On this day: India witness their greatest sporting moment of the 21st century


‘And Dhoni finishes off it style, India lift the World Cup after 28 years and it has been an Indian captain who has been magnificent in the night of the final,’ Ravi Shastri said from the commentary box of the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on April 2, 2011. That night the whole of Mumbai partied along with the Indian cricket team, while the rest of India partied on their own. MS Dhoni and his men had pulled off an incredible win which is arguably the greatest sporting moment for Indians in the 21st century.

A day to remember

There was a massive build-up to this moment. The Indian team, which was one of the best sides in the world leading into the 2007 Cricket World Cup, were disqualified from the first round itself. However, within six months of that terrible upset, India bounced back, winning the inaugural T20 World Cup. But, the wounds of the 2007 World Cup felt fresh. It was almost like the team had failed at the biggest stage, with the biggest stars.

As it turned out, legends like Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble were only left with World Cup silver medals. However, the rest of the heroes of the 2003 World Cup final finish, accompanied by some young stars were set on their way to a home World Cup. The occasion couldn’t have been any bigger. And Dhoni’s men delivered one more time.

Having lost the toss after a major confusion by the match referee, India were forced to bowl first. At the time, Sri Lanka might have been quite happy. Chasing at the Wankhede wasn’t the best option until then. It was only post that World Cup when defending totals at the stadium became a huge ask for the bowler.

A superb chase

Mahela Jayawardene played a superb knock of 103 runs from just 88 balls. His innings would go down as one of the best to have been played in a World Cup match. Sri Lanka posted 274 on the board. For India to win the World Cup, they had to pull off the highest successful run chase in a final ever. But, Lasith Malinga’s opening spell ensured that both Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar were back in the pavilion before the end of the powerplay.

Virat Kohli joined Gautam Gambhir to rebuild India’s innings. Against the run of play, Kohli got out in the 22nd over, leaving Gambhir waiting for his new partner at the crease. Dhoni, who had an average record in the tournament until then, decided to promote himself ahead of the man in form, Yuvraj Singh. The ploy worked perfectly. Dhoni manipulated the strike and kept the pressure on the Lankan bowlers.

Gambhir was unlucky to be dismissed for 97, but Yuvraj joined his captain in the middle with India needing 52 runs from as many balls. The pair didn’t need all those deliveries as they finished the chase with 10 balls to spare. The image of Dhoni hitting that six has remained iconic and will stay that way in the years to come. It was only fitting that Dhoni and Yuvraj, who had been pillars of this Indian team were at the crease when this moment happened.

The moment of dream

It was also the day when Sachin Tendulkar realised his childhood dream. The Indian team rallied around the dream and delivered a special gift to the Master Blaster. Tendulkar himself lighted up the tournament with his magnanimous knocks. His World Cup tally of 2278 runs remains the highest in the tournament’s history. The golden day finished when Tendulkar’s teammates carried him on their shoulders and paraded around the boundary. The moment later received the prestigious Laureus Sporting Moment Award (2000-2020).