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S U N DAY H I N D U STA N T I M E S , N E W D E L H I APRIL 03, 2011

| a billion dreams |

sport | 19
champ speak

Winning the World Cup is the proudest moment of my life. Thanks to my teammates. I couldnt control my tears of joy...

Suresh Raina dives full length in pursuit of the ball in the final against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Saturday.


Field of dreams at Wankhede

ON THE MONEY Criticised for being too slow on the field, India saved their best for the biggest game of their lives
lead up to the knock-out stage. BEST SHOW They put up a decent display against Australia in the quarters and the semis against Pakistan, but they reserved their best for the final. On big grounds and quick outfields of the subcontinent, it was be a big factor and MS Dhoni's players finally showed the right technique, swiftness and speed to make Sri Lanka work hard for each run. The margin for error is very limited and every run will count as we saw in the semifinal against Pakistan, who paid the price for their profligacy on the field. Given that the two finalists were so evenly matched, every run was going to count; and the Indian fielders did everything

Sanjjeev K Samyal


It was the same team which had been embarrassed by almost everyone for its fielding during the tournament. They faced the ignominy against even the minnows of the World Cup. Skipper MS Dhoni had even admitted it was his team's grey area. "Fielding is not one of our strengths and games like these make you understand that more. If we had fielded slightly better, we could have won by at least one run. If it was a different fielding side, we could have won for sure," Dhoni had said during the league phase. But when the big games came, the Men in Blue raised their intensity level to put up a display worthy of champions. On Saturday, India let it slip in the final 10 overs of the innings, but for the better part of the game they were simply outstanding on the field. India's performance in ground fielding, catching, throwing and scoring direct hits had left much to be desired in the

to save whatever they could. Most impressive was the offside ring manned by Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli. The three were absolutely electric and gave nothing away. The performances of the three were a big factor in building pressure on Sri Lankan opener Tillakaratane Dilshan. He was not allowed to target his favourite point and backward point areas.

THE BEST Yuvraj rolled back a few years and was diving, sprinting at everything at point. Raina showed quicksilver reflexes at covers and Kohli was bubbling with energy at extra cover. Equally heartening was the performance of seniors like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan. Sehwag set the tempo with a brilliant catch at first slip to dismiss Upul Tharanga and then Sachin Tendulkar brought the Wankhede roof down by sprinting from the point fence to third man to dive and cut down a Mahela Jayawardene late cut. At the North Stand end, Zaheer provided Yuvraj the perfect cover by doing a great job at the third man fence. His standout moment was in the eighth over when he ran sideways and dived full stretch to stop a Dilshan cut shot. It was not one of the most stylish stops, given their lack of athleticism, but the intent was heartening and the 15-20 runs saved made the difference in the end.

Captain Courageous!
Sanjjeev K Samyal

This is a special moment to me, my teammates and India. I want to dedicate this award (Man-of-thetournament) to my guruji.

MUMBAI: Coming into the game,

Little man stands tall for India

Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

he was the only batsman from his team who was under pressure. By his standards, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had had a poor World Cup with the bat. Hence, when he walked out to bat at the most crucial stage of the Indian innings, at the fall of Virat Kohli on 114 for 3 in 21.4 overs, it was a very bold statement from someone not in good nick. Dhoni's success has been based on taking the bull by the horns, and in the end it was only fitting that when his team made history he led them from the front. At the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday, the Indian captain lived up to his reputation as one of the greats of the game, a true big match player, with an innings of great maturity at the grandest stage. Dhoni had the depth in his batting armoury to do it even if he failed, but he knew personally that it would have taken away something from the epic victory.

Though there had been a good recovery by Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli, it was anybody's game when Dhoni arrived at the crease. The Indian skipper went on to dismantle the Sri Lankan bowling step by step to take the game away from Muralitharan & Co., powering India to their biggest one-day triumph in 28 years. It was only natural to feel the pressure, but if he was indeed feeling the heat, there were no

signs. He has always emphasised the need for the captain to show the way when the going gets tough and there was not a better example than his brilliant effort in the final. Dhoni had aggregated just 162 runs coming into the game and there were a few eyebrows raised when he walked inahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh. In a few overs, the intention was clear. Apart from having a leftright combination with Gautam Gambhir, at that moment Lanka's ace spinner Muralitharan was operating and, by cricketing logic, he did not want to expose the lynchpin of his batting, Yuvraj, straight up against the offie. He was better equipped to play Muralitharan, having kept wicket to him for three seasons at Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League and having batted against him at the nets. Given the weight of expectations, no other team might have faced such pressure. All along the Indian captain said, he saw the pressure as a chance to create an opportunity.

All credit goes to Sachin Tendulkar. We played for him. Beating Australia and Pakistan and now this, its a dream come true.

It means the world to me. I have been part of the three World Cups. This cup is for the people. Love you India!


Gautam Gambhir was not even two years old when Kapil Dev led India to the World Cup in 1983 and trigger a new passion for the game in India. After Saturday, Gambhir will have abiding memories of the new triumph, and his name will be embedded in the hearts of a billion fans for ending a 28-year wait. Indian cricket has experienced many high points in the last few years. Climbing to the No. 1 ranking in Test cricket, the world T20 title in 2007 and ripping apart Australia's status as invincibles - there were quite a few achievements to go; but there was one big and significant void. Following the most momentous day of Gambhir's eight-year international career, that wait has ended. India in the World Cup meant heartbreaks for their fans since the day they lost the 1987 semi-final against England. Appropriately, Gambhir chose the right place to end the jinx. It was at the Wankhede Stadium 24 years ago that a

Gautam Gambhir en route to a match-winning 97 against Sri Lanka in Mumbai on Saturday. SANTOSH HARHARE / HT PHOTO

dream was shattered, by England. When the World Cup revisited this home venue of Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar, another little master in the making rose to the occasion. Gambhir too is a diminutive man who rose to the occasion with determination

and focus. The Indian chase was looking wobbly following the fall of Sehwag and Tendulkar and from the first ball he faced, Gambhir gave the impression he was out there to grab this chance to cement his place in one of the most glorious pages in the history of Indian cricket.

Realising the need of the hour and cutting the characteristic frills of his batting, Gambhir was a picture of head down and bat straight in the beginning, knowing that spending time in the middle was the best way to revive Indian hopes. After doing that, he went on to play one of the best anchor roles in the history of World Cup finals. A rush of blood denied him a shot at bigger glory that could have come in the form of a century but he had put his team on course before that happened. Not the perfect end from a personal perspective, but one that Gambhir wouldn't mind.

Zak shakes off shackles of the past

Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

MUMBAI: Zaheer Khan drowned

the demons of 2003 in the Arabian Sea on Saturday. That World Cup final against Australia in Johannesburg was a nightmare and despite having a mixed day as a bowler on Saturday, he put the past to rest for ever. An understudy of Javagal Srinath eight years ago and the leader of the India pace attack now, Zaheer looked to bury the past by bowling three maiden overs on the trot, which is a rare feat. The last three overs cost him 44, but he would take it, for his team had the last laugh. It didn't matter in the end that Zaheer did not have the best of days despite a

Zaheer Khan celebrates the dismissal of Chamara Kapugedara. SANTOSH HARHARE / HT

memorable start. Overcoming a groin problem and leading a fragile attack from the front, his role in the triumph was important. Zaheer's 2003 campaign had come to a disastrous end. Sourav Ganguly had elected to field on that day in the hope that his fast bowlers would exploit the overcast conditions. Zaheer, however, got it wrong from the first ball, being called for overstepping. He bowled 10 deliveries to complete the over

as more no-balls and wides followed. The over cost him 15 runs, his first three yielded 29 and he finally settled for none for 67 in seven overs. Saturday started with the promise of a turnaround. After the three maiden overs, during which saw just a bye and legbye, Zaheer got Upul Tharanga with one that bounced a bit more to surprise the batsman, who tried in vain to get his bat away at the last moment. After an amazing first spell that read 5-3-6-1, Zaheer gave away an acceptable eight runs in his next two overs and MS Dhoni couldn't be faulted for bringing on his main bowler for three of the last five overs, which incidentally, also constituted the batting Powerplay. That was the period when Zaheer lost it and so did India. Starting the Powerplay at 211 for five, Sri Lanka rocketted to 274 with Zaheer bearing the brunt. The late surrender to the Sri Lanka batsmen threatened to be costly but became meaningless as the end was exhilarating.