A supremely confident Indian team appeared to be peaking at the right time. Such was the din at the Wankhede Stadium that none at the toss heard skipper Kumar Sangakkara’s call correctly, and the coin had to be flipped again.
The Sri Lankan innings was built around a superb hundred by Mahela Jayawardene. They equalled the highest losing total of 274 in a World Cup final. No team batting second had scored so many in a World Cup final, but every team with a centurion in the final had won the Cup. This was not for the faint-hearted!
‘Slinger’ Malinga trapped Virender Sehwag leg-before second-ball. Having carved two boundaries, Sachin Tendulkar nicked Malinga, and Sangakkara grabbed it, flinging himself to his right. Tendulkar was not to score his 100th hundred in the World Cup final. The crowd gave him an extended standing ovation.
But there was despondency too as India were 31 for two, with a mountain to climb. Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli regrouped batting with maturity, bereft of histrionics. The left-hander clocked his half-century in 56 balls. Kohli was beginning to open out when he drove hard at Dilshan who took a brilliant return catch. They had put on 83 in 15.3 overs, priceless in this situation.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni resolutely promoted himself, perhaps intending to retain the left-right pairing too. He began studiously, striking a boundary only off his 25th ball. Progress was steady; Dhoni hammered one through the covers to reach fifty off 52 deliveries. Gambhir by now was 90, and India 204 for three after 38 overs.
Runs came easily but Gambhir sent shock-waves, trying to smash one, only to be bowled for 97. He had played anchor in the high-voltage game, his 122-ball knock comprising 9 boundaries.
Yuvraj Singh joined in with 52 required off 52 balls. Dhoni rocketed one over point for a six. They raised the tempo in the 47th over with a boundary each. Dhoni hit Malinga for two more fours in the next over. With 5 runs to get in two overs, Dhoni nonchalantly lofted the ball above long-on into the stands. He returned triumphant with a dazzling 91, having occupied the crease for just 79 deliveries and blasted 8 boundaries and 2 sixes.
Dhoni was the obvious man-of-the-match, the third captain to be bestowed with this honour in a World Cup final after Clive Lloyd (1975) and Ponting (2003).
Dhoni lifted the Cup; the joyous teammates hoisted Tendulkar. Kohli remarked famously: “He has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years. It was time we carried him.” Dreams do come true.
(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email email@example.com).
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011
Published in India by Sporting Links