Mohinder Amarnath, 1983 World Cup (2 for 27 & 46): Indian all-rounder Mohinder Amarnath had a sublime World Cup in the lead up to the semi-final in 1983. England had gotten off to a good start, but Roger Binny managed to get the wickets of openers Graeme Fowler and Chris Tavare, after which Amarnath took over. He got the big wickets of David Gower and Mike Gatting to reduce England to 150 for 5.
He and Kirti Azad kept the runs down, and did not allow England to get a good score on the board. Chasing 217 Jimmy, as Amarnath was fondly called, contributed with the bat as well, scoring 46 off 92 at No. 3 after Sunil Gavaskar was dismissed for 25. He provided India with a good platform, and the middle order cashed in to take India to a comfortable six-wicket victory.
Mohammad Azharuddin, 1987 World Cup (64 off 74): Azhar had scores of 54 not out and 41 not out coming into the semi-final against England, which was played at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. India were chasing 255, a score made possible by Graham Gooch’s magnificent 115 – an innings where he took on the Indian spinners. Azhar came in at No. 4 with the score reading 58 for 2, and took on the responsibility of taking India home.
He had a couple of good partnerships – first with Chandrakant Pandit with whom he put on 48; then 47 with Kapil Dev and 36 with Kiran More. Unfortunately, none of them were match-defining. Azhar was finally dismissed for 64 and with him, India’s hopes of reaching their second final in as many World Cup editions vanished as they were bowled out for 219.
Sachin Tendulkar, 1996 World Cup (65 off 88): The semi-final between India and Pakistan at the Eden Gardens will forever be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Amidst all this, there were a couple of noteworthy performances. Firstly, it was Javagal Srinath who removed Sri Lanka’s destructive openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana cheap. But once Aravinda de Silva (66) and Roshan Mahanama (58) propelled Sri Lanka to a competitive 251 for 8, it was Sachin Tendulkar who played yet another excellent innings for India. He scored a composed 65 off 88 – a knock that included nine glorious boundaries - and thereby became the first Indian player to cross the 500-run mark in World Cups.
However, once he was dismissed after putting on 90 for the second wicket with Navjot Singh Sidhu, India collapsed from 98 for 1 to 120 for 8, with little hope of winning. That’s when the crowd got into it and started throwing bottles and set the stands on fire, leading to the police emptying the stadium match referee Clive Lloyd awarding the game to Sri Lanka. The image of Vinod Kambli sobbing on his way back to the pavilion is still the defining memory of one of the most disgraceful chapters in Indian cricket.
Sourav Ganguly, 2003 World Cup (111* off 114): Kenya’s entry into the semi-final of the World Cup surprised many, but they came a cropper against a red hot India in the knock out stage. Skipper Ganguly led from the front, striking his third century of the 2003 World Cup – he had earlier scored a century against the same opposition in the group stage.
He put on 103 runs for the second wicket with Sachin Tendulkar; his stroke-filled innings took India to 270 for 4 which turned out to be way too much for Kenya who fell short by 91 runs. Steve Tikolo with 56 managed to salvage some pride, but could not take his team to the final.
Sachin Tendulkar, 2011 World Cup (85 off 115): In a much-anticipated match, India and Pakistan clashed in the semi-final of the World Cup at Mohali. It was a bizarre fielding performance from Pakistan as they dropped Tendulkar four times -- 26, 45, 70 and 81. Tendulkar cashed in, in an innings studded with 11 boundaries, as India went on to post 260 for 9. Pakistan pacer Wahab Riaz had an excellent match, finishing with 5 for 46, his best figures in ODIs.
A few Pakistan batsmen got off to starts, but kept losing wickets at regular intervals, which made the chase of 261 look even larger. India eventually went on to win the match by 29 runs and set up a date with Sri Lanka in the World Cup final.
MS Dhoni, 2015 World Cup (65 off 65): Umesh Yadav finished with 4 for 72 from 9 overs, but it was Dhoni who ensured that India did not bow out of the competition in an embarrassing fashion. India could not beat Australia all summer that season, and here, in the semi-final, Australia yet again ground India into the dust.
A Steve Smith century off 93 balls had powered Australia to a mammoth 328 for 7 the Aussie pace quartet of Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, James Faulkner and Josh Hazlewood ran riot. India needed 221 to win from 23 overs when Dhoni came out to bat. Dhoni provided momentary flashes of hope with a run a ball 65, but even he, then at the top of his game, couldn’t prevent Australia winning by 95 runs.