05 April 2011

Most memorable moments of Cricket World Cup 2011

The whole cricketing world knew about his dream of lifting a cup. He even featured in an advertisement talking about his thirst for the cup. There was a fear in some that Tendulkar might be under too much pressure with all this talk going around. As it turned out, it proved an inspirational mantra for the team; win it for Tendulkar. They did it, and right in the end, they carried him on their shoulders and went on a victory lap around the Wankhede. It was almost a cathartic moment for the previous generation for whom the fate of matches would be decided with the fall of Tendulkar. Kohli summed it up the best: "Tendulkar has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years; it was time we carried him."

Completing a non-violent century

All along, and even ahead of the tournament, Mahela Jayawardene was talking about the itch to perform on the big stage. He had a relatively quiet tournament until he waltzed into the World Cup hall of fame in the final with a soul-stirring century that will rank with the very best. With Kumar Sangakkara's exit, Sri Lanka were teetering but Jayawardene took over in some style. There was no violence in a knock filled with sublime strokes as the touch artiste showcased his art on the biggest stage. Only, at the cusp of his hundred did he play a powerful shot; he backed outside leg and smashed Zaheer Khan over mid-off to bring up his hundred. He skipped down the track in joy, pumped his fist, raised his bat towards the dressing room and then his eyes searched for his wife in the crowd.

Au revoir pace king and spin wizard

Shoaib Akthar didn't quite get a farewell game but his last big imprint on the world stage was a tribute to the journey from an all-out fast man to a bowler with brains. He slipped in a wonderful offcutter to breach the defences of Jayawardene to set Pakistan on course to a satisfying win.

Muttiah Muralitharan didn't sparkle in the final, but on the final delivery in his last game at home soil on almost one leg, he provided a final moment of wonder. He ripped an offbreak to trap Scott Styris in front to trigger a collapse. At the end of it all, he walked off the field, holding his cap in the air and sporting that famous smile that the world has come to know and love.

The sledge and the choke

The sledge came from Daniel Vettori, never known for his sledging. Faf du Plessis was just involved in running out AB de Villiers in the quarter-final and Vettori swooped in on the crime scene. He let du Plessis know the magnitude of the run-out and watched, without interfering, his 12th man Kyle Mills rip into the batsman. It was a stunning moment, precisely, and only because it featured Vettori. It wasn't just a mindless sledge but a mental disintegration tactic from a normally quiet man who knew the moment was ripe for the famous choke. And it was. South Africa slipped into a free-fall to a bottomless pit of despair.

Yuvraj's war cry

Yuvraj was the first of the brash youth from the new India that entered the sombre Indian cricketing scene a decade back. However, he threatened to self-destruct numerous times making people sigh and wonder whether he would ever utilise his bundle of talent. His moment of the World Cup came after he had shepherded India through the quarter-final chase against Australia; he went down on his knee, swung his bat like a sword and let out a scream. It wasn't quite redemption, for he has been a stellar performer in ODIs for a while now, but it felt like a coming-of-age moment. The boy who refused to grow up had finally become a man.

The awe-inspiring moment

It came from Ricky Ponting. Castigated for his Ashes losses, criticised for running a leaking ship, tormented by his own lack of form, he was almost stumbling into an abyss when he faced up to the Indians in the quarter-final. It wasn't a flamboyant knock but it had grit, bloody-mindedness and a sense of occasion. The hundred came with a quiet tuck to the leg side and there was no overflow of emotions; he raised his bat, didn't even remove his helmet and barely smiled. The job was yet to be done, not only in that game, but also in the future to revive Australian cricket.

Pakistan rally around Shahid Afridi's roar

Surprisingly, not many experts rated Pakistan as top contenders and while their victory to end Australia's World Cup-winning streak would be savoured, it was their win against Sri Lanka earlier in the tournament which really brought them under the arc lights. Shahid Afridi completed his transformation from a marauding hitter to an intelligent bowler in this game. He ripped a lovely loopy legbreak that dipped rapidly on Thilan Samaraweera, who was sucked out of his crease and was stumped. Afridi roared his signature celebration - the forefinger points to the sky before the two arms spread out and the chest pumps out as he waits for his team-mates to envelop him with a hug. No one took them lightly after that win.

The entertaining cameo

It was from England, who proved the most entertaining team of the tournament, providing several thrilling moments. In many ways, Jimmy Anderson captured the image of England in this World Cup. Often he was awful but there were moments of magic that kept him, and England alive, in the tournament. In the game against South Africa who were chasing 171, he knocked out JP Duminy's off stump with a ripper; it swung, it straightened, it was unplayable and it took out the off stump. With Duminy's exit, South Africa sank.

The comedy of errors

Who else but Kamran Akmal to provide it for us. He dropped the New Zealand batsmen, especially Ross Taylor, so many times that it made him a cult hero/villain. It led to numerous Kamran jokes and one of the gems was this: "What's Kamran's pick-up line? Can I drop you somewhere?!"

The brutal wake-up shot for a cliquey sport

The Associates were being hounded out by the ICC and captains of established nations weren't sympathetic to their cause when Kevin O'Brien played a soul-stirring knock to shock and awe the cricketing public. He had just reached a 30-ball fifty and just when perhaps England might have hoped that it would be just a good, but meaningless, cameo, Kevin played the finest shot of his astonishing innings. He savaged a delivery from Tim Bresnan and sent it screaming over the extra-cover boundary for a breathtaking six. That shot announced his ambition. He wasn't just going to be satisfied with a half-century; he was gunning for a hundred and a victory. And he achieved both.

The innocent, and emphatic, shot

It was a 148.5 kph slinging thunderbolt from Shaun Tait, short in length and outside off stump. Facing it was a Canadian teenager Hiral Patel. It demanded respect but got a resounding slap. Hiral shifted his weight back, lifted his front leg in the air and walloped it over extra cover for a thrilling six. "He was savage on us," Ricky Ponting said later. It was a shot of intent from a boy of an Associate team that might do wonders for Canadian cricket. Much like CK Nayudu's sixes against Arthur Gilligan's XI on MCC's first official tour of India in 1926 did to increase the popularity of cricket in India.

The anger of the emotional crowd

The sub-continental populace, barring Sri Lanka to an extent, can be a very emotional lot. India and Pakistan cricketers have had their houses stoned by angry mobs in the past and it was now the turn of the Bangladeshi people to go on over-boil. Their team was battered by West Indies and they couldn't take it. Their anger stirred a small unruly mob who stoned the team buses. Chris Gayle tweeted in anger, the Caribbean region reacted in dismay, the cricketing world was shocked and the majority of Bangladesh was embarrassed. A nation was let down by a small number of miscreants but a sizeable number landed up at the airport next day with placards of apologies.

The crowning glory

MS Dhoni had a poor average of 22.38 from 11 World Cup games before the final. However, in a pressure-cooker situation, with the game hanging in balance after the exit of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli, he pushed himself ahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh and seized the moment. The shot of Dhoni's innings was a wicked upper-cut six over point off Thisara Perera but it is his second six, the winning hit, that will be played for eternity on television channels and in the minds of the Indian fans - particularly the stylish post-six twirl of the bat. Later, he said, "If we hadn't won I would have been asked quite a few questions: Why no Ashwin, why Sreesanth, why no Yuvraj at No. 4, why did I bat ahead? That pushed me and motivated me to do well."
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