KARACHI: Billed as the Sachin Tendulkar swansong, the 2011 World Cup gave one billion followers of the little maestro unprecedented joy and a state of delirium that lasted for many days after the marvellous chase in the pulsating final at Mumbai against co-hosts Sri Lanka.
India also broke the 36 year-old voodoo of a host winning the World Cup, Sri Lanka had become the first co-host to win the tournament in 1996 but in reality hosted a mere two games.
MS Dhoni led his team like an absolute champion, absorbing the pressure of a billion expectations. His match winning innings in the final was a fitting finale; the monstrous six to seal the win just couldn’t have been executed any better.
The 2011 World Cup was the third to in the sub-continent. For the first time, Bangladesh were included as a co-host while terror ravaged Pakistan had to give up their hosting rights following the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009.
The sub-continental World Cup staged in 1987 was a huge success with some enthralling matches keeping the fans at the edge of their seats. The financial strength of the ‘Asian Block’ and the hospitable ties between India and Pakistan ensured a second World Cup in the region merely nine years later.
But the 1996 edition was more of a damp squib compared to the thrill of the 87 edition. The quarter-final format with only 12 teams meant a yawning overdose of inconsequential matches, most of them won only halfway through.
The 2011 World Cup once again returned to the predictable quarter-final format with 14 teams divided into two groups but the presence of Bangladesh and the emergence of Ireland provided some respite to the fans.
The eventual quarter-final line-up though remained the same as 96 yet teams like England, West Indies and New Zealand had to fight for every inch of their way to the knock out stage.
In the quarter-finals, South Africans choked for the fifth time in six editions, succumbing to a slew of New Zealand tweakers at Mirpur.
An aging Ricky Ponting led Australian team finally relinquished their iron grip on World Cup silverware; bowing out against the Indian juggernaut in the second quarter-final.
In a repeat of the mayhem in the 96 quarter-final at Faisalabad, the Englishmen were put out of their misery, courtesy a shellacking by Sri Lanka at Colombo.
While a shell-shocked West Indians were ‘spun out’ by Pakistan in the first match of the last-eight stage. New Zealand’s joy was also short-lived as the Lankan Lions pummelled them into submission in a lop-sided semi-final.
Pakistan in 2011
Before the commencement of the tournament, Pakistan were wounded by a string of setbacks, including the spot-fixing scandal and the loss of the rights of hosting the event. But the combination of coach Waqar Younis and captain Shahid Afridi transformed the mercurial men in green into serious contenders.
The conditions in Sri Lanka where Pakistan played their group games helped greatly. Afridi himself had a dream tournament, picking up 21 wickets along the way. But limp batting remained the achilles heel; not even a single century was scored from a line-up that included the likes of Muhammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Younus Khan, Misbahul Haq, Asad Shafiq, Kamran Akmal, Abdul Razzaq and Afridi.
Shoaib Akhtar’s retirement on the eve of the group stage clash against Australia gave birth to rumours of a fractious squad; Akhtar’s ambition of leaving the game on a high was dealt a body blow when the think tank left him out of the quarter-final clash against the West Indies.
The playing eleven that caned the Caribbean Kings was retained for the mother of all battles; the semi-final against India. A fuming Akhtar was left to cool his heels on the side-lines with his dream of a final showdown with Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Co shattered.
However, Wahab Riaz, who was chosen ahead of Akhtar, didn’t disappoint at Mohali’s PCA stadium. For perhaps the only time in his roller coaster career to date, Wahab looked menacing every time he ran in. The five-for on a benign wicket remains his best effort in the ODI format, but his fire and fury failed to fully douse the spark of the Indian batting that posted 260.
Pakistan’s perennial problems with chasing a score of a decent proportion came to haunt them again and even the presence of the country’s leadership failed to spur them on. Chasing a very gettable target, a spineless performance restricted Afridi’s men to 231.
Misbahul Haq’s painstaking 56 off 76 balls summed up the ineptness of a batting line-up that found the enormity of the occasion well beyond their reach.
Tendulkar failed to fire in the final in his Mumbai backyard yet finished the tournament as the second highest run-getter with a tally of 482 runs at an average of 53.55.
India’s icy cool batsmen, led by Dhoni himself, fashioned out a fantastic win, and even the bowlers generally perceived as cannon fodder for the opposition delivered consistently against all major teams.
A wait of 28-years ended on April 2, 2011. On that day, India firmly established their credentials as the masters of the ODI game.
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