Mumbai was set ablaze in golden glory as history-defying co-hosts India cherished a fairy-tale ending to their campaign after winning the World Cup for the first time since 1983 with a six-wicket victory over Sri Lanka on Saturday.
Gautam Gambhir made 97 and captain Mahinder Singh Dhoni smashed an unbeaten 91 off 79 balls as India romped to victory with an emphatic six by the captain, sending waves of triumphant joy across the nation. Sri Lanka, who won the toss and elected to bat in the day-night final, rode on Mahela Jayawardene’s 103 not out off 88 balls to pile up 274 for six in their 50 overs.
Dhoni’s men emulated Kapil Dev’s compatriots who won the 1983 World Cup by beating the West Indies in the final at Lord’s in London. The victory, watched by Indian President Pratibha Patil and Sri Lanka’s
head of state Mahinda Rajapakse, was the first occasion a team had won the tournament on home soil.
“I took a quite few decisions tonight and if we hadn’t won I would have been asked quite a few questions,” said Dhoni, who batted at number five and had selected fast-bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth instead of Ravichandran Ashwin.
“Why no Ashwin? Why Sreesanth? Why no Yuvraj Singh at five? Why did I bat ahead? That pushed me and motivated to do well.” The finale gave Sachin Tendulkar, the world’s most successful Test and one-day batsman, his first World Cup title in six appearances since 1992.
“I couldn’t have asked for more,” said Tendulkar, who again missed out on scoring a landmark 100th international century.
“Winning the World Cup is the ultimate. It is the proudest moment of my life. I could not really hold back my tears.”
India, cheered by a sell-out crowd of 33,000 at the Wankhede stadium, surpassed the challenging target with 10 balls to spare.
The defeat ended Sri Lankan star bowler Muttiah Muralitharan’s dream of being part of a second World Cup-winning team. Muralitharan went wicketless in eight overs to end his career with a record 800 Test and 534 one-day wickets.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 03rd, 2011.