When Mahela Jayawardene scored his hundred, we thought our dreams would come crashing down just like they did in the 2003 edition of the tournament. It wasn’t fair. We were playing at home. We had performed out of our skins to reach to this stage. We had to beat Australia in the quarter-finals, Pakistan in the semi-finals and we thought Sri Lanka would be easy pickings.
274 wasn’t an easy target to chase down in a high pressure game like that, and after the cheap dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, it seemed like a mountain too high to climb. Thankfully, the cool heads of Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni (we shouldn’t forget Virat Kohli’s crucial 35 as well) saw us through.
“I took a quite few decisions tonight, and if we hadn’t won, I would have been asked quite a few questions: Why no Ashwin? Why Sreesanth? Why no Yuvraj? Why did I bat ahead? That pushed me and motivated me to do well. The pressure had got to me in the previous games. In this game, I wanted to bat up the order and Gary backed me. I had a point to prove to myself. Virat and Gautam batted brillantly; lots of singles. Then with the help of bit of dew, we put pressure on the spinners. I would have liked Gautam to go on and get that big hundred,” a jubilant (but still looking relaxed) MS Dhoni said in the post-match ceremony.
Indeed, cricket is a game of fine margins and Dhoni knew that media would have ripped him apart had he failed. After all, it’s one thing to sit on armchairs and criticize, quite another to be carrying the hopes of millions of people on your shoulders and thinking clearly.
And it wasn’t just the hopes of a million people, it was also a last chance for Sachin Tendulkar’s dream to come true. He didn’t want the hundreds as much as he wanted the World Cup. When he was carried on the shoulders of the entire Indian team, it was a sight to behold. Never before had cricket made us so sentimental. Even Gambhir (whose 97 was more crucial than any hundred he had ever scored) credited Sachin for everything. “We played for him,” he said after the match.
Image: Screengrab from ICC’s video on Twitter