Bangladesh, India & Sri Lanka had won the joint bid for hosting the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup as the premier ODI championship was back in the Subcontinent after the 1996 edition.
A total of 14 teams had booked their berth for the final tournament and prepared themselves for the round-robin & knockout in the Asian sub-continent. As compared to the previous edition (2007), the teams had more chances to qualify for the knockout stages. The groups (Group A & Group B) was equally balanced with two associate nations in each of the group. The former consisted of defending champions- Australia, runners-up SL along with their continental partner in form of NZ & PAK. Zimbabwe, Canada & Kenya filled the vacant spots in the group. India was placed in Group B also featuring South Africa, England, Westindies, Bangladesh & Ireland.
Though the tournament spread across for more than 40 days, it demanded the teams be on their toes from the inception. It was essential to set up small targets in order to advance ahead. The competition unfolds in Dhaka, where Bangladesh played a host to India. For India, the responsibility of captaincy was bestowed upon Mahendra Singh Dhoni, under which India won the T20 World Cup in 2007. Dhoni had given a glimpse of his captaincy skills in the tournament, when he led a young side to emerge T20 World Champions, soon after the dreadful exit from the ODI WC in the same year. Following some bold decisions by the top management & recent overseas results which produced fruitful results for India from 2008-early 2011, the focus was a shift towards creating a perfect balance of youth & experience.
A tournament like the 2011 WC demanded a similar strategy in which India seemed to have read the conditions in a better way. Sachin Tendulkar was the lone player to have featured in 400+ international ODI appearances to be included in the squad for any teams. India stood the capability of winning the matches at any position as it had players in each of the top-order, middle-order, and lower-middle order to win the match irrespective of the playing conditions. With likes of Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, S Sreesanth, the Indian bowling had a robust pace trio combined with the duo of veteran off-spinner – Harbhajan Singh & left-arm orthodox- Yuvraj Singh, the knowledge of the Indian pitches proved to be a lethal combination for the opponents.
India started their campaign against their Asian counterpart – Bangladesh, like in the previous edition (2007) where they stunned the Indian team & proved to be a major reason for India’s dreadful early exit. The experienced opening duo of Virender Sehwag- Sachin Tendulkar opened the proceeding for India as they were put in to bat first by Shakib Al Hasan. The Sher-e-Bangla National cricket stadium witnessed a thunderous knock by Sehwag who guided India towards a massive score of 370-4 (50) with help of his knock 175 supported by a 100* by Virat Kohli.
The Bangladeshi innings included 50+ stands within the top order, but a failure to convert it big during the middle of the innings made the difference in the end. As a reason for regular outbreaks by each of the pace duo of Zaheer- Munaf who bowled economically under 5, shared 6 wickets among them saw the Bangladeshi Tigers fell short of the target by 87 runs. In the other group (Group A) – owing to the one-sided encounters, the heavyweights (AUS, SL, PAK, NZ) cemented their one leg into the Quarter-Finals of the competition with ease.
The Group B witnessed a high scoring tie between India & England as the duo scored 338 each at the M. Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru. The undefeated streak of India was put to a halt by SA, who defeated India by 3 wickets at Nagpur chasing 297. India was tested for the second time in the competition after the English tie. Among the 6 group matches, while 4 wins confirmed a guaranteed spot in the QF, the teams with 3 wins had to largely bet on their NRR to march ahead.
With a victory over the WI in their last group encounter, India finished second in their group stages & booked a Quarter-Finals clash against the defending champions- Australia. Yuvraj Singh had established himself as a strong middle-order all-rounder for the hosts, India as the left-handed batsmen also contributed heavily with his left-arm orthodox. His wicket-taking short spells combined with his ability to stay long in the middle helped India to overcome the challenges on their way. The QF had a mixture of outcomes.
On one hand, Pakistan marched into the SF with a cakewalk win over WI; India emerged victorious post a tense win against Australia. SL secured an easy win over NZ in Colombo which marked the last home turf for legendary Muttiah Muralitharan. With this victory, SL confirmed their flight to Mumbai for the Finals of the tournament (SL joined the elite list of WI & AUS & ENG to feature in consecutive finals). The other SF encounter between arch-rivals India & Pakistan was set to raise the rivalry bar to the next level after the QF clash of 1996 in Bengaluru. The IS Bindra stadium was set to not only witness the first-of-kind encounter but also cricket diplomacy was used to strengthen the ties amongst the two nations. Having elected to bat first, the Indian innings was anchored by the maestro, Sachin Tendulkar with help of his crafted 85 contributed a major chunk of the score 260. Suresh Raina held till the very end as he capitalized in the death overs. Pakistan, on the other hand, failed to capitalize the run chase as they fell prey to an equally destructive Indian bowling as the 5 regular Indian bowlers showcased a 2 wicket partnership among each to dismantle the Pakistani line-up for 230. As the scoreboard displayed a 5-0 victory for India against their arch-rivals in the History of Cricket World Cup, the joy of making it to their 3rd Finals overshadowed the statistics as the joy of being tagged as “World Champions” was a step away.
Both the nations- India & SL laced their boots tight to appear in their 3rd ICC Cricket World Cup Finals. With the record stating, no host nation had ever won a World Cup on home soil, the pressure on India was comparatively higher as compared to SL who were featuring in their 2nd consecutive Finals. The re-toss owing to the confusion of the call by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the SL captain, Kumar Sangakkara chose to bat first as the coin flipped according to the latter the second time.
The Islanders had a shaky start as Tharanga misread Zaheer Khan’s line & handed over a simple catch at slip to Sehwag. Negotiating the early overs carefully, the experienced duo of Dilshan-Sangakkara quickly helped their team to swift out of the early blow. A change in pace did pause the swiftness when Harbhajan tricked Dilshan as his victim, but the experience of Jayawardene combined with the captain paved the way for Lankans towards a respectable & defendable target. Negotiating the early & middle overs carefully, Jayawardene anchored his innings towards the end of the innings. He cemented his stay and kept the pace of the scoring rate change gears in the final powerplay. It was for the sixth time in the history of the World Cup, when a century was scored in the finals. Hitting 103* (88), Mahela Jayawardene reduced an exuberant crowd to sheer silence. 275 was the figure being looked upon as it was the only deciding factor to be looked upon.
With only 2 sides have managed to chase down a target in the Finals from the previous 9 editions & no side managing to win a World Cup in their home soil, the statistics highly write-off the end result. Amidst a hope for a great start, Sehwag-Tendulkar combo started off the proceedings with the bat for India. However, an overly charged Malinga roar which hid the wickets of both the batsmen overpowered the cheer f packed Wankhede stadium with Indian fans. Left-handed Gautam Gambhir received a slice of luck when he was dropped at long-off by Kulasekara of an off-spin delivery by Suraj Randiv. Virat Kohli on the other end found no luck after the ball was caught by a one-handed stretch by Dilshan off his own bowling. India’s scorecard read 114/3 after 21.4 overs when the given target of 275 runs was still far off.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni decided to promote himself up the batting order ahead of Yuvraj Singh to join in the run-chase. The left-right hand batting combination seemed to be a boon for India as the duo stitched a 109-run crucial partnership that helped the target reduce to 52 runs off as many deliveries. Missing out on a World Cup final chase hundred by a mere 3 runs, Gautam did display a mixed reaction while walking towards the dug-out. Yuvraj Singh, who had the best of the tournament so far, joined his skipper in the middle. Dhoni accelerated the gears thereafter to quickly reduce the required rate below 6. The hard-hitting knocks by the duo resulted as a mere spectator for not only the SL fielders but also the thousands & crores of Indian fans at the stadium & on their television sets.
With 10 balls to spare, Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit his signature sixer into the crowds which meant India became the 2011 World Champions of Cricket. India lifted the coveted trophy for the second time after a span of 28 years, thereby putting an end to the long wait and becoming the 2nd joint nation along with WI after Australia to have won the ultimate glory in World Cricket for more than once.