Bengaluru, May 17: Pakistan have always been known to be an unpredictable side because they are far too dependent on their impulses than on institutionalised cricket. It was less discipline and more raw talent that had earned them the tag. And in the 1999 World Cup, it had proved to be true again.
Wasim Akram's side was in an upward curve in the run-up to the tournament, having thrashed arch-rivals India in Tests and ODIs. The arrival of Shoaib Akhtar had given the side the extra teeth to rip apart any batting side.
In the group stage, Pakistan beat teams like Australia, West Indies and New Zealand before getting stunned by debutants Bangladesh. In the Super Six stage, they were the table toppers despite losing to India and South Africa, and in the semifinal, New Zealand were no match for Akram's men.
The stage was set for the Asian powerhouse to recover the crown that had lost three years earlier to Sri Lanka. Against an Australian side which still was not as dominant as it turned out to be later, hopes were high, especially after Pakistan having already beaten them in the same tournament.
But on the D-Day (June 20), the title clash turned out to be an anti-climax as Pakistan were skittled out for a paltry 132 in 39 overs after they elected to bat first. Shane Warne took four for 33 and Australia won the game inside 21 overs with 8 wickets in hand.
Pakistan's collapse from 68 for to to 132 all out had given rise to a lot of smoky theories (as did their loss to Bangladesh) and the country's secret agents spied on their own cricketers as they were found to be partying and merry-making late into the night before the final. They were even probed for unprofessional behaviour and allegations of throwing away games, including the final.
Among the players who were accused of visiting casinos late in the night flouting the team curfew was senior batsman Ijaz Ahmed. He was found in a casino in central London at 3:50 am less than 36 hours before the final. Ijaz though was Pakistan's highest scorer in the final but it was a meagre 22 (the extras scored more - 25) and could never justify the recklessness from a veteran like him ahead of a historic opportunity to match Imran Khan's feat.
The team was also seen enjoying at other casinos and that had a telling impact when they took the field against a resurgent Australia under Steve Waugh. Even their supporters did not spare them as they pelted the cricketers with eggs on their return home. They were being accused as "gamblers and traitors" by then.