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Sunday, April 03, 2011

World Cup 2011 - India wins the 10th edition of World Cup

India with the 2011 World Cup (courtesy Yahoo ICC Cricket Site)
After a disastrous 2007 World Cup performance, the Indians have come back and won the 2011 World Cup with a great performance by the team, soaking in all the pressure. This was one of the qualities that the Indians have displayed throughout the Knock-out matches in this tournament - not letting the targets get into their mind but concentrating on the smaller sub-targets to get the scoreboard ticking. Sachin Tendulkar's sixth sojourn turned out to be lucky for him, even though he did not make a big contribution to the final game.

MS Dhoni's selections may not have worked always but he had the courage to accept his mistakes in public. The Lankans had made wholesale changes in the bowling attack, considering that the opposition was India. Kulasekara was brought in to swing the new ball as well as utilize his high strike-rate against Sehwag. But, the Mumbai pitch did not favor him at any time - his bowling turned out to be the right cannon-fodder for the batsmen, releasing the pressure that was being built by Malinga. Suraj Randiv was again preferred to Ajantha Mendis since the Indians had worked out the leg-spinner very well. Perera was brought in as he was in the similar mould as Angelo Matthews.

After the controversy in the toss, the match started on the right note for the Indians. Zaheer Khan, after his disastrous spell in 2003 final, had made up his mind to put the ball in the right place and ask questions to the opening pair of Sri Lanka. The openers, also, were reluctant to be more aggressive than usual because of the loss of confidence over their middle-order. The loss of Angelo Matthews hit them more and the openers were looking to keep wickets in hand more than run-scoring. The hesitation led to the dismissal of Tharanga by a good delivery by Zaheer. Sreesanth, as Ian Chappell had predicted in the pre-game show, was a gamble taken by Dhoni - not working as much as he had liked. Munaf Patel was brought in his place and very quickly MSD realized that he needed to get rid of Sreesanth's ten overs quickly.

Harbhajan was introduced and started to bowl in a strange round-of-wicket line mostly. Luckily, he got the prize wicket of Dilshan with the help of an inside edge. Dilshan's stay at the crease was largely uneventful, not the kind that he would have been proud of. Jaywardene walked into the crease then and started consolidating the innings in a way that is unique to him. He was scoring at run-a-ball without making a 'shot in anger' (as the commentators would say). Sangakkara has liked the Indian attack so much that he makes big scores very frequently - he seemed to be on his way to another big score before he got out to Yuvraj Singh. Again, the left-armer picking up a wicket to break the partnership, as he has done all tournament.

Samaraweera and Jayawardene conjured a fifty-plus partnership, keeping wickets in hand while rotating the strike. The Indian fielding so far had been really impressive, just like their performances in the earlier two matches. Dhoni had an additional fielder in the circle to cut out singles that would have been on offer. All this came to naught in the last 10 overs - the Lankans through Mahela, Kulasekara, Perera hit more than 90 runs to post a challenging target for the Indians. At the innings break, one felt that the Indians had given 30-40 runs more than what was on par. The pitch was not difficult but the pressure of chasing a target in the final would be high.

The final was another match where Dhoni knew that he had to answer the public for his selection of Sreesanth. His form was patchy but he decided to take the brave move of promoting himself ahead of the hot-favorite Yuvraj Singh. This was not only for the right-left combination but also because of Yuvi's well-documented record against spinners, especially Murali. What a master-stroke the promotion turned out to be - Dhoni combined very well with Gambhir after the early dismissals of Sachin/Sehwag to produce a partnership that kept the required rate under control without taking undue risks. Kohli had done his bit to settle the nerves once the openers had been dismissed till Dilshan took a wonderful one-handed catch to get him out. Gambhir has been orchestrating run-chases successfully many a time in the last 2 overs - this was the occasion when he could use all the learnings of those chases.   

Yuvraj Singh was regarded before the tournament as one of the biggest hitters of the ball and how truly he justified his reputation. He came into the crease when nearly fifty runs were required by India. Dhoni had whittled down the target considerably and all that was required was to stay till the last run was scored - nothing beyond Yuvraj's capability. The batting PowerPlay was a mixed experience for the Indians throughout the tournament and they rightly decided to keep it away until the last five overs of the innings. In the Batting Powerplay, Sangakkara relied more on Kulasekara than Murali (more so because of the dew) only for him to falter. Murali did not have a farewell that he expected, partly due to his injury and partly due to the dew factor.

The Indian team sounded confident even before the tournament and were very keen to get the victory for Sachin Tendulkar. The team was well-prepared before the tournament and that proved vital for them in the final analysis.


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