India went to Mohali with great expectations. Even when they had got to the World Cup finals in 2003, they were not firm favourites, but this time, a billion people believed they had right of way to the finals.
The dropping of R Ashwin from the playing eleven raised eyebrows even before
Virender Sehwag plays a shot during the ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final match between India and Pakistan at The Punjab Cricket Associaton (PCA) Stadium in Mohali.
the first ball of the semi-final had been bowled, the movement of VIPs at the PCA stadium seemed to take expectations to new levels, and Sachin Tendulkar's struggle in the middle made the 28,000 spectators on the ground wonder what was in store for others in the batting line-up. But India posted a fighting 260 against Pakistan and then piled on the pressure with a superb bowling effort to win by 29 runs. They move to Mumbai with a billion hopes alive, and prayers all the more fervent for a Cup win that could end the 28-year wait.
Sitting next to Pakistan Prime Minister YR Gilani, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh clapped enthusiastically as India approached victory, Sonia Gandhi raised her hands in the air in jubilation, and Rahul Gandhi cheered the team on. Despite the result, Gilani too accumulated good memories: of Wahab Riaz's spell of 5 for 46 which set India back, of Saeed Ajmal's spin that troubled Sachin, of Umar Akmal's counter-attack, and of the revival in this tournament of the Pakistan team hit hard by bans handed out to three players.
The one memory Pakistanis wouldn't like, and which India would cherish, was of Virender Sehwag's assault against Umar Gul. It was going to be the Indian bowlers' day, and that's how all of India wanted it to be.