WHEN THE WANKHEDE STOOD STILL: LOOKING BACK AT INDIA’S 2011 WORLD CUP GLORY 9 YEARS AGO TODAY
“Dhoni finishes off in style! A magnificent strike into the crowd! India lift the World Cup after 28 years and it is an Indian captain who has been absolutely magnificent in the night of the final.”
As Ravi Shastri expressed his sheer jubilation and Wankhede Stadium reverberated with the chants of “Dhoni! Dhoni!”, a country with 1.25 billion population erupted in celebration. India’s 28- year long wait for a World Cup was over and it was the Indian captain who delivered it in some fashion. 9 years from the day, India is on the hunt to win another World Cup and preparing its bid for the 2023 edition. Let us take a look at the players who made history and gave Indian fans memories to cherish for a lifetime.
This team had a blend of it all. The tried and tested top order, the emphatic but frantic middle-order and a lion-hearted bowling line-up. On paper, the team was promising, but they did not have the makings of World Cup winning squad. But then what transpired over the course of those 42 days was a dream that unfolded in front of the world’s eyes. The 15-member squad that was selected for the tournament included the likes of Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c & wk), Virender Sehwag (vc), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, S. Sreesanth, Piyush Chawla and Ravichandran Ashwin. Sreesanth had replaced Praveen Kumar, who was originally selected before pulling out due to injury. As the tournament progressed, all 15 played a part in India’s wonderful journey to the final of the tournament.
The dilemma from the start of the competition was with whom to open the batting, with the likes of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir all available in the arsenal. India went with the dynamic and tested master-apprentice Tendulkar-Sehwag duo to take on the opposition and lay the foundation for the middle order to come. Sehwag started the tournament with a blistering 175 against Bangladesh while Tendulkar ended the tournament as the second highest run getter after Tillakaratne Dilshan with 482 runs. Next in line was Gambhir. Gambhir was in sublime form throughout the whole tournament and proved his real worth in the final with the gritty 97, which saved the batting order from skittling down like nine pins against a Sri Lankan bowling attack that meant business.
Then came the middle order that had surprised the whole nation throughout the tournament. The young Virat Kohli was selected above an experienced campaigner in Suresh Raina and proved his mettle throughout the whole tournament. He was the one who steadied the ship with Gambhir in the all-important final and many observers would argue that despite Kohli only scoring 35 runs, playing second fiddle and keeping his cool during the grandest stage of all was a signal of someone who could assess situations and adapt accordingly. Even perusing through Kohli’s career will make one realize that he has gone on to become the game’s greatest ever chaser.
The platform set by Gambhir and Kohli set the tone for finisher extraordinaire, M.S. Dhoni. The wicketkeeper batsman did not bat much in the whole tournament but decided to bring himself in before the in-form Yuvraj Singh and what a decision it turned out to be. His blistering 91 would make one feel as if Dhoni was the top-scorer during the World Cup as he oozed confidence and took the reins from the word ‘go’. Dhoni’s blitz, however, will be remember by that matchwinning six where the man that lead the nation and everyone within it had their eyes on two things- the ball soaring through the air and triumph. Time had stopped and history was made in real-time. If the phrase “cometh the hour, cometh the man” had a face, MSD would be it.
Then comes Yuvraj Singh, the man who soaked in everything the World Cup had to offer and in return, produced immortality. The mighty left-hander was sumptuous with both bat and ball and won the Player of the Tournament award by a fine margin. Scoring 362 runs throughout the tournament and emerging as Dhoni’s trump cared in the need of a wicket, he delivered a brilliant 15 times. His fighting 57 against Australia in the quarters when India looked as if they were going to crumble as well as bagging 2/44 in the first innings showcased that Yuvi left no stone unturned in any department and that too, when answers were needed in battles where questions were asked at every instance.
The final piece of the middle-order was Suresh Raina, who didn’t get much of chance to display his ability throughout the whole tournament, but always packed a punch and had something in store to take the game away from the opposition. Raina was particularly useful when he arrived onto the crease in the final 5-10 overs and had to start hitting it all to all parks from ball one. When Wahab Riaz ran riot against India in the all-important semi-final, Raina’s contribution of 36 at the end gave India those extra runs on the scoreboard that ultimately decided their fate as Pakistan lost by 29 runs.
Historically, Indian cricket haven’t had much to worry about with the bat and so, the masterful displays were a given to an extent, but the bowling attack took everyone by surprise throughout the competition. The Indian attack was spearheaded by Zaheer Khan, who ended the tournament as the joint highest wicket taker with 21 wickets. Zaheer put his 2003 World Cup final jitters away and was unplayable throughout the whole tournament. His strike partner was Munaf Patel, who played a vital role with the ball and gave the perfect support to the steamrolling Zaheer.
The Turbanator, Harbhajan Singh was the most economical bowler for India in the tournament, who with Yuvraj Singh, spun a web around the opposition and skittled them over. Bhajji ended the tournament with an economy rate of 4.48, an exceptional feat considering he faced the very best and that too in a World Cup of all stages. Yuvraj Singh was the second most successful bowler for the team with 15 wickets. Yuvi transformed himself from being a part-timer to becoming the first ever all-rounder to score 300+ runs and bag 15 wickets in a single edition of the elusive competition.
The final bowler to get the nod for the final was Sreesanth, who was just playing his second match of the tournament, but always had a trick up his sleeve to surprise the opposition.
The ones who didn’t make the cut for the final such as Ashwin, Chawla and Pathan also played essential roles throughout the whole tournament and were an important part of India’s World Cup campaign.
As for the final, Mahela Jayawardene looked in the mood to take the game away from India with his blistering 88-ball century, Malinga stunned the whole crowd with the two early wickets of Sehwag and Tendulkar in the chase and the contest was nothing short of a thriller. The Gambhir-Kohli partnership, Dhoni promoting himself before Yuvraj, the Gambhir-Dhoni blitzkrieg and the big Dhoni finish, the final was one for the ages.
9 years down the line, India is still in search for their 3rd title. With their big hitting stars in prime form and finally getting the bowling department to fire on all departments, will India lift their much-awaited World Cup title in 2023? Only time will tell, but if they roll back the clips to 2011, they won’t be short of inspiration.