The World Cup returned to the subcontinent for its 10th edition after a span of 15 years in 2011. Pakistan’s hosting right was rescinded by the International Cricket Council (ICC) after the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, thereby making India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh co-hosts.
Besides the 10 Test nations; Ireland, Kenya, Canada and the Netherlands also qualified for the tournament after finishing among the top-four in the 2009 ICC World Cup Qualifier. The 14 teams were divided into two groups of seven with the top-four sides from each group advancing to the next stage. Unlike the previous editions, the Super Sixes or Eights stage was done away with and replaced by knock-out matches, starting with the quarter-final.
The eventual quarter-finalists were predictable with the top-ranked ODI sides expectedly progressing beyond the group stage. Having said that, it would be unfair to say that there weren’t any surprises and thrillers served up in the group stage itself.
India demolished Bangladesh in the tournament opener after Virender Sehwag’s breathtaking 175 off just 140 balls inspired the Men in Blue to an 87-run victory. India, in fact, were involved in quite a few entertaining contests like their tie against England at Bengaluru.
Speaking of close encounters, no team were involved in more close finishes than England in this edition. After the draw against India, England suffered a shocking loss against Ireland as Kevin O’Brien played a match-winning innings of 113 from 63 balls that helped his team successfully chase a stiff 300-plus target.
The Englishmen’s luck seemed to turn when they faced South Africa and overcame the Proteas in a low-scoring thriller that saw them successfully defend 171. However, their rollercoaster ride continued in the game against Bangladesh, which they lost after failing to defend 225. That said, they somehow managed to qualify for the quarter-final and took on Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka had looked strong in most of their group stage games, spearheaded by pace ace Lasith Malinga, who had claimed a hat-trick against Kenya earlier in the tournament to become the only player in World Cup history to take two hat-tricks. Their quarter-final clash against England saw them dominate from start to finish with both Sri Lankan openers scoring centuries and remaining unbeaten as they chased down the target comfortably. Sri Lanka went on to face New Zealand in the semi-finals after the Black Caps had beaten South Africa by 49 runs in their quarter-final clash.
India overcome Pakistan threat after knocking then holders Australia out
All eyes, though, were on the other semi-final with arch-rivals India and Pakistan destined to lock horns. The Men in Blue had overcome three-time defending champions Australia in the quarters thanks to fifties from Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh as well as a quickfire 34 by Suresh Raina. Pakistan, on the other hand, registered a comfortable 10-wicket win in their quarter-final encounter against West Indies, whose standout moment in the tournament was Kemar Roach’s hat-trick against the Netherlands.
When the semifinal between the two arch-rivals did eventually get underway, the nerves and tension was evident with a billion fans from both nations glued to the TV screen. India batted first and got to 260 before Pakistan fell 29 runs short in the chase. The win extended India’s winning run against Pakistan in World Cups to five and set up a date in the final against Sri Lanka. The Islanders had already qualified for the grand finale with a convincing win over New Zealand in their semi-final clash, which also happened to be Muttiah Muralitharan’s last home game.
Dhoni special in the World Cup 2011 final
The final witnessed MS Dhoni produce a captain’s knock after promoting himself above Yuvraj while chasing 275. Dhoni scored an unbeaten 91 from 79 balls after walking in at a pivotal juncture with the match on a knife’s edge. The early dismissals of Sehwag and Sachin were just what Sri Lanka wanted, but Gambhir and Virat Kohli’s crucial partnership steadied the ship. That partnership allowed Dhoni and Yuvraj to come in, take their time and settle down before finishing off the game quite comfortably in the end. It was India’s second World Cup triumph and the first after 28 years. Yuvraj was deservedly declared the Man of the Series for his consistent all-round displays, but it was even more special for Sachin, who finally got his hands on the elusive World Cup in his fifth attempt.