April 2, 2011 is a day no Indian is likely to forget in a long, long time.
When Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit Nuwan Kulasekara for that now iconic six over long on, India became cricket’s world champions for the second time. For many people, it was no surprise as India was clearly one of the most balanced teams of the tournament. For other people, it was the fulfillment of a lifetime of waiting and a decade of promise – while in 2003 we were mutilated at the post by one of the greatest innings of all time, we were embarrassed in 2007. But 2011 was different and very few will deny India the title – they fought hard, they looked a team, they kept their cool during some tough matches, had some outstanding individual performances and, when it mattered the most, the skipper stepped up.
The odds were against India in the final, alright. No Mahela Jayawardhena ODI ton has resulted in a loss for Sri Lankans. No century in a final ended up on the losing side. Only one of nine finals had the chasing side victorious. No team had ever won in front of a home audience. And once India was 31/2, having lost 2003 final top scorer Virender Sehwag and talisman and local legend Sachin Tendulkar, it very well looked like Sangakarra would have an extra bit of luggage to declare at Colombo customs.
The story of MS Dhoni, not exactly in form, having the gall to promote himself ahead of the man of the tournament, Yuvraj Singh, and going on and scoring a scintillating 91 will be one told to future generations in the same breath as those of Alexander the Great.
The 2011 win, was, without doubt, Indian cricket’s biggest moment in 2011. Not that there was too much competition. A magnificent Test win at Durban and Virender Sehwag’s epochal 219 world record aside, 2011 will be remembered otherwise for the 0-4 drubbing at the hands of the English, and the beginning of a similar scoreline Down Under.
But, to me, personally – the April 02 2011 victory will be number two not just chronologically, but also in significance to the first time we won – in 1983. Why?
Much of the glory of the world cup victory was taken away, ironically, by a tournament that has cemented India’s position as the global epicenter of cricket – the IPL. Just 6 days after MS Dhoni hit that six, he was captaining the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL4 opener. Now, that didn’t even give the nation time to savour the victory! Immediately after that we
headed off to the West Indies, and then by the time Alastair Cook was grafting his way to 294, we forgot all about the World Cup win.
Contrast this with 1983, where, after the win in late June, the next match was played in September. A stunned Indian public had almost three months to soak in the glory and that just added to the legend of an unexpected win.
Another reason why 1983 was more significant was in terms of what it did to the dynamics of the game. The Indian public - whose sheer numbers can achieve anything from economic tectonics to mass uprisings that can unsettle any dictator – grew hungrier for the game and with money and television pouring in, the next world cup was held in India. A few years later, Sachin Tendulkar started playing international cricket and this happily coincided with the opening up of the economy. Jagmohan Dalmiya then happened. It was a confluence of many such things that led to India become a cricketing superpower before Virender Sehwag made a century on debut and before Lalit Modi knew 20-20 was something other than perfect eyesight.
The 2011 win, as magnificent as it was, doesn’t have the power to change anything in world cricket dynamics, the way 1983 did. Systems and tournaments are already in place, India already is a superpower to the extent of being a bully and T20 tournaments happily happen oblivious of who the ODI champion is.
The last reason is sheer romanticism. 2011 was a fantastic journey – the matches against West Indies, the passion behind the Australia win, and the ballsy performance in the final itself! But when you rewind 28 years – and think about Kapil Dev’s legendary 175 when India was 17/5, the fact that we were shot out for 183 and were no-hopers against a rampaging West Indies in the finals, that magical delivery by Balwinder Sandhu, that magnificent catch by Kapil, the sheer disbelief on the faces of the winners after it all! Noone thought India could win, and here they were, plucking out stumps after last man Holding fell to Mohinder Amarnath! 2011 seems positively engineered in contrast!
But let’s leave history aside – because when Kulasekara pounded in to bowl the 2nd ball of the 49th over, and the camera just panned away from a beat but still wide-eyed Sanga, the Indian captain coolly blasted a maximum (not a DLF one, thankfully) and spun his bat like he’d practiced it, and Ravi Shastri bellowed, “And DHOOOO-ni finishes it in style!”, an entire nation went bonkers, celebrated deep into the night and left Sunday to relieve themselves of hangovers.
And that day might get only a silver medal overall, but it sure as hell is the best day that Indian cricket has had last year.