2011 World Cup: If India Has Succeeded, Expectations And Captured Great Moments > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - World Cup 2011: When India managed expectations and seized big moments
By 2011, India had grown into the financial powerhouse of the cricket world and success on the field was beginning to follow. Four years earlier it had made up for an ignominious exit from the 50-over World Cup by winning the inaugural T20 WC, an event that gave rise to the IPL. The following years saw India move to the top of the Test rankings, allowing a burgeoning fan base to dream of the possibility of becoming the first host nation to win the World Cup.
Gary Kirsten: We had enjoyed a great run in Test match cricket. Our one-day form was a little bit up and down, and we had just lost a series at home to Australia, but we knew that if we clicked, we had enough quality in the team to do something special. There was a lot of hype around the tournament because of it being in India, so from about 18 months beforehand we started using language in our team meetings about how we managed ourselves in those big moments and big games. There was a lot of confidence in MS Dhoni's leadership and we were flying in formation. When the World Cup came around it was probably good timing.
Zaheer Khan: The whole World Cup, I was looking forward to it, especially playing in front of the home crowd - even if it added that extra bit of pressure. I was preparing a new delivery that I wanted to use, which was the knuckle ball. I was working on it for a year leading up to the tournament. Even though I had perfected it, I was purposely not using it in any of the matches [before the tournament]. It got me a lot of success. When a plan like that works, it gives you extra satisfaction.
India's campaign began in Bangladesh, where they settled some early nerves with a comfortable win over their co-hosts. But thereafter the pressure of handling home expectations came to the fore.
Kirsten: We tried to pitch the tournament to the players as if the six weeks were about having as much fun as we could, and take advantage of the fact that it was a home World Cup. We were even able to let players go home during the tournament. It was very important for us that we never spoke about winning this event; rather just taking each game as it comes, as cliched as it sounds. It was less around holding the trophy aloft for the Indian people, and more about going on this journey with the Indian people.
Nike sponsored the team, and as part of their campaign there was a nice advert where there were random Indian people walking hand in hand with some of the players. The analogy was that we were crossing the line together, and we used that language quite a bit with the team - that we were going to cross the line together, rather than we had the burden of the expectations of a billion Indian fans on our shoulders, because that pressure was almost too much to bear on the team.
At the centre of those expectations was Sachin Tendulkar, who was playing in his sixth and final World Cup.
Kirsten: Where Sachin was really good was he played a role in the World Cup not being about him, which is a big thing in India because there is a real mentality around superstars and idolising them almost like gods. Sachin made sure that it was more about what we wanted to achieve as a group.
Tendulkar marked India's first home game with a masterful century to set England a target of 339, but Andrew Strauss' 158 set up a dramatic tie and left the hosts to reflect on a poor bowling performance.
Kirsten: I found throughout the World Cup that we were either batting really well or we were bowling really well, but never both together. I actually don't think we played that good cricket throughout the tournament, but we managed to win games without playing as well as we could, and I think that's always the mark of a great team.
After straightforward wins over Ireland and the Netherlands, Tendulkar sparkled once again as India took on South Africa in Nagpur. When his century saw India surge to 267 for one in the 40th over, the result looked a foregone conclusion. Yet his dismissal sparked a horrid collapse as India fell to 296 all out, a target that South Africa chased down in a last-over thriller.
Kirsten: I remember being very irritated about going away from our processes. There was probably a bit of arrogance where we thought we were just going to bang out a big number and took on too much risk, rather than play like we had set up to play, with everyone taking on the responsibility of getting us to where we needed to get to. Interestingly enough, when we got to the knockouts we did exactly that - we just played with real responsibility in those moments. That was a good wake-up call for us.
After a routine win over the West Indies, Australia were waiting in the quarter-finals. Although they had lost some of their aura in the previous years, having won the previous three World Cups they still commanded respect.
Zaheer: The most defining moment I'd say was the Australia match, though it was the first of the knockout matches. It was very important. Looking at their record, and history they have, especially with the World Cup, we knew that was going to be the most important match for us.
Kirsten: One of my main memories of that World Cup is around Yuvraj Singh. He was nearly not picked for the tournament, but he had been doing a lot of work prior to the event to get himself ready, and he came in and was a massive contributor with bat and ball. In the quarter-final against Australia we were 187 for five chasing 260 and we were in a spot of bother, and then Yuvi and Suresh Raina, who I think had only played one game prior to that, got us across the line with a great partnership.
India's semi-final was against Pakistan in Mohali, and anticipation spilled over into hysteria. Try as they might, the players could not isolate themselves from the hype.
Kirsten: It was a weird build-up - there was a lot of tension around an India-Pakistan semi-final. The Prime Minister of Pakistan was staying in our hotel. Breakfast closed early and the players couldn't order room service because there were so many other people ordering. We got to the ground late because there was a lot of traffic and there was no catering because the caterers were stuck behind the cavalcade of politicians.
We went in for our pre-match warm-up and a lot of the guys hadn't eaten. So there was a bit of chaos but we were good at managing that space. I felt that if we could get across the line in this one, where we really didn't play our best cricket at all, then we would be okay.
Zaheer: Even though we played Pakistan in the semis, we knew that by then the team is gelling well, we have the momentum with us and the belief is getting stronger and stronger.
Kirsten: We really stumbled our way to 260, which on that wicket was not enough in my view, and then bowled really well. That was probably our best bowling performance, where the seamers fired, Harbhajan Singh bowled well and we were able to restrict them.
The final took place at the Wankhede Stadium, where Mahela Jayawardene set the tone with a fine century - an ominous sign for India. Not once before that day had there been a centurion in the losing team of a World Cup final. But Zaheer Khan and the Indian bowlers, who restricted Sri Lanka to 274, felt they had done their job.
Zaheer: It was very hot and humid that day in Mumbai, and there was the pressure of a World Cup final. I remember at the end of the first innings, all of us were pretty much drained, especially the bowlers.
Kirsten: We had Ashish Nehra out, which was a big blow because his experience was important to us and he had bowled really well in the semis. Sri Lanka got a good total for a final and then we got off to a slow start.
Both Virender Sehwag and Tendulkar fell early, and Virat Kohli's exit after a decent stand with Gautam Gambhir gave Sri Lanka further hope.
Zaheer: As the batting innings was progressing, the pressure was obviously there. Once the partnerships were happening - between Gautam and Virat first, and then MS joined, superstition of the players who are usually in that mode was getting stronger and stronger. It was just about creating that positive energy, that belief that we've worked hard enough to get here.
One of the pivotal moments in the chase came when Dhoni promoted himself up the order, arriving at the crease with India on 114 for three.
Kirsten: In our thinking we had always had a fairly flexible batting order where we wanted to use certain guys in certain situations. MS was the guy we wanted to use from about 100 runs out to go and close a game for us, but we still needed 160 at that point. Yuvraj was going to go in next, but then we figured it might be a good idea to maintain a left-hand, right-hand combination. There was a lot of talk afterwards about why we changed to batting order, but it was just MS saying he would go in next if Virat got out.
He played the kind of innings that he has become renowned for, which is real composure under pressure, assessing the situation really well and playing according to that situation. He's still the best in the world at it in my view. Having not had a big tournament runs-wise, the moment arrived and he took it - that's what champions do.
After Dhoni famously sealed the match with a six, the victory celebrations began, with Tendulkar paraded on the shoulders of the players.
Zaheer: When you're playing a World Cup, it is always about winning it for your country, and then come the contributors to the game - those who have got Indian cricket there. Tendulkar has obviously been right up there, so that emotion [of winning the trophy for him] kicked in as we finished the win, because Tendulkar himself has mentioned that winning the World Cup was something which he would've been disappointed with if it hadn't happened in his career. I remember Virat saying, 'He's carried the burden of the team for 24 years, it was now about us carrying him and making him feel special by winning the World Cup.'
I remember no one left the stadium - that was a clear distinct memory for me. And the song Vande Maataram, which was playing right through the second innings, was also something which would give me goosebumps even now, when I think about it. The whole atmosphere in the stadium was outstanding. Going back to the hotel took a long time, which was understandable. The lobby was full of people, cheering us on, celebrating our win. I remember Marine Drive had become a big parking lot, but no one was complaining about it. Everyone was so happy and swamped with that emotion.
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