in Blue on the day.
India's World Cup campaign had been considerably impressive - their only loss in the league stages came against Australia. The side produced many memorable moments throughout the tournament, and a few individual performances - Sachin Tendulkar's 98 against Pakistan and Ashish Nehra's 6-wicket haul against England in particular - remain etched in the memory of the Indian fans.
Going into the final, many pinned hopes on India to end Australia's unbeaten run in the tournament. Sadly for the Indian team, it was a one-sided match from the beginning, until the end, as the Aussies registered an emphatic 125-run victory to lift their third World Cup title.
India won the toss and elected to field in Johannesburg, and Australian openers Adam Gilchrist and Mathew Hayden added 105 runs for the first wicket before Harbhajan drew first blood, dismissing the wicketkeeper-batsman on 37. Six overs later, Harbhajan struck again as he removed Hayden on 37.
Hayden's wicket, however, was the last dismissal of the Australian innings, as captain Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn combined to smack the Indian bowlers left, right and centre. Ponting produced a brilliant display of batting as he remained not out on 140, hitting eight sixes during his innings. Martyn, meanwhile, remained not out on 88.
India suffered a huge setback in the very first over of the innings as in-form batsman Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed on four. The wicket justifiably came as a huge morale-booster as Australia ran through the Indian middle-order, sending three batsmen back to the pavilion on the score of 59.
Virender Sehwag stuck at one end to keep the hopes alive, but wickets continued to fall on the other as India were eventually bowled out on 234. Sehwag scored 82 off 81 deliveries.
In an interview years after the final, Tendulkar admitted that the loss in the final of 2003 World Cup remains one of his 'biggest disappointments in life'.
"Yes, there was regret. It was one of the biggest disappointments of my life because we played so well in that tournament. Before that our batsmen were not in good space because we played in New Zealand were they prepared lively pitches," Tendulkar had said.
However, Tendulkar and the Indian team, led by MS Dhoni would go on to lift the trophy eight years later. It was a special occasion for Tendulkar in particular, as he won the World Cup in front of his home crowd at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.