India started as favorites. Again. Today India are the World Champions. No, this is not a belated April Fool's joke.
Remember Mahela Jayawardene. At one point I was telling myself 'Jayawardene has just won Sri-Lanka the world cup'. It was an outstanding innings. Full of class. Those delicate late cuts and purely timed cover drives could only be watched in admiration. A world cup final century that transformed a mediocre score into a winning score. He had help of course. Perera and Kulasekara played superbly, as did Sangakarra. This was all after Zaheer Khan, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh had started proceedings magnificently for India. Zaheer Khan has got to be the best bowler in the world at the moment. 3 overs, 3 maidens and the wicket of the dangerous and in-form Tharanga. A Brilliant start that was completely in contrast to the 2003 final. This gave me hope. It didn't all go according to plan though as it seemed as though 'Captain Not-So-Fantastic'( as he was at the time) had once again made a colossal goof up in Team Selection and today he wasn't getting lucky with it. Chasing 275 in a world cup final was never going to be easy. I believed Sri-Lanka were outright favorites then. Surely the pressure of chasing in a final would get to the Indians.
Then began the Indian run chase. Sehwag out early. Sachin out early. Heartbreak, but not before he played that majestic straight drive; the shot of the match. Then Kohli and Gambhir played superbly. Somewhat unluckily, Kohli fell to an amazing catch from that man Dilshan. Gambhir's innings was neatly crafted, full of crisp shots and with ample rotation of the strike. He did it for India in the inaugural world t20 final and he did it for India today. By the time he fell to that outrageous shot for a serene 97, he had left India firmly in command. This incidentally brings me back to 'Captain Not-so-Fantastic' and his decision to walk out at no. 5. The move meant he had to win the game for India. He could not fail. It was a positive move. He was the captain and he had to do it for his team. Somewhere along the way( probably before that fearsome square cut for six) he transformed himself back into 'Captain Fantastic'. One could see the the determination and satisfaction in his eyes as he watched that final ball sail into the crowd.
That meant we got to watch Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh shed some tears. You could see in the post match interviews how much the win meant to them. They have been through their fair share of criticism, although a lot of it is admittedly fair, but today wasn't a day to criticise them. Today Indian fans were proud of these men in Blue. Kohli and Gambhir played their part in the wins. Then there's 'Captain Fantastic'. Big Players like the big stage. Sadly, this wasn't the case for either Murali or Sachin. Sri-Lankan and Indian hearts go out to these maestros for the entertainment and joy they've provided us over the years. Today wasn't Murali's day but it was Sachin's. Sachin Tendulkar is now a World Champion. I'm going to write that again purely because I'll get immense satisfaction out of writing it again. Sachin Tendulkar is now a World Champion. The trophy he wanted. The World Cup. He's done it. India's superman is a World Champion. Virat Kohli summed it up 'He's carried the burden of our nation for 21 years, It was time to carry him on our shoulders today." Rarely has Sachin asked or needed to be carried but when he really needed it, Team India stood up and delivered.
India played as a team today. Strangely enough they weren't united by there love for the billion people in the country, they were united by there love for Tendulkar. Watching them lift that world cup for the first time ( for all those born after 1983) was incredible. Remember the nightmarish exit at the hands of Bangladesh in 2007, Remember the hammering they took at the hands of Australia in 2003. Also, remember that 7 of the 11 members in this team remain the same.Imagine how sweet this victory must be for them. Imagine how sweet it is for us Indian cricket fans