The 1996 World Cup saw the prestigious tournament returning to India after the 1987 Reliance World Cup. (Sri Lanka & Pakistan were co-hosts). The organizers reverted back to the group format - there were two groups with six teams in each. India, Australia, Kenya, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe were placed in the same group. Being the home side, India was one of the favourites to win the tournament. They began well with an expected win over Kenya. They went on to beat the declining West Indies side by 5-wickets and Sachin Tendulkar scoring 70 for India.
Sachin continued his good form against Australia with 90, but his stumping of a wide ball of Mark Waugh and the subsequent failure of the lower order saw India fall short of the target set by the Aussies. Sachin was the hero again against Sri Lanka with a magnificent 137. Azhar contributed 72, as India looked safe after reaching 3/271, though Sri Lanka had little trouble in chasing it down. However, India did make it to the quarterfinals courtesy to an easy win over Zimbabwe.
India had to face archrivals Pakistan in the quarters. This match went on to become one of the greatest matches played between the two sides. Navjot Sidhu top scored for India with 93 but it was Jadeja's onslaught in the slog overs on Waqar Younis that helped India cross 280. Venkatesh Prasad and Anil Kumble starred with the ball as the Indians won by a comfortable margin.
The semi-final saw them coming up against Sri Lanka once again. Sri Lanka lost early wickets but solid batting from the middle and lower order batsmen saw them reach a competitive 251. At 98-1, India looked well on course to making to the final. But once Sachin was dismissed to a leg side stumping off Jayasuriya, India suddenly crumbled to 120/8. The crowd was unable to bear it anymore and disrupted proceedings and the game had to be handed over to the Sri Lankans. The sight of Vinod Kambli walking back to the pavilion with tears in his eyes was one of the sorriest sights ever witnessed in Indian cricket. Tendulkar came into his own in the tournament with 523 runs while Anil Kumble was India's best bowler in the tournament with 15 wickets.
This world cup team included the following players: Salil Ankola, Mohammed Azharuddin (Captain), Ajay Jadeja, Vinod Kambli, Aashish Kapoor, Anil Kumble, Sanjay Manjrekar, Nayan Mongia, Manoj Prabhakar, Venkatesh Prasad, Venkatapathy Raju, Navjot Sidhu, Javagal Srinath and Sachin Tendulkar.