On This Day: ‘Dhoni finishes it off in style’ - India end 28 years of World Cup heartbreak

India, under the captaincy of MS Dhoni, finally ended a 28-year wait as they won the ICC Cricket World Cup by beating Sri Lanka in the final.

MS Dhoni file photo, Image credit: Facebook/MS Dhoni
By Siddharth vishwanathan | Apr 2, 2021 | 4 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

It was a moment that gave joy to 1.3 billion Indians. Nuwan Kulasekara, the Sri Lanka pacer, ran in to bowl to MS Dhoni. There was tremendous anticipation for the thousands at the Wankhede stadium. Kulasekara bowled a length ball on middle and off. Dhoni, the Indian skipper, wound up and launched the ball high over wide long on. The ball sailed into the stands for a six and there was tremendous eruption of joy. After 28 long years, the heartbreak was over. The Indian cricket team had finally won the ICC Cricket World Cup tournament by beating Sri Lanka in the final in Mumbai.

April 2, 2011 will be etched in the minds of the Indian cricket fan as the day the nation reached the zenith of happiness. There had been plenty of heartbreaks ever since Kapil Dev’s team put India on the cricketing map in 1983 when they defeated the mighty West Indies in Lord’s. The pain of the semi-final loss at home in 1987 to England and the horror of the league elimination in 1992 in Australia hurt the fans. India was knocked out by Sri Lanka in the semi-final at Kolkata in the 1996 World Cup. At that time, the Eden Gardens crowd turned on their own team.

In 1999, poor team performances overshadowed individual brilliance. In 2003, India could not withstand the Australian juggernaut. However, in 2007, India reached an all-time low when they failed to reach the knock-out stages. That loss, though, served as the catalyst for something greater. In 2007, there was a change in leadership.

Changing of the guard

Dhoni, hailing from Ranchi, took the mantle and the fortunes changed. India won the ICC World T20 in South Africa. India scaled the summit of the Test rankings. From the early loss in Trinidad in 2007 to the first match in Dhaka in 2011, Indian cricket had laid a base for their glory which would culminate in the brilliance of April 2.

Heading into the World Cup, India were confident. They had drawn a Test series in South Africa for the first time. India gave the Proteas an almighty scare in the ODI series as they lost 2-3. Yet, they were in a good frame of mind. 

In the first match against Bangladesh in Dhaka, Virender Sehwag smashed 175 and was aided by Virat Kohli who hit a ton on World Cup debut. India won the match comfortably and they took their revenge on Bangladesh, who had defeated them in 2007. 

Some hiccups, but redemption

In the second match against England, the match was the ultimate humdinger. Sachin Tendulkar hit a brilliant century and India made 338. However, Sir Andrew Strauss made 158 and England seemed on course for an upset win. Zaheer Khan, though, had other ideas. His three wickets in the fag end got India back in the contest. Ravi Bopara hit some big blows but India held on as the match ended in a tie.

Sachin Tendulkar finally won a World Cup as he added another feather to his cap.After that game, India managed to win easily against Netherlands and Ireland but they crashed to a three-wicket loss to South Africa. In that Nagpur match, Tendulkar scored his 99th international ton but India lost nine wickets for 29 runs. India once again collapsed in the game against West Indies in Chennai. However, they went on to win the match comfortably.

Getting better in the knockouts

In an electrifying atmosphere against Australia in Ahmedabad, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh showed their class. In that quarterfinal, Ricky Ponting’s century was undone by the determination of the Indian team. India finally beat Australia after 24 years. The four-time champions were eliminated from the tournament. In the semi-final against Pakistan in Mohali, Tendulkar was dropped four times but he could not hit a century. His 85 and some contributions from the lower order helped India to a good total.

The bowling was spot on as India prolonged Pakistan’s pain in World Cups, beating them by 29 runs. In the final, there was plenty at stake. The loss of 1996 and the heartbreak of 2007. In Mumbai, the stage was payback.

The joyous final

Mahela Jayawardene hit a century as Sri Lanka reached 274/6. India lost Sehwag and Tendulkar cheaply to Lasith Malinga. However, in stepped Dhoni at No.5. The Indian skipper’s previous highest was 34. In a high-pressure situation, he decided to lead from the front. 

Along with Gautam Gambhir, he shared a 109-run stand. Slowly but surely, India was heading to the finish line. Gambhir fell for 97 but he had done his job. Just like he did in the 2007 World T20 final when he hit 75 and got India over the line. But, Dhoni showed his finishing brilliance and when he launched Kulasekara for a six, the nation erupted in joy. India won the World Cup after 28 years. They also became the first team to win the World Cup as hosts.

The 2011 World Cup triumph laid the foundation for India to be a cricketing superpower. It gave the country belief that nothing was impossible. Dhoni would go on to win the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013. This made Dhoni the only captain to win all three major ICC trophies. 10 years on, the memories are still fresh. 10 years on, the joy still remains.

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