Indian captains Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni with their World Cups © Getty Images
Indian captains Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni with their World Cups © Getty Images

 

By Vinay Anand

 

April 2, 2011 would be etched forever in the minds of a billion-plus Indians after Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team emulated Kapil Dev’s 1983 team by winning the World Cup.

 

The 1975 and 1979 World Cups showed why the West Indies were the dominant team of that era. And it was widely expected that the West Indies would make it a hat-trick of World Cups triumphs in 1983. Only Kim Hughes labelled India as ‘dark horses.’ That nobody quite expected India to win probably helped the side to play without pressure.

 

In contrast, India went into the 2011 World Cup as favourites. But the competition was stiff. As Ian Chappell said prior to the competition, “This is the most open World Cup since 1999.”

 

Although Australia were still No.1 and one of the strong contenders to win the title, India were favoured to succeed Australia at the top.

 

In 1983, India were grouped alongside Australia, Zimbabwe and the West Indies. There were a total of six matches to be played by each team, and the top two from the group would qualify for the semi-finals.

 

India began the tournament by upsetting the West Indies in the very first group match, which set the tone for what was to come. India then beat Zimbabwe by five wickets. All was going well until the world came crashing down. Australia comprehensively beat India by 162 runs in the third game. India found life difficult as West Indies took revenge in the second round match.

 

The turnaround began with the second round match against Zimbabwe in 1983. Kapil Dev played perhaps the best ODI innings ever, to win a game in which India were reeling at 17 for five. India were energised. They played like champions from thereon. Australia were thumped in the next match, and India set up a semi-final clash with hosts England. Finalists in the previous edition, England were one of the pre-tournament favourites. However, India beat them by five wickets.

 

Then came the grand finale against the mighty Caribbean. West Indies were set a target of 184. It looked a breeze when Viv Richards was running away with the game. But the Indian bowlers came up with a sensational effort to bowl the West Indies out for 140. A four-match undefeated streak saw India succeed the West Indies as World Cup champions.

 

Come 2011, and there were more teams in India’s pool with every team playing against each other just once and the top four from each group going into the quarter-finals. India started off with a bang, beating Bangladesh in their own backyard – courtesy, a Virender Sehwag blitzkrieg. However, the England match was a disappointment for India after India posted a mammoth total of 338.

 

It started a string of mediocre performances. Against Ireland, they took 47 overs to chase down a modest target of 210. In the following game, against minnows Netherlands, India lost five wickets chasing a mere 191. And then came the nadir when India lost a game that they should have won against South Africa. Dhoni’s men were now favourites in nobody’s estimation.

 

Ironic as it may sound, the 2011 Indian team also won four matches in a row to lift the World Cup. A win against West Indies sparked the Indian revival. Like Kapil did against Zimbabwe, Yuvraj Singh came back into supreme form with the bat by scoring a run-a-ball century.

 

Upbeat India next knocked out defending champs Australia in the quarter-finals by 5 wickets. Cricket would see a new World Cup champion for the first time since 1999.

 

Then came the high-pressure and much-anticipated semi-final against arch-rival Pakistan.  India maintained their stranglehold over Pakistan in World Cup encounters with yet another clinical performance.

 

India were now one step away from the crowning glory. But things did not go well for India. Sri Lanka went berserk at the death to post what looked like a match-winning total of 275. It’s never easy to chase under lights. To make matters worse, India lost Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar quite early. Many thought it was all over for India. But Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli first and then Gambhir and Dhoni next brought India on the threshold of victory with two defining partrnerships. Yuvraj then came in and helped seal the game with his captain.

 

In 1983 they dethroned reigning champions West Indies, while in 2011 they toppled holders Australia. In 1983 they played three successive games quite brilliantly – against Australia, England and the West Indies – to emerge champions. In 2011, they played three fantastic matches equally memorably against Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to win the World Cup.

 

The 2011 victory is a watershed year in Indian cricket. It’s the confirmation that India can now be legitimately called superpowers in world cricket.

 

(Vinay Anand, 17, has an uncanny eye for detail. He revers cricket – looking beyond the glamour into the heart of the game where true passion, perseverance and grit meet. To him, there is no greater joy than coming closer to the sport while exploring its intricacies through his writing and treading ahead to establish himself as a writer and presenter)