The year 2011 was special for aficionados of the game of cricket like me – a moment that we all had been waiting for since eternity finally turned into a reality. This was the year when India won the coveted World Cup. The emotion that fans like me went through probably cannot be explained in words.
What former India cricketer and TV commentator Ravi Shastri said when Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit a six to complete the winning runs and seal the six-wicket victory over Sri Lanka, still resonates in my ears - <i>and India lift the world after 28 years.</i> India also became the first country to win the coveted trophy on their home soil.
An inspired India, a nerve-wrecking final, a cool and determined captain leading from the front, Man of the Series Yuvraj Singh in his best form, Sachin Tendulkar’s last outing in the World Cup and a team full of self-belief like never before – it was the perfect script. The win was sweeter because we defeated Australia to whom we had lost in the WC finals in 2003 and Pakistan against whom this was the 5th straight win in five matches in WC, along the way. Can I dare say – God was on our side this time around.
And yes – a word about the man who worked behind the scenes and stayed away from the limelight – South African Gary Kirsten, the coach of the Indian team till the World Cup tournament - the only emotion I saw on his face was when MSD heaved that magical six.
Former Pakistan captain and a great of the game, Imran Khan, summed it up well when he told a TV channel, “It is not that India suddenly came up to win the World Cup. There is a reason why they won it. They have been on the rise in the last few years. They have the all-round depth. India's World Cup victory was no fluke."
The journey to the World Cup has also been fulfilling. India’s climb to the top of the ICC Test rankings was sealed on December 6, 2009 after they humiliated the Sri Lankans by an innings and 24 runs in the third and final Test in Mumbai, to win the series 2-0.
Before that there was the drawn series Down Under when Sourav Ganguly was the captain, historic series win in Pakistan in 2003-04 and win in Tests in England and Pakistan in 2007 and 2009. And yes, India ruled at home too.
There were some sad moments too. The 2003 and 2007 World Cups are some of those moments. And also, we are still considered lions at home and bad travellers abroad.
Anyways … 2011 saw a good beginning when India drew the third Test with South Africa on their home turf in the first week of January to level the series 1-1 and came back to the country undefeated.
Nonetheless, the year which saw India triumph at the World Cup, also saw the world champions being humiliated when they toured the English soil in the summer. Personally for me, it was one of the worst moments as a fan. India has been thrashed badly on foreign grounds earlier too. Remember the 3-0 defeat that we suffered at the hand of the Aussies in 1999-2000 series. But this hurt a bit more.
India failed to win even a single game in England – India lost all the four Tests with only one similarity – only the margin of defeat got bigger – something that even the captain Mahendra Singh himself admitted in one of the post-match ceremonies.
Andrew Strauss, the England captain, added insult to injury stating, “We’ve been pretty clinical.”
Yes, Indian players were not match-fit, yes they were plagued by injuries and yes they were emotionally and physically tired after an exhausting World Cup. Still, the defeat rankled.
What was worse, India lost the top ranking in Tests to the host-nation after being at the helm for nearly 20 months.
But the year ended on a sweet note – Virender Sehwag blasted his way to the record books by smashing 219 against the West Indies at Indore in the one-day games. Incidentally, he broke his idol Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 200 runs.
<i>Post Script:</i> As we enter the New Year, let us look forward to many more special moments from our Men in Blue. Nonetheless, there is one aspect of the game that the BCCI and the ICC have to address urgently. Please for heaven’s sake, stop the mindless matches that are being played and organised all year round. The fatigue of overkill with Test matches, ODIs, T20s and IPL is fast setting in among the spectators. The falling TV ratings and the empty stands are a testimony to that. As the saying goes - please don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.