For the next 28 years, the fanatically cricket-mad nation kept on waiting through triumphs and through heartbreaks.
The pain of going down in the finals of the 2003 World cup and the humiliating defeat in 2007 haunted every Indian cricket fan day in and out.
However, the moment of reckoning had finally arrived.
April 2, 2011, the famous Wankhede stadium in the financial capital of the country was all set to host the two Asian nations for the grand-finale of the cricketing extravaganza.
India had made their way into the final by victory over its arch-rival, the notoriously unpredictable, Pakistan team.
Many in the country had already celebrated its due regarding the game against Pakistan as the real final.
Yet as Saturday dawned, you could barely see an individual across the length and breadth of the country. Everyone had themselves glued to their television sets or radios. Prayers were said, the puja was made, anything to give the Indian team an edge.
The 1.2 billion strong people nation was overpowered with emotions as it was certain that this year, finally, it will capture cricket”s most prized possession, the World Cup. As the nerves settled down, the game began. Batting first, Sri Lanka went on to score 274 at a loss of six wickets in the 50 overs with Mahela Jayawardene scoring a superb century.
India”s response was disastrous as Sehwag was caught plum on only the second ball of the innings by the dangerous Lasith Malinga.
All eyes were now upon country”s cricketing god Sachin Tendulkar who was playing in front of his home crowd and probably his final world cup innings. However, cricket had some different plans on that day as the little master was soon caught on 18 runs, leaving the 33 thousand odd gathering at the Wankhede stadium and a few billion more watching through satellite television into a stunned silence.
One could sense the importance of this wicket in Sri-Lanka”s celebration. This left the two Delhi players Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli in the middle who steadied the Indian innings with a much needed 82-run partnership.
The game then had another twist as Kohli was sharply caught and bowled on 35 by Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Following this, to everyone”s surprise, the Indian skipper walked out to bat ahead of the man in-form Yuvraj Singh. MS Dhoni had decided to put himself at a virtual gunpoint. One good ball or one bad shot could have meant a full stop to the dream every Indian was living with for the then past 28 years.
Even destiny was not allowed to ruin that dream, such was the power of the moment. The left hand-right hand combination added the decisive 109 runs for the fourth wicket before Gambhir was bowled 3 runs short off of what could have been a magnificent century. Yet his innings needs to be given a special mention as he delivered his best when the team needed him the most.
At this point, India had to get a run-a-ball 52 from 52 balls.
With Yuvraj Singh at one end, India was now steadily heading towards its much-awaited dream.
It was 10.45pm in India and MS Dhoni, the Indian captain, was hammering the ball to the boundary again and again.
Six to win with two overs left in the bag. The smiles on the face of the gathering at the Wankhede and fireworks going off everywhere told us a story. And just then the skipper smacks one over the boundary. The world as if had stopped for a moment. Firecrackers explode. India wins.
“Dhoni finishes off in style, a magnificent strike into the crowd, India lift the world cup after 28 years and the party starts in the dressing room and it”s an Indian Captain who has been absolutely magnificent in the night of the final”.
These lines by Ravi Shastri made a forever home in the hearts of a cricket-crazy nation.
The 28-year long wait was finally over. People were ecstatic and in the streets outside, there was a sea of people dancing, cheering, blaring horns with the Indian flags fluttering from every possible vehicle. It was as if Diwali was celebrated a few months before.
For a nation where cricket isn”t just a game but a life, a religion they preach and follow crossing the boundaries of the man-made discriminations, this victory meant everything. Along with the smiles, there were tears as well. Tears which spoke a story for it was the biggest thing one could achieve in the possibilities of the game.
Six years down the line, Indian cricket has been through a period of transition. The World cup heroes are no more a part of the team. A blend of promising youngsters are now carrying the team forward.
After all, change is the only constant in life and it is in good favour of Indian cricket.
In spite of all these things, this victory on home soil will be remembered fondly as the most momentous day in Indian cricket.
As said by the Legendary batsman Sunil Gavaskar, ” When I die the last thing I want to see is the six that Dhoni hit in the 2011 World cup final”.
– by Yash Kashikar