On This Day: Dhoni’s Dashers emulate Kapil’s Devils

The vignettes after India’s six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the summit clash will last a lifetime. After June 25, 1983, April 2, 2011 will be immortalised in the Indian cricket history, writes S. Dinakar.

We've done it...India's Yuvraj Singh hugs captain M. S. Dhoni after the victory. A crestfallen Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara looks on.   -  K. R. Deepak

The sweeping, expansive images could have been right out of cinemascope. The colour was bright, the protagonists bold and the impact hard.

With raw emotions swirling around, M. S. Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh embraced in the manner of long lost brothers in the middle. Kumar Sangakkara shrugged and looked into the night sky in despair. His men appeared shell-shocked.

The crowd went berserk, the pounding of the drums reached a crescendo and shimmering streaks of light illuminated the Wankhede Stadium. India had won the World Cup after 28 years.

The end was picture perfect for India. Dhoni held aloft the Cup of Joy and a nation exploded with happiness. You can freeze the frame.

Members of Team India, not wanting this immortal moment to fly away, rushed into the ground with relief and jubilation. The cameras whirred and the spectators cheered on. Tears of joy were shed. Nobody made an attempt to hold back his feelings. After all, history is not made everyday. Soon, Sachin Tendulkar was carried on shoulder around the arena. In his sixth World Cup, the enduring maestro had realised a long awaited dream. The side's inspiration he certainly was.

The vignettes after India's six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the summit clash will last a lifetime. After June 25, 1983, April 2, 2011 will be immortalised in the Indian cricket history.

Dhoni's Dashers had emulated the feat of Kapil's Devils in Old Blighty in 1983. And India now had become the first team to win the World Cup on home soil.

Shouldering the burden of being the favourite and not wilting under the enormous expectations of playing at home, India had peaked at the right time.

India's rousing pursuit of 275 was the highest successful chase in a World Cup final. The side that gradually found momentum, put its foot on the accelerator during the business end of the tournament. Dhoni (91 not out) was captain courageous. He gambled by promoting himself to the No. 5 slot ahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh. The ploy, based on sound cricketing logic to have a right-left combination in the middle, worked.

The game had began in a bizarre fashion. There was confusion over the toss — Match Referee Jeff Crowe did not hear Sangakkara's call — and the spin of the coin had to be retaken. It was a good toss to win for Sri Lanka but India found the right answers under the lights. The side delivered at the crunch.

The No. 1 Test playing nation in the world was now the World Cup winner in the ODIs. Adversity stoked the team's combative instincts. This Indian side possessed an essential commodity — belief.

Although there were some strong individual performances, the team excelled as a unit. “Collectively, we were very good. The individuals backed each other,” said Dhoni.

The demanding chase was bound to test the side's character. Lasith Malinga, bowling cross seam and getting the new ball to skid off the surface, fired out openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.

Gautam Gambhir (97) and Virat Kohli (35) were involved in a crucial association that put the innings back on course. Sri Lanka was pegged back.

Mahela Jayawardene's superb knock went in vain. Photo: K. R. Deepak

 

But then, the match was still in the balance when Dhoni joined Gambhir after the defiant Kohli was brilliantly caught and bowled by Tillakaratne Dilshan. The right-left pair of contrasts took the game away from Sri Lanka.

Gambhir shortened the length by using the depth of the crease and converted it by gliding down the track. Dhoni's bat-speed and powerful wrists enabled him dismiss the bowling ruthlessly. Not in the best of form, he had saved his best for the last. The Indian captain has a wonderful sense of timing.

The Sri Lankans, missing injured pace bowling all-rounder Angelo Mathews, lacked quality pace support for Malinga. Both Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera were taken to the cleaners by the Indian batsmen. With the fielding not standing up as well, the Sri Lankans were unable to stem the flow of runs.

The legendary Muttiah Muralitharan, battling niggles, could not impart his normal rip on the ball. The Sri Lankan spin combination of three off-spinners — two of them were specialists — left the attack with little variety.

The 109-run partnership between Gambhir and Dhoni virtually took the game away from Sri Lanka. India displayed fine end-game skills — another vital attribute — to close out the game with Dhoni and Yuvraj shutting out Sri Lanka. Growing in maturity and stature, Yuvraj batted in a manner that was sensible. The left-hander is comprehending situations better; it has added steel to his flair.

And when Dhoni wristed Malinga, returning for his final spell, for boundaries, there was going to be only one winner. Bringing back Malinga was the last fling of the dice from Sangakkara.

In the first-half of the contest, the gifted Mahela Jayawardene held centre-stage with a high-quality unbeaten 103. He picked the length early, played the ball late and sliced open the gaps. This smooth-stroking batsman is light on his feet. With an amalgam of footwork, balance and timing, Jayawardene dazzled.

A man for the big occasion, Jayawardene innovated and created after Sangakkara had produced a polished 48 of technical finesse. Towards the end of the innings, Sri Lanka was powered by cameos from Kulasekera and Perera. India conceded 63 runs in the batting power play, taken from the 46th over.

Zaheer, who began the day with three immaculate maidens, suffered at the ‘death'. Yet, the left-armer was the outstanding bowler for India in the competition with his precision, two-way movement and change of pace.

Munaf, Harbhajan and Yuvraj were steady. And the Indian fielding, apart from the climactic phase of the innings, was exceptional with Raina and Yuvraj defying gravity.

At the end of it all, the Indians converged in a heap. It was a famous triumph.

This article was originally published in the Sportstar issue dated April 14, 2011.

The scores
  • World Cup final, Mumbai, April 2, 2011. India won by 6 wickets.
  • Sri Lanka: U. Tharanga c Sehwag b Zaheer 2, T. Dilshan b Harbhajan 33, K. Sangakkara c Dhoni b Yuvraj 48, M. Jayawardene (not out) 103, T. Samaraweera lbw b Yuvraj 21, C. Kapugedera c Raina b Zaheer 1, N. Kulasekara (run out) 32, T. Perera (not out) 22, Extras (b-1, lb-3, w-6, nb-2) 12. Total (for six wkts., in 50 overs) 274.
  • Fall of wickets: 1-17, 2-60, 3-122, 4-179, 5-182, 6-248.
  • India bowling: Zaheer 10-3-60-2, Sreesanth 8-0-52-0, Munaf 9-0-41-0, Yuvraj 10-0-49-2, Tendulkar 2-0-12-0, Kohli 1-0-6-0.
  • India: V. Sehwag lbw b Malinga 0, S. Tendulkar c Sangakkara b Malinga 18, G. Gambhir b Perera 97, V. Kohli c & b Dilshan 35, M. Dhoni (not out) 91, Yuvraj Singh (not out) 21, Extras (b-1, lb-6, w-8) 15. Total (for four wkts., in 48.2 overs) 277.
  • Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-31, 3-114, 4-223.
  • Sri Lanka bowling: Malinga 9-0-42-2, Kulasekara 8.2-0-64-0, Perera 9-0-55-1, Randiv 9-0-43-0, Dilshan 5-0-27-1, Muralitharan 8-0-39-0.