2011, Motera and a big, big win for India | Crickit
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2011, Motera and a big, big win for India

By, Mumbai
Oct 17, 2023 11:41 PM IST

After Rohit & Co's superb win over Pakistan at Ahmedabad, Men In Blue will hope they too go all the way and emulate the batch of 2011.

The cricket stadium at Motera, Ahmedabad, is proving to be a happy hunting ground for the Men in Blue. On Saturday, when India put on a dazzling display to overwhelm Pakistan in their marquee World Cup clash, some fans would have gone down memory lane reliving the quarterfinals of the 2011 tournament -- when India took on Australia at the same venue.

After snaring two crucial wickets, Yuvraj played a special knock, making an unbeaten 57, combining with Raina (34*) to help the hosts clinch the game(AP) PREMIUM
After snaring two crucial wickets, Yuvraj played a special knock, making an unbeaten 57, combining with Raina (34*) to help the hosts clinch the game(AP)

Australia then were the team to beat. They had won the title in 1999, 2003 and 2007. The last two titles had been won without losing a game. And they looked pretty good in 2011 too. Well, any team that has Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait and Brett Lee in the line-up has to present quite a challenge.

So, when India turned up for the quarter-final at Motera, they were confident but it was of the measured kind. A knockout match brings with it a different kind of pressure. It's all on the line. Nothing you have done before matters. The old venue, the Sardar Patel Stadium, is a world apart from the massive Narendra Modi Stadium, but the vibe on the field is still the same.

The day-night game was played on March 24, 2011. R Ashwin and Virat Kohli are the only two players from that squad who are part of Rohit Sharma’s current bunch and the story of this match will no doubt be retold a few times before the 2023 tournament ends. Unlike the India-Pakistan game, the contest lived up to the hype as both sides matched each other blow for blow.

The beauty of that game was that it highlighted almost every aspect of India's play that saw them being crowned world champions. It showcased MS Dhoni’s leadership, Sachin Tendulkar’s pivotal role as the premier batter and mentor, Yuvraj Singh’s all-round brilliance, Gautam Gambhir’s big-match temperament, Suresh Raina’s steel under pressure and Zaheer Khan’s incisive ability with the ball.

Ponting, who had been at the core of Australia's great World Cup run, was at it again. Having elected to bat, Australia made steady progress thanks to their skipper's 118-ball 104. He didn't receive much support from the others in the line-up. Brad Haddin made 53 and David Hussey got 38* but that was about it. Still, 260 in a pressure match wasn't that bad.

The pressure, now, shifted to India against a very good Australia attack. Tendulkar, opening the batting, set the base with an innings of 53. Gambhir got 50 too. But no one quite managed to stick on and turn their innings into a big one. When Dhoni (7) was dismissed with the total on 187/5, alarm bells were starting to ring.

Yuvi's Cup

But India had Yuvraj. After snaring two crucial wickets, the left-hander played a special knock, making an unbeaten 57, combining with Raina (34*) to help the hosts clinch the game. Their sixth-wicket stand of 74 in 10.1 overs was the highest of the game.

"I just thought that if I could have a 30-40 run partnership with Suresh, we can take it till the end," Yuvraj later said.

In his recent column for the ICC website ahead of India’s tournament opener against Australia last week, Raina described that partnership. "On a personal level, any World Cup match between India and Australia brings back memories of the quarter-final in 2011, a game full of pressure. Australia were the holders and the favourites to win it again," he said.

"We were chasing 261 and when Dhoni was out, I joined Yuvraj at 187 for five. We had to dig in, we had to take responsibility and play the ball, not the occasion and that's what me and Yuvi did. In a quarter-final against the reigning champions, you need to bring your A-game and we delivered."

The biggest story of the game, and of the tournament too, was undoubtedly Yuvraj. He came into the tournament looking out of form but by the end, he was unstoppable -- with bat and with ball. He owed his success to the leadership of Dhoni and Tendulkar, the two helping get the best out of the mercurial all-rounder.

In the crunch game, Yuvraj struck in the middle overs (for just 44 runs in 10 overs) when he saw the back of Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke to disrupt Australia's early momentum. Later, coming out to bat at 143/3 in the 29th over, which became slightly tricky at 168/4 and then 187/5, the southpaw carried India through with his 65-ball knock.

Reliving the famous Day-Night game on “Kutti Stories” in conversation with celebrated commentator Harsha Bhogle on YouTube, Ashwin called it “Yuvraj Singh’s Word Cup”. “You name it, Yuvraj was there in the centre,” the ace off-spinner said.

Ashwin highlighted Dhoni’s leadership too: “Like a movie director, Dhoni picks a character and he knows where that character fits, and who is that person (best suited to the role) and gives that person the exact situation to play that role to the T. That is what I think he did with Suresh Raina.”

Happy Unit

Ashwin emphasised on the whole-hearted support the 2011 team received. “It was not the team’s World Cup, it was every common man’s World Cup,” he said.

In his interview with the ICC website at the start of this World Cup, Tendulkar highlighted the camaraderie of his 2011 batch. “Most important for any unit is to stay together. If they are happy it will reflect on the field, if they are divided it reflects on the field as well. We were a very happy cohesive unit. We were so attached to each other... it is important to have good friends, that's when you are prepared to go any distance for your colleague. That produces results.”

After Rohit & Co's superb win at Ahmedabad, they'll hope they too go all the way and emulate the batch of 2011.

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