“Dhoni finishes off in style. A magnificent strike into the crowd! India lifts the World Cup after 28 years!" These words by Ravi Shastri still echo in the ears of Indian fans. It was a visual spectacle - the crowd chanting Vande Matram and the sky painted with the light of crackers.
Indian cricket was never as big as it is today. It was in the Prudential World cup 1983, that the Indian cricket team, under the captaincy of Kapil Dev, defied all odds and made history by winning the first-ever World Cup for India. After the miracle of 83', Indian cricket grew at a rapid pace. But who knew, it would take more than two decades to get hold of the brass ring.
In the year 2007, the Men in blue lost to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and the team had to return home soon. The players were judged on their worst performances, and Dravid’s team had to go through a lot.
MS Dhoni was famously quoted as saying, “After we landed in Delhi, we had to get out in a police van. I was sitting next to Viru [Virender Sehwag] paaji….And, you know, media cars around us with their cameras and the big lights on top, it felt as if we had committed a big crime, maybe like a murderer or terrorist or something. We were actually chased by them."
The 2011 World Cup was completely different than any earlier World Cup. Under Dhoni’s captaincy, India just lost one match in the tournament, and that too against a strong South African outfit. India also defeated their arch-rivals Pakistan by 29 runs in the semifinals. The final was set to be played at the Wankhede, Mumbai. Mahela Jayawardene's unbeaten century propelled Sri Lanka to a total of 274.
During the chase, all eyes were on Sachin Tendulkar, who was playing his last World Cup. But the fans were left emotionally stabbed, after Sri Lankan pacer Malinga dismissed him in the sixth over. However, Gautam Gambhir's 97 did not allow Sri Lanka to take control of the game.
Indian skipper MS Dhoni came second down. Mental Conditioning Coach Paddy Upton recalled that day in an interview.
“He (Dhoni) was behind the full glass frontage that is there at the Wankhede dressing room. (Head coach) Gary (Kirsten) was sitting outside and I was right next to him. I distinctly remember that I heard a knock on the window. Gary and I turned around at the same time. It was Dhoni, he indicated he was batting next. That was it. Sign language. Gary just nodded. There was no talk between the two. Dhoni had made the decision that this was the time for him to stand up and do what Dhoni does,”
Gambhir got dismissed just three runs before his century. Then Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni joined hands to stitch an extraordinary partnership.
Yuvraj Singh played an able second-fiddle to Dhoni, who was timing the ball as well as ever. Nuwan Kulasekara came in to bowl the penultimate over, and Dhoni launched the second delivery of the over to long on for a six.
“Dhoni finishes off in style. A magnificent strike into the crowd! India lifts the World Cup after 28 years!" Well, the words still echo.