India is a country of thousand religions but the common faith that all follow is cricket. Although just a sport, billon hearts beat in sync whenever their team is in a contest and today, they won the world cup. What Diwali? what is Holi? On 2 April 2011, Indians celebrated their biggest festival, dancing on streets till sun returned from west, giving high fives to whom they've never seen before (or ever will), chanting one slogan.. Indiaaa, India!
This ain't a story that can be summarized into few sentences or even in some paragraphs. This story is worthy of extra large space that fans can relive the glorious moment in years to come and hence, in following, Itsonlycricket.com brings you step by step script that unfolded over 42 days and was finally snatched by India, beating 13 other teams, becoming the first team to win a cricket world cup at home :-
Before it all began
Ranked no.1 in tests and former T20 champions, India were tipped as contender for world cup 2011 by almost every expert after victories over Australia and New Zealand at home and then satisfactory performance in South Africa. Home team unarguably had the best batting line-up in the tournament and the motivation named "Sachin Tendulkar" to go all the way.
The Bangla revenge
Bangladesh had caused India out of previous world cup and now as co-host they were once again the opposition in inaugural match of the tournament. After a magnificent opening ceremony, it was time for blue team to seek revenge and Virender Sehwag lead the way, scoring brutal 175 off just 140 balls. Indians smashed record 371 electing to bat to make a resounding beginning to their campaign. Virat Kohli scored a century on his world cup debut. Visitors bowling was exposed in the second innings as Bangladesh raced upto 284, raising question on how they'll cope up against other major sides.
Oops, English tie up
Sachin Tendulkar, playing in his 6th world cup, desperately wanted to put forward a performance to remember and England bowling suited his style. It was an attacking innings from little master as he smashed 5 sixes in his 115 ball 120 to entertain, propelling home team to 338 but match wasn't finished yet. English captain Andrew Strauss lead the chase with a robust 158 from 144 balls and almost single handedly kept visitors in the game, making mockery of Indian bowling, until he got out.
Batting powerplay was called for which brought couple of quick wickets for Zaheer Khan swing the match back in balance before Ajmal Shahzad hit a six off first ball he faced and now, 11 runs were required off last over. England made 10, a single off last ball and we had the first tie between the two nations in history of one day cricket. This was the new most watched match ever in history of cricket but the record was soon to be broken!
An Irish escape
Ireland, a promising new team of last edition, had already made a name for themselves by beating England in previous match, riding on Kevin O'Brien's fastest world cup century and now they eyed another upset.
Known for their fighting spirit and smart work in field, Indians weren't taking things lightly against this non test playing nation and luck didn't favor them either as toss went in against and Irish elected to bat. Zaheer Khan once again provided crucial break through with the new ball but captain William Porterfield and wicket keeper Niall O'Brien had no trouble raising century stand, setting the platform for a total they could hope to defend. Sadly, Yuvraj Singh's slowish left arm spin foxed middle order and they were wrapped up 13 balls before their quota of overs.
Indian chase of 208 was anything but a cake walk. Ireland bowled and fielded like pros, specially 18 year old George Dockrell, and kept home fan's hearts beating gingerly. Yuvraj Singh made a rare double of five wickets and a fifty in a same world cup match to see Indian ship home with give balls to spare.
Netherlands' set a side
Trick to easy wins over smaller teams is to bowl first and chase down whatever they get. This was the policy Indians adopted against Netherlands and it paid off with Zaheer Khan once again taking 3 wickets besides couple of scalps for Piyush Chawla and Yuvraj Singh. Netherlands had blasted English bowling in their opening game but today none of their batters made an impression.
Points table was getting tangled up for top 4 spots for quarter finals and hence Indians wanted a brisk win to up their net runrate chasing 190 but it wasn't to be. Dutch offspinner Pieter Seelaar dismissed top 3, including pinch hitter Yusuf Pathan and then captain Peter Borren claimed young Virat Kohli. Yuvraj Singh once again stood firm and drove India home in association with skipper MS Dhoni at other end. with give wickets in hand.
India now were almost certain of second round provided they didn't lose next two matches with exceptionally big margins.
Only defeat, to Proteas
How a high flying craft crashes momentarily was an example that happened in this Ahmedabad encounter as India, marching on superb opening stand between Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar when a total in excess off 400 seemed possible failed to reach even 300. Indians lost last 9 wickets for just 29 runs and now they had a match in their hands to save.
Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis knew they didn't had to over attack in this less than run a ball chase and they concentrated on preserving wickets. AB de Villiers received plenty of words from exited Indian bowlers but he let his bat do the talking with an accelerating half century. Now on, once again, it was a matter of lower middle order to bat out the overs and reach the target which Robin Petersen did admirably. giving India their first and only defeat of this world cup 2011. Question were once again raised on Indian team selection and lack of wicket taking bowlers but captain MS Dhoni dodged all of them.
Middle order collapse in two games in a row had dented Indian hopes to finish as top team in group B and there were even outside chances of them not making it through to quarterfinals had they lost this last league match to Caribbean team by a big margin. In absense of Virender Sehwag, Indians recalled southpaw Suresh Raina and included R Ashwin ahead of Piyush Chawla who was proved costly in last two games. Electing to bat, Yuvraj Singh showed Indians the way with a century following his hattrick of half centuries in previous games but Ravi Rampaul's career best fifer restricted India to an unsafe target of 269.
West Indies, riding on in-form Devon Smith, made a strong reply and soon it was upto Ramnaresh Sarwan to play out the overs to see his team through. Sadly, none of last 7 batsmen got past double figures and match was finished 7 overs earlier. India qualified as second best team in group B.
Aussies sent home
This highly anticipated quarterfinal match began in subdued manner as both team shadow boxed, giving no inch but not attacking either to gather initiative. Under pressure captain Ricky Ponting took the center stage and scored a cautious but career saving century although tight bowling from R Ashwin and Yuvraj Singh limited them to only 260 despite a 26 ball 38 from David Hussey in last few overs.
Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir set the foundation for the chase but Aussies, the winners of last 3 world cups and already set a record of 34 WC match wins in a row, weren't prepared to give up. Fast bowlers rallied around and Indians were at the brink of panic but Yuvraj Singh was up to the task once again. His unbeaten half century made sure he won his 4th man of the match award consecutively. Suresh Raina's inclusion ahead of Yusuf Pathan for his better batting technique worked too as he scored unbeaten 34 off 28 in pressure situation. India were now among the last 4 teams standing in hunt for the cup.
Arch rivals Pakistan in semis
This was the 5th time India played Pakistan in world cup and they had a record to preserve, of not losing to them ever in cricket's biggest tournament. and they achieved it, thanks to some fine fielding and poor show from visitors.
PCA stadium in Mohali was turned into a filmy/political arena as this match began where Indians won the toss and Virender Sehwag gave'em a start to remember but Sachin Tendulkar played a scratchy innings, scoring 85 nervous runs after Pakistani fielders dropped 4 catches offered. Young left arm seamer Wahab Riaz ripped apart the middle order to limit Indians to a score they had successfully defended in last game.
Mohammad Hafeez and Misbah-ul-Haq were top two scorers for Pakistan in the chase and they too were the reason for them to fall 30 run short. Hafeez played a very poor shot after getting set and without pressure of increasing runrate while Misbah-ul-Haq batted utterly slowly, decelerating run rate. Indians rejoiced all night but the job wasn't finished just yet.
Final vs Sri Lanka
2nd April 2011, Wankhede stadium, Mumbai. In this 10th edition, either India or Sri Lanka were set to win their only the second world cup.
The toss debacle
ICC has complicated the way of toss, including match referee who gives the coin to home captain and visiting skipper calls a side. This time, we had comedy of errors as Kumar Sangakkara didn't call (or he did but Referee didn't hear) and coin was tossed for the second time, a very rare happening in game of cricket where a lot depends on toss. Indian captain may have protested but it seemed like he wanted to give the advantage to visitors. Second time, Sri Lanka won and elected to bat.
Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan were the highest scoring openers in the tournament but today, captain Kumar Sangakkara set the pattern, driving Indian bowlers elegantly and guiding Dilshan who looked overwhelmed by the occassion.
Mahela Jayawardene had sacrificed his captainship after losing final of last world cup but his no.4 position was a wicket home team had to get to be able to chase a reasonable total. They couldn't, and Jayawardene scored a superb century, assisting Thilan Samarweera, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera and pushing Lankan total past 270 run mark. With their high profile bowling artillery, visitors were expected to defend their potent target provided they got early wickets which indeed came their way.
Up against the biggest chase to win a world cup final, India lost Sehwag off the second ball and then Sachin Tendulkar edged Lasith Malinga for 18 off 15. Indian fans started to lose hope but youngsters Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli proved their worth with a crucial stand for the 3rd wicket. Kohli couldn't continue but Gambhir did, reaching his half century and got almost to a rare century in final before a rash shot brought about his downfall.
With two offspinners bowling, Indian captain promoted himself up the order ahead of in-form Yuvraj Singh knowing the fact that he's a better player of spin bowling and it worked, maintaining left-right hand combination at the crease. He raised a vital century stand from a position Lankans looked like racing away with the cup with Gambhir and then accelerated just enough to seal the game for his country. India became the first team to win the world cup in front of home crowd.
MS Dhoni was named man of the match while Yuvraj Singh was man of the series.
Tendulkar with trophy
In his 6th world cup, this was probably the last chance for Sachin Tendulkar to get hold of cricket's biggest trophy and he certainly was happy having achieved it. Tendulkar finished as the second highest scorer in the tournament and now has more runs than any other batsman in world cup career.
Tendulkar was rumored to quit one day cricket had India lost this final match but since they won it, we may see a little more of little champion in this 50 over format, if not again in 2015 edition!
Gary Kirsten quits
The man behind the show, South African Gary Kirsten, was lauded was one of the best coach to have served Indian cricket team but since he has a young family back in his country, Gary had already announced he won't renew his contract. Before Indians start looking for their new coach, it was time to pay tribute to the man who helped them achieve the cup after 28 long years.