It is exactly one year since every Indian cricket fan danced and sang with glee on the streets after their heroes ended an interminable wait for the nation to toast a second one-day World Cup win. If the triumph of Kapil's Devils was in the realms of dream and disbelief, it was mid-summer madness on home turf for Dhoni and Co., chorus of support and demand for a win rising with each passing day.
There was one other player in particular who felt as special as Sachin Tendulkar when India laid their hands on the World Cup in Mumbai on April 2 last year - Suresh Raina. Though India's slump in fortunes since then has left the Cup heroes disappointed, nothing can dim memories of that grand night.
The skipper led from the front in the final victory over Sri Lanka while Raina's batting heroics came in the quarterfinal, against defending champions Australia after an early slump chasing the target. He joined fellow left-hander Yuvraj Singh to steer India to victory at Ahmedabad.
Feeling like a king
“The kind of appreciation I got after that match, I felt like Sachin paaji for the first time. That is the best-ever match of my life,” Raina told HT, recalling key moments of that journey and the crucial partnership with Yuvraj, who is recovering after cancer treatment.
“Besides Sachin, everyone praised me for that innings,” Raina said. “I was on the cloud nine when (coach) Gary Kirsten praised me for that effort at his farewell party.
“I was waiting for such a big a chance…Sachin Bhai gave me a hi-five in the dressing room and told me it was my day before I went out to the ground. That really boosted my confidence.
Yuvi ON MIND
“I had one thing on my mind, to play my natural game. With Yuvraj on the other side, I felt confident even when it was a difficult task for us. Yuvi just told me to play straight and finish the game. That win proved what I am as a cricketer.”
“We knew the situation well, so we divided our chase into 10 runs at a time and it really worked out well in the end, the win made me a hero of millions.”
Yuvraj (57 n.o.) and Raina (34 n.o.) put on a crucial, unbeaten 74-run sixth wicket partnership after India, chasing a tough target of 261, had been reduced to 187 for five. Like his teammates, Yuvraj's courageous battle against illness dominated Raina's thoughts.
“Yuvi is always special to me. I admire his courage. I would be the happiest man to see him back in action,” he said.
Raina will always cherish winning the Cup at the age of 25. "I feel lucky I was part of the team which had top players in the world, including Tendulkar.”