Ten years ago, Dhoni’s Dashers wrote this day into Indian cricket folklore by lifting the World Cup
The spectators swung to the beating of the drums. The Wankhede Stadium was a blaze of colours. And the cup of joy was filled to the brim in the Maximum City.
Outside the arena, there were traffic jams under the night sky. Yet, nobody cared. Those at the wheels honked in delight. The whole of India and Mumbai roared in appreciation. The fragrance of victory swirled around.
And a six to bring up a six-wicket World Cup conquest! What a finish!
Sachin Tendulkar was, finally, a part of a World Cup-winning squad. The maestro was the ‘spiritual’ inspiration of India’s triumph.
After the miracle of ’83 by Kapil’s Devils in England, followed by an agonisingly barren run, Dhoni’s Dashers had lifted the ICC ODI World Cup in the sub-continent.
April 2, 2011 has now become a part of Indian cricket’s folklore. A day, 10 years ago, when the country celebrated as one.
The World Cup was won by tact and brawn. Both symbolised by skipper M.S. Dhoni. He showed his cricketing nous by boldly promoting himself ahead of an in-form Yuvraj Singh to bring into play a left-right partnership and then dismantled the Sri Lankan bowling with strokes of brutal force.
A chase of 275, a target set up principally by the fleet-footed Mahela Jayawardene’s 103 not out of pristine beauty and timing, appeared challenging under the lights. Ambushes lurked.
But then, Dhoni’s 79-ball unbeaten 91 and his match-altering 109-run association with the left-handed No. 3 Gautam Gambhir, all finesse and class, propelled India from a wobbly 114 for three.
Gambhir, brilliant during his 97, used the depth of the crease and coaxed the ball through the gaps on both sides. His footwork was nimble and stroke-making crisp as he blunted the threat from Muttiah Muralitharan; he picked the Lankan wizard from the hand and gauged the length to perfection.
Initially, Dhoni, his swagger unmistakable in a pressure situation, ran like a slithery cat between the wickets, and then opened out with some audacious strokes of dexterous wrists and sensational bat-speed.
And you could freeze the frame when he bludgeoned a full-length ball from Nuwan Kulasekara over the long-on ropes to bring the curtains down on the final and open up new avenues for Indian cricket.
The stadium had gone quiet when slinger Lasith Malinga struck with the new ball, trapping Virender Sehwag in front and getting Tendulkar to nick one that moved away.
But then, a young Virat Kohli steadied the innings with Gambhir and then came the Skipper’s Gambit.
Fittingly, Dhoni ended the contest with a booming blow as a nation erupted in happiness. What a night!