In 2011, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and Pakistan were selected to be the initial hosts for the quarterly showpiece event of limited over cricket. Pakistan due to “uncertain security situation” lost the rights of organizing the tournament. Among three others Bangladesh was hosting it for the first time.
The Show Begins
There were ten full ICC member nations and four Associate members (Canada, Kenya, Ireland, Netherlands) participating in the tournament. 14 teams were divided into two groups. Group A had Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Canada, and Kenya. Group B was shared among India, South Africa, England, West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland, and the Netherlands.
Pakistan were the topper in the Group A chart followed by Sri Lanka, Australia, and New Zealand. In the case of Group B South Africa finished the list followed by India, England and West Indies. Bangladesh, the third co-host ended at 5th place in Group B and as a result, was they were eliminated from the tournament from the group stage unlike 1999.
The Journey to Final
The quarter-final stage was tough for the host countries. Pakistan faced West Indies and India had to face the defending champions Australia. Pakistan comfortably clinched victory over the Windies by 10 wickets. Indian managed a convincing win too against the mighty Aussies which meant Australia were out of the tournament. Australia’s supremacy in Cricket World Cup was finally ended and that too by a side which since 2001 had often surprised the yellow army.
New Zealand- South Africa clashed in the third quarter-final and New Zealand totally thrashed the Proteas. The fourth quarter-final saw Sri Lanka sending England back to home. This technically meant that three host countries made it to the top four.
The first semi-final was between Sri Lanka and New Zealand. The Lankans comfortably chased down the total of 217 for the loss of five wickets and went to the final for the consecutive second time. Lasith Malinga and Ajanta Mendis ran through the Kiwi lineup by picking up three wickets each.
The second semi-final was undoubtedly the most exciting and hyped match of the entire tournament; the traditional India-Pakistan rivalry on the field. Incidentally, the match was played in Punjab, a state of military importance for the neighbours. Sachin Tendulkar again showed his class against Pakistan and scored a delightful 85. Indian won the match and went to the finale after eight years.
Sri Lanka was a tough contender and had their performance four years back as their plus point. India had a team full of dreams and passions. Indians had by then won their only World Cup in 1983. 2003 final was a nightmare for every India. Finally, they managed to get another opportunity to fulfill the dreams they had been chasing for 28 years. India had one more reason to make this finale work. Sachin Tendulkar, the legend who had immense contribution towards the growth of cricket in India.
Jayawardene’s 103 helped Sri Lanka to justify their decision of batting first. He was well supported by the skipper Kumar Sangakkara (48), and a few more mid-range scores from the teammates. Sri Lanka scored 274/6. Incidentally, the senior members of the team from 2003 final, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, and Yuvraj Singh picked up five wickets and Kulasekara was run out by MS Dhoni.
It was not a huge target but not very easy well, especially with Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan in the opponent side. And Malinga proved it by taking Virender Sehwag for a golden duck. India were 0/1. Sachin followed Sehwag with the scoreboard showing 31/2 in 6.1 overs. The target was getting tougher. Then Gautam Gambhir along with Virat Kohli (35) started the recovery. Post Kohli the skipper walked it and hit a calculated unbeaten 91. Gambhir scored 97 runs before getting out in 42nd over. India were on 223/4 and Dhoni was joined by Yuvraj who contributed with a 21-ball 24. Dhoni hit a six to win the title for India with ten balls remaining.
For the Lankans, it was tough as it was their second consecutive loss. It was also Muttiah Muralitharan’s last ODI. For India, it was one of the most memorable moments. For Tendulkar that was the last World Cup and he won it in front of his home crowd in Mumbai.