Today is the day when India lifted the ICC world cup in 2011. It was a great moment in the sporting history of India. More so, if we say that probably it was the greatest moment then it won’t seem to be an exaggeration. At least, I had never seen the bigger celebration that happened after the win that night. Cricket is not less than a religion in India. I had not seen the 1983 world cup win celebrations. I have heard in all these years that it was also very emotional and grand. But I reckon that with the consistent rise in number of followers of the game, the 2011 world cup win was a huge spectacle.
As I remember, in all these years since I started following the game, world cups were a special event for the simple fact that Sachin Tendulkar used to take them very seriously and always excelled exceedingly well in the tournaments. Ever since he started playing the world cups in 1992, he went from strength to strength and always made a distinctive mark in the marquee events of the ICC. But he was not successful in winning it after many attempts in 1992, 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2007.
Sachin was a soldier who wanted to win it at any cost. But the billion population of India was also waiting for a world cup win since 1983. I remember, in all these years, whenever India embarked on the world cup tour, many promotional songs used to come to uplift the spirit of India. Amid all this, the repeated failures did no good.
We are seeing it from our perspective. But every other playing nation also take this ICC event as seriously as India making it highly competitive event. So, it is not really a cakewalk. We wish for a win but it is subject to so many factors. Taking the factors into account, pundits of the game had predicted India to be favourites in the 2011 tournament. The explanation for that was that India was playing on the home soil and historically India had always played with edge on the home soil. Also, the rise of the players like Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, MS Dhoni, Zaheer Khan and Suresh Raina was phenomenal.
These players were phenomenal and their fearless approach made statement. Many people would confidently say that India are favourites. An event on the home soil would mean that these players would be comfortably placed. They would not be tested from the pace of the wicket and would certainly mean that they will be having the best of chances to excel on the wickets which they were used to. All of them had grown playing in these conditions.
When the tournament started, people knew that they had best of chance of doing it. But they had to reciprocate on the field and play fearlessly. They did exactly the same with Tendulkar’s magnificence. Tendulkar was again scoring prolifically. It was great to see India moving to the stage of semi-final. Anticipation had grown meteorically. Yuvraj, who was also battling cancer, had played his best of cricket with full dedication.
One important mention was Mike Horn. He was the famous sports psychologist who conditioned the players and keep their focus intact while on the journey to win the world cup. He called for taking one game at a time while progressing towards the end of the tournament. He was phenomenal and it was stamped by the players as well. Incidentally, he was also behind the Germany’s win in 2014 FIFA world cup. You needed that luxury of a psychologist when the stakes were high and the whole world knew that India were favourites.
India progressed well and met arch-rivals Pakistan in the semi-final at Mohali. It was a very sought-after match. I was in newsroom then. The whole newsroom stood still as the match began with national anthem of both the nations. Tendulkar was again the star in that game. He was player of the match for his well crafted 85 runs. It was a win which had literally sparked everyone in jubilation.
I used to live in Delhi and saw a sea of people coming out of their doors to celebrate the win. It was an enthralling scene at the India Gate that night. I was one of the attendees. Flags were flying everywhere. People celebrated like there is no tomorrow only to get a realisation that still India have to play a game to win the tournament.
India and Sri Lanka met in the final game. Sri Lanka batted first in a high-pressure game. With the help of a well-compiled century from Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka were able to post a fighting total of 274. Everyone knew that this one is going to take special effort from India to win the tournament. The Indian innings began in an electric atmosphere at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. All eyes were focussed on the man himself, Sachin Tendulkar.
But, as the fate had it, it was not the day of Tendulkar. He departed after scoring just 18 runs. There was a deafening silence at the Wankhede. Most of people thought whether we are choking again. But Gautam Gambhir showed that he had nerves of a steel as he stood like warrior to calm the collective conscience of India. The skipper had promoted himself up the order and he played like a champion to steer India to much coveted victory.
Dhoni’s presence and authority was out of the world. He would shrug off the pressure with ease and did not hesitate to go over the ropes for scoring winning run in the tournament. It is one of the best scenes of the game of cricket till date. There were no centuries from India. Gambhir scored 97 and Dhoni 91 to lift the trophy. The jubilation was unparalleled in India. I can recall that moment. We had again come out of our homes and moved towards India Gate.
The emotions that I saw that night was something which I had never seen in my life. People were jubilant and were taking pride in the win. The whole effort of consistently being with Team India in thick and thin had given fruits. It was emancipation of sorts from the heart-breaking defeats in the past. I could see that people rejoiced win with a lot of emotion. People got drunk shouted on the roads. I felt India was one. People had forgotten everything and living that moment. It is indeed the best I have seen in my life. Without any hesitation, I would place that event as the best in sporting history of India.