We’re the world
The dream that kept India in a trance over the last few weeks exploded into reality. On yet another sensational Saturday, after the euphoria at Lord's in 1983, India became the first team to win the World Cup on home soil. Atreyo Mukhopadhyay reports.cricket Updated: Apr 03, 2011 02:25 IST
The dream that kept India in a trance over the last few weeks exploded into reality. On yet another sensational Saturday, after the euphoria at Lord's in 1983, India became the first team to win the World Cup on home soil.
The Wankhede Stadium welcomed the moment with thunderous applause and delirious cheers from packed fans. The waves of the Arabian Sea that lash the Marine Drive just outside the stadium during the monsoon are still some months away. Inside the amphitheatre, however, there were hysterical waves of joy as the packed house went wild, promising a night of unprecedented celebrations.
It was a nervy ride, not a cruise. Sri Lanka plundered 63 runs in the last five overs to set India a tough target, removed Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar early to make the chase tougher and took two more wickets at crucial junctures to pave the way for a pulsating finish.
To calm the nerves of those biting their nails and offering prayers in the stands, Gautam Gambhir came up with an innings of great character. He first steadied the innings with Virat Kohli and then joined hands with Mahendra Singh Dhoni to steer the innings towards the challenging target.
Despite scoring three half-centuries earlier in the tournament, Gambhir's name didn't come up prominently when the depth and strength of India's batting was discussed. Men of character choose such moments to make a few statements and it was Gambhir's turn to do that.
Eschewing his aggressive instincts, the left-hander picked the balls to hit when the power play overs were on and then concentrated on picking the gaps for ones and twos. He was dropped on 30 by Nuwan Kulasekara and looked determined to make Sri Lanka pay a heavy price for that.
If Gambhir's was a knock of exemplary application, Dhoni finished the match with a robust statement of self belief. Having a poor run with the bat and inviting criticism, he promoted himself to No. 5 ahead of Yuvraj Singh, probably to shield him from Muttiah Muralitharan and to keep intact the left-right combination.
Not fluent to begin with, Dhoni played himself in, jabbing here and there and running as if his life was at stake. The typically strong shots surfaced later and whenever the asking rate started getting to threatening proportions, these blows brought things back into control.
After leading the team from the front, and clinching victory with a mighty six, Dhoni pushed himself to the background and brought up the rear when the entire team took a victory lap. He was smiling broadly and looked more relieved than ecstatic, well in control of himself.
The historic win led to the emotional sight of Tendulkar being chaired by his team mates around the park. Despite scaling all the heights a batsman can, the legend had one regret, and that was not having won the World Cup. Fittingly, the fairytale career found that one piece missing in the puzzle.
India's unity in diversity is most visible when it comes to cricket.
After swinging between hope and despair for seven hours, the great Indian dream came true in emphatic fashion.
Fittingly again, it came at the Mecca of Indian cricket.