It was a contest befitting of a World Cup finale, and a victory that a billion countrymen would cherish and relive for the rest of their lives. Sri Lanka played hard and tough – they were sublime at times (read Mahela Jayawardene) and at times deadly (read Lasith Malinga). Still, India managed to garner enough courage to recover from adversity even on the day that mattered the most en route to ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 glory. It will be a day that will be etched in the memory of cricket loving Indian public till time immemorial. Here’s a relook at the big moments that made the final.
This had to make an appearance for it was the first instance in the World Cup final wherein the toss had to be held twice. Apparently, there was so much noise and buzz around the Wankhede Stadium that Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara’s call just couldn’t be heard. The second time around it almost needed a roar from Sangakkara to ensure that he was heard loud and clear. Lanka won it and, with it, augmented their chances of victory.
Zaheer Khan stands tall again
It was arguably the best spell in a Cricket World Cup final and erased the bad memories of an overenthusiastic Zaheer Khan’s atrocious opening burst in the 2003 final against Australia. The left-arm seamer, who ended up as the joint leading wicket-taker in the tournament alongside Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi, was magnificent in his opening spell, bowling a perfect line and length and was duly rewarded with the wicket of Upul Tharanga. The pressure of the occasion clearly got to the in-form Lankan opener. But, to be fair to him, Zaheer was unplayable in his opening spell, and his figures of five overs for six runs with three maidens aptly reflected it. The ball was doing enough for Zaheer and, using all his experience, he kept the Lankans on a tight leash throughout. Thanks to Zaheer, round one clearly went to India.
Sangakkara-Jayawardene join forces
For the umpteenth time, it was Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara who rebuilt the innings amidst a mini crisis. Following Tharanga’s dismissal they seemed to have recovered well enough courtesy a good partnership between Tillakaratne Dilshan and Sangakkara and some wayward bowling by surprise choice S. Sreesanth. However, just when they seemed to be on the up, Harbhajan Singh struck. He was lucky to get Dilshan bowled round the wicket. From there onwards, Sri Lanka’s two most experienced batsmen took it upon themselves to do the repair job. And they did a wonderful job, rotating the strike at ease and managing to find the boundary whenever the opportunity presented itself. It wasn’t anything new for them as they had done it time and time again in the past. But, this was the World Cup final and they were rising to the occasion.
Yuvraj’s strikes bring India back
Yet again, it was Yuvraj Singh’s left arm spin that brought India back in the game when Lanka seemed to be getting the upper hand. He bowled an innocuous delivery outside the off stump, which managed to find the edge of Sangakkara’s bat, two short of the latter’s half-century. And when another partnership between Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera began to threaten, it was again Yuvraj who broke the threatening partnership, trapping Samaraweera in front of the wickets, URDS coming to India’s rescue again.
Jayawardene’s sublime counter attack
At the fall of Samaraweera’s wicket Lanka were back in a spot of bother. However, Jayawardene responded with a splendid counter attacking innings, finding the boundaries at will and striking two awesome partnerships, first with Nuwan Kulasekara and then Thisara Perera. Both the batsmen played their part too striking some crucial big blows even as Jayawardene was caressing the ball all around the park. The power play overs really saw Lanka take their game to a different level. Ironically, Zaheer who was exceptional in his opening spell, was the one who was taken to the cleaners as Lanka ended their innings on a marvelous high.
Malinga silences Wankhede
In spite of the Lankan counter attack, the large gathering of Indian fans at Wankhede Stadium were hopeful of some fireworks from the explosive Virender Sehwag and of course the master Sachin Tendulkar. However, all it took was two deliveries to silence the noisy crowd. Lasith Malinga trapped Sehwag plumb in front as the latter failed to get bat on a fast, inswinging delivery and was accompanied back to the dressing room by a second ball-duck. Sachin Tendulkar looked untroubled during his stay at the crease, but it was only a brief relief. The pressure seemed to get the better of the big man too as he flirted with an away going delivery from Malinga and nicked it behind the stumps. The ball only just carried to Sangakkara, but it was enough to spark off wild celebrations in the Lankan camp.
Delhi boys rebuild
Lanka were firm favourites once the two Ss departed. However, as Naseer Hussain had commented after the finale of the Natwest Trophy in 2002, “This Indian batting just keeps coming at you.” Nothing much has changed nearly a decade later as Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli went about their job brick by brick. It was partnership that has defined Indian cricket in recent years. The ‘never give up’ attitude of the Delhi boys kept India in the hunt. A striking feature of their partnership was the ease with which they rotated the strike under pressure and always ensured that the run rate stayed under control. However, just when they seemed to be getting on top, Kohli fell to a brilliant return catch by Dilshan to even out the game.
The captain takes it away
How often have we heard… ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man.’ On Saturday, with the pressure reaching fever pitch, M S Dhoni walked into bat ahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh to the surprise of many. But how well he played! In the company of a defiant Gambhir, Dhoni ran like a hare between wickets until both grabbed their backs and decided to take it a little easy. And once he got his eye in, Dhoni clubbed the bowlers like only the man from Ranchi can do. The ease with which Gambhir and Dhoni chased down the target saw the Lankan heads fall steadily, and the formalities were completed pretty soon. It was a fitting end to the game as Dhoni smacked Kulasekara out of the ground to clinch the trophy for India.
There were a couple of major disappointments on both sides. Jayawardene did everything right during his innings and yet ended up on the losing side. On the other hand, Gambhir fell tantalising short of a century. But, as Dhoni said post match, he had only himself to blame. Keeping personal glory aside though, it was a team that deserved to win the World Cup for the manner in which they overcame once challenge after the other.