2nd April will always remain a contrasting affair to Indian cricket fans. As 2nd April 2021, brought one of the most horrific new pieces that is more than enough to leave the entire nation on tenterhooks. Sachin Tendulkar, the God of cricket and also the God to millions of fans who worship the sport as a religion has been admitted to hospital after testing positive for Covid 19. Contrapuntal to that, 2nd April 2011 brought one of the most ecstatic moments in the history of Indian cricket as Dhoni and company lifted the ICC Cricket World Cup for a second time, putting an end to a wait of 28 staggering years.
As India clasps hands in prayers to get their God back home safely, we will take a walk down the memory lane to celebrate the exultant triumph that the Men in Blue chronicled a decade back at Wankhede. In this story, we will be looking at six unforgettable moments from the 2011 ICC World Cup final between India and Sri Lanka.
A magical start by Zak
After being put to bowl by Sangakkara, India needed a decent start to the game in order to avert a déjà vu of the 2003 World Cup final against Australia. Zaheer Khan, the same man who started the 2003 World Cup final with an exorbitant wide down the leg-side was handed over the responsibility with the new ball. He managed to bowl six good length-deliveries that saw him concede only a couple of runs and both of them were not from the bat. Hence, it was considered a maiden over. The second over was nothing different as he managed to bowl six dots again, leaving Dilshan and Tharanga stunned and confined to their crease.
To aggravate matters for the visitors, Zaheer went on to produce a third maiden over that left the Sri Lankan openers restless for a run and desperate to break free from the manacles. Zak was roaring at magical figures of 3-3-0-0. Drawing a contrast to his performance in 2003, his first three overs went for 28 runs. As Sri Lanka struggled to grapple with Zak’s excellence, Tharanga wanted to beget something extraordinary and Khan managed to produce an absolute ripper that swung outside at a pace of 143 clicks, leaving the batsman very little time to react and the nick carried safely to Sehwag at first slip.
Khan continued with his scorching spell until the 9th over of the innings and his first spell’s figures were magical, to say the least, that read 5-3-6-1.
Sangakkara’s crucial cameo of 48
Initially, India imposed themselves upon the Lankans in the most menacing way that would have been more than enough to strike fear in the hearts of the Sri Lanka fans. After Khan scalped Tharanga, Sangakkara walked out in the middle. As Dilshan brewed the storm at the other end to flip the tide in Sri Lanka’s favour, Sangakkara weathered the storm at the other end.
As he set himself in brilliantly with a few exquisite strokes, he started opening himself up after playing almost 18 balls. Trying to trade Munaf for a belter, he zipped down the pitch and blasted him on the off with an animate swing of the willow. As he sniffed blood in the preceding over, this time he decided to take Sreesanth on and belted him two boundaries on the trot, one with a walk down the pitch and a drive through the covers while the other was a classic straight drive. Despite Harbhajan managing to best Dilshan at the other end, Sangakkara kept on hacking away at the bowlers.
India’s good start was in jeopardy of being turned down as the wicket-keeper batsman for Sri Lanka reigned supreme only for Yuvraj to apply the brakes as his skitter got the better of a set Sanga, spicing up the game again.
Jayawardene’s blistering century
Just when India thought that they have things under control with Zak’s magical spell and a decent start from Bhajji, things took an ugly turn. Jayawardene who was hanging in there in the middle biding time for himself and waiting for the right moment started breaking free in the final seven overs.
Slowly growing in stature and confidence throughout his time spent at the crease, as soon as Nuwan Kulasekara opening his arms, the Sri Lankan vice-captain knew that it was time for him to go all guns blazing.
Such was his might in the slog overs, that even India’s best bowler, Zaheer Khan, got battered for 43 runs in the final three overs of his spell. After Kulasekara departed, Jayawardene carried on with the slaughter taking Perera by his side. The duo managed to put on a searing 26 runs in the last two overs.
Mahela brought his century in stunning fashion as he sliced Zaheer Khan through the covers for a boundary. His exhilarations were absolutely unreserved as he jumped up in the air, pumping his fists, releasing a boatload of emotions that stayed pent up for that entire innings.
Malinga’s early storm and India’s comeback
Keeping aside the intricate brilliance of cricket, Indian fans were rooting for Sehwag’s early pyrotechnics. As Malinga bombed down his bowling patch, Sehwag played the first ball to the covers. However, the nightmare that was to follow was about to leave the Indian fans in absolute silence.
The next ball bowled by Malinga was nothing short of a cannonball and it went to clatter into Sehwag’s pads, leaving him bamboozled as the Sri Lanka players screamed at the top of their lungs in unison and the umpire pointed to the sky. Though Sehwag didn’t wait for a second to review the decision, it was plumb and India lost their favourite entertainer too early in the innings.
That was just the beginning. When Gambhir came out, he welcomed Malinga in grand fashion as he flicked it down the leg-side for a boundary.
After weathering the initial storm, Sachin Tendulkar, the man who is now in hospital combatting Covid, played a couple of classic drives against Malinga that imbued the Indian hearts with hope. Haplessly, in quick succession, Tendulkar, unable to preclude himself from playing those drives, gulped the bait that Malinga laid for him and in a miscued effort, ended up nicking to Sangakkara, leaving the crowd stunned and crestfallen.
The man who was new at the crease was India’s torch-bearer for the ages to come, Virat Kohli. He didn’t really play a mammoth inning, neither did he leave Sri Lanka in a state of dilapidation but that crucial 35 which he stitched together in the face of monumental pressure help India sail through the ordeal. He and Gambhir added 83 runs for the third wicket which put a halt in Sri Lanka’s efforts of bundling India up early.
Gambhir’s excellent 97
Though the Delhi opener felt short of a glorious ton by just three runs, Gambhir was the man who spearheaded India’s comeback from the sheer mouth of a sinking ship. After playing a few initial strokes that gathered enough momentum along the way to race away to the boundary, he imposed his towering self upon the Sri Lankans and the result was devastating.
Not only did he trade Malinga and Kulasekara to the ropes effortlessly, but the way he used his feet against Muralitharan was also exotic, to say the least. He went for the kill early in the innings that provided time for a young Kohli to get his eyes in so that the partnership could continue.
Once Dhoni was in, he once again switched to the offensive that helped the Indian skipper to hang in there and carve an imperative knock that dismantled the Sri Lankan lions.
Just when everyone thought that Gambhir will be sailing hammer and tongs to his ton, his aggression led to his downfall. Dancing halfway down the pitch, he tried to smoke Thisara Perera on the off-side. However, the ball kept low and Gambhir misjudged the delivery as it went on to rattle itself on the timbre.
Though Gambhir felt short of the magic figures, he still scored more than enough to derail Sri Lanka from their hopes of lifting the trophy.
The magical six from Dhoni
This wasn’t a magical spell or a brilliant knock from someone. This wasn’t a prolonged bout of excellence. This wasn’t something extraordinary. However, this stroke from Dhoni was magical in the word’s truest sense.
The reason for the same being the shot carried the weight and failed expectations of 28 long years. The shot carried the hopes of countless people who gave up a fortune to reach Wankhede on that hallowed date. The shot carried the tears of Sachin Tendulkar for countless years when India failed to live up to his expectations. The shot was magical as it was the telling blow from Dhoni that helped India lift the World Cup after a whopping 28 years.
It was Kulasekara who bowled the delivery and Dhoni gave a full swing of his arm to execute the helicopter shot with clinical precision, throwing the ball out of the stands and the Sri Lankans out of the contention. That shot bloomed smiles so broad that even the universe would seem minuscule to them.