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Five things we learned from the World Cup final

Despite Mahela Jayawardena's final-overs onslaught, despite the early losses of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, not once did the sense of purpose flag, writes Soumya Bhattacharya.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2011 17:45 IST
Soumya Bhattacharya

Kumar Sangakkara made a selection blunder: Why Ajantha Mendis was left out of the starting lineup is something no one quite knows the answer to. He was Sri Lanka's most economical bowler, and a wicket taking one. It was a very costly mistake.

MS Dhoni gambled, and won: He bafflingly left Ashwin out, and Sreesanth didn't click. He came in at No 5 when most people were expecting the in-form Yuvraj Singh. But what an innings of brutal savagery he played. His 91 not out - his first fifty in 15 ODIs - could not have come at a better time, or on a bigger stage. It was an innings of staggering self-belief, and deadly effectiveness.

Super trio lifted India's fielding: Suresh Raina, Yuvraj and Virat Kohli were tigerish on the field. In the opening overs, including Zaheer Khan's spellbinding 5-3-6-1, they saved at least three boundaries, and many more runs. Under the cosh, Sri Lanka managed only 31/1 in the opening ten overs - their most meagre yield in the first Power Play.

India never really felt they would lose: Despite Mahela Jayawardena's final-overs onslaught (63 runs came in the final five overs, including 35 off Zaheer's last two), despite the early losses of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, not once did the sense of purpose flag. Kohli and Gautam Gambhir, and then Dhoni and Gambhir, knocked the ball around, hit the loose ones for boundaries, pierced the field, and never let the asking rate climb to unmanageable proportions. It was magnificent, nerveless, clinical batting, especially given the weight of expectations and that no team had ever chased down such a huge total in a World Cup final.

India deserved to be champions: Having beaten Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in consecutive knockout games, India were worthy winners. No team deserved to win this trophy more than they did. This wasn't at all like 1983, when they had been underdogs. This time around, the pressure was intense, and anything less than being champions seemed unacceptable to their demanding fans. They already have the rankings. They have the World Cup. Whether India will become the sort of dominant force that Australia were for nearly a decade since the late 1990s is to be seen.

(Soumya Bhattacharya is the Editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He is the author of You Must Like Cricket? and All That You Can't Leave Behind --both memoirs on how cricket defines India -- and the novel, If I Could Tell You. His books have been nominated for national and international literary prizes. He can be reached on twitter at @soumya1910 )