Grand event of World Cup Finals between India and Sri Lanka on 2nd April 2011 at Wankhade Stadium, Mumbai.
I was seated on a couch in the Garware Pavilion adjacent to the players’ dressing room. On this day, I could not have expected to be seated anywhere better in the universe.
I was one of the five winners of ‘World Cup Ka Hero’ for the Finals in 2011, a lucky draw, sponsored by Castrol out of the participants from all over India. We were entertained for 3 days prior to the match. A suite at a 5-star hotel and a car at my disposal with an armed body-guard!
The night before the final, we attended an entertainment program – a fantastic, huge event, which I understand was at a budget of Rs.20,00,00,000. The gathering included celebrities, past and present cricket players and personalities from all over the world. It was a grand 3-hour show.
On the day of the match, I was escorted to the stadium through the VIP entrance, an hour and a half before the start of the match. Two seats in the center of the pavilion were replaced by a cushioned couch – a throne of sorts – for me. Around my couch were three cheerleaders from East Europe, two on each side and one in front; a security guard behind me. Adequate food and drinks were stocked at my disposal.
It was toss time. We were escorted to the ground, very close to the spot where the toss would be conducted. We were introduced to the crowd in the stadium on the public address system and were asked to cheer the crowd. It was an amazing life-time experience and the entire stadium responded with a deafening sound. An unimaginable atmosphere.
The crowd of course, wanted India to win the toss. Toss proved to be a confusing event. Dhoni spun the coin and the Sri Lankan skipper called. We did not know who won the toss. In the loud noise, the umpire could not hear the call. There was a discussion and it was decided to toss the coin for the second time! This time Sri Lanka won the toss and opted to bat first.
India started well with first 3 overs from Zaheer proving to be maidens. Indians controlled well till the 40th over permitting Sri Lanka to score around 180 for 5. One ‘not out’ by umpire went for review and was given ‘out’ to the cheers of the crowd. However in the last 5 overs, India gave away an average of 12 runs per over, obviously not to the liking of the crowd. India was left to chase a total of 274
At the lunch break we were taken out to the pitch through a tough multi-layered security system. We were asked to cheer the crowd again. It was an electrifying atmosphere with Indian flags all around and variety of loud sounds.
It was a huge total to defend, the highest in any World Cup final. To India’s bad luck, Sehwag fell for lbw in the second ball for a duck. India was at 1 down for 0 runs. The crowd hissed. “Shooooo” was the crowd when Gambhir was dropped right in the beginning of his innings.
The crowd was hoping 100th century from Sachin Tendulkar to come to the rescue. Alas! Tendulkar went out soon at a small score of 18. The crowd went completely silent! Suddenly the exciting match started looking boring. Kohli was slowly trying to pick the reins up but soon got out.
Meanwhile, Gambhir made good use of the life he got and continued to bat steadily. As it looked like he would score his century in the next ball by scoring to the ropes, he went for a lofty shot and that was his end. We as an audience were confused – do we sympathise with him for missing his century or applaud him for his valuable 97?
It was all Dhoni and Yuvraj thereafter. India now needed 28 runs in 22 balls. It was the 49th over when Dhoni hit the unforgettable sixer to win the World Cup. Winning Sixer by Dhoni!
I could see tears of joy from many of the Indian players and fans alike. The rest of the team carried Gary Kirsten and Sachin around the stadium on their shoulders. There was joy and celebration everywhere. The fire crackers all around seemed louder and brighter than ever. The stadium continued to remain crowded till almost an hour after the end of the match. Security was extremely tight. After the presentation ceremony, the crowd invaded the pitch. Many Indian cricket lovers were kissing the ground. Some of them collected the dust from the pitch to carry it home.
I, World Cup Ka Hero, was presented mementos, all autographed by Sachin Tendulkar – a mini ball, mini silver-finish bat, a cap, two T-shirts and a coffee mug. The mug also had pictures of Sachin.
None of us had had enough. So the electrifying atmosphere shifted to the roads after the match – people jumping, dancing with slogans cheering the Indian team, Dhoni and Sachin. Many Mumbaites came out with cars to get a glimpse of the Indian team at their hotel. The queue ran from the Gateway of India to Khar, a distance of about 18-20 km.
It was a night when I did not want to go back to my bed! An experience I would never forget in my life!
Last week when India defeated Pakistan in their first 2015 world cup match, it took me back to the experience of the last World Cup final. Let us all hope, the Indian Team comes true to our expectations this time too!
Experienced and Written By: Badri Baldawa