Miracle on Marine Drive: life comes full circle for India’s heroes with final triumph

Yesterday, India celebrated the 10th anniversary of their 2011 World Cup win. Their second overall, but the first on home soil before their adoring and passionate fans. As part of our partnership with Waadaplaya, Akash J Shettigar recalls the tournament from India’s perspective leading to the momentous six-wicket win over Sri Lanka.

Tonight: India end their 28-year wait for World Cup glory

It takes months, sometimes years of preparation to build a team for a World Cup. India’s journey for the 2011 tournament had started in March 2007 in Port of Spain, Trinidad, when Sri Lanka knocked them out.

Life had come a full circle for some of the players, who had witnessed the gloom in 2007 as they got ready to take on Sri Lanka once again but this time in the final.

It was April 2 at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and the stage was set for a theatrical finish in the land of Bollywood. And Mahendra Singh Dhoni, this time, was at the helm for the hosts.

Sri Lanka had three batsmen in the top five of the run scoring charts and justifiably chose to bat after winning the toss. Scoreboard pressure in a big game is always an added advantage for the team batting first. As Zaheer stood at the start of his run-up, fans thought back to his horrific first over in the 2003 World Cup final when he went for 15 runs, eight of them extras.

However, this was a man who had grown to be the leader of the bowling unit over the years and was right on the money, bowling three straight maidens before drawing first blood off the first delivery of his fourth over. Upul Tharanga’s World Cup was over and the Indian fans cheered loud enough to send waves in the adjacent Arabian Sea.

The Indian bowlers kept things tight with Yuvraj again proving his worth with the ball Mahela Jayawardena, though, played one of his best ODI innings, scoring a brilliant 103* pushing the Sri Lankans to a challenging total of 274 with Thisara Perera taking Zaheer to the cleaners in the final over.

Sri Lanka had gained the momentum. The total, modest by today’s power-packed standards, was challenging enough to place some scoreboard pressure on India.

Rapped on his pads and Out!! Lasith Malinga struck and India had lost Virender Sehwag and a review only two balls into the chase. In the seventh over with the score reading 31 for one, Tendulkar – India’s’ leading run scorer with 482 – nicked one into the gloves of future MCC president Kumar Sangakkara and Sri Lanka’s celebrations echoed across the Marine drive.

There was pin-drop silence in the stadium. India had lost their champion. However, they found a hero in Gautam Gambhir. He hit 97 of the most invaluable runs in his career to set India well on the road to victory – at a decent clip too. A knock that often gets overshadowed by the brilliance that took place later.

India lost Virat Kohli in the 22nd over, 114 for three, and fans waited for their saviour, Yuvra, j to walk down the stairs. But, to their surprise, it was the Indian skipper on a mission to deliver for his nation. Ice in his veins and murderous.0

Dhoni had not had a great tournament with the bat, but the stars were aligned for a magical knock. Sri Lanka wanted to give Muralitharan a swansong, but Dhoni had walked in precisely to thwart any such ideas. Rocking on to the back foot he punched Murali through the cover region for his first boundary to get the innings going. He battled through back pain but kept the scoreboard ticking. By the time India lost Gambhir after a brilliant 109-run partnership, victory was in touching distance. Deservingly Yuvraj Singh strode down to the middle to provide the finishing touches.

But it was Dhoni’s six off Nuwan Kulasekara that brought about a thunderous roar of delight across Wankhede, all over Mumbai and the entire nation.

The man behind the scenes, coach Gary Kirsten, had his arms raised in the air. The support staff and players rushed on to the field. India had won the World cup after 28 years on the back of their captain’s brilliant unbeaten 91.

The players carried Sachin up their shoulders for a stroll around the park. The Man himself had carried millions of Indian hopes over the years. His dream of lifting the World Cup had been fulfilled. Fittingly, the Indian Flag flew high in his hands. Players and fans did not hold back their emotions – after all the World Cup had come home.

Ten years on, these memories still bring a smile and a moment of pride to every Indian cricket fan.

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