Dubai: April 2, 2011, is a special day in the history of cricket. It was the first time a host nation lifted the World Cup as after a wait of 28 years, India won the World Cup again.
To witness the joy of the fans and report India beating Sri Lanka by six wickets at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium was an unforgettable experience for me. Although I was there at hand to watch Australia winning the 2015 World Cup in Melbourne and become the second host nation to win a World Cup, the first experience of a nation’s joy over a cricket world cup triumph in a city like Mumbai was exceptional.
From flying to Dhaka to attend the World Cup opening ceremony on February 17, 2011, the feeling was like attending a festival of cricket unfolding because Bangladesh had celebrated that occasion as if they had won the World Cup.
Outside the Bangabandhu National Stadium, fans were seen dancing all the way into the stadium, and the cheering for the welcome song ‘O Prithibi, Ekbar eshey Banglake now chiney (Oh world, now is the time to know about Bangladesh) went on and on with the excitement commencing over who will finally lift the Cup.
Before arriving in Mumbai for the final, I witnessed a rehearsal of what it would be like if hosts India were to win the showpiece when India beat Pakistan in the semi-final at Mohali. Fans refused to leave the stadium premises after the win. It was a celebration that kept the whole of Mohali and Chandigarh awake until early morning with fans performing the traditional Punjabi ‘bhangra’ dance all through the streets with the accompaniment of drumbeats.
There were fireworks everywhere, and it seemed as if India had already won the World cup. I remember a scribe remarking that it looks like Diwali celebrations (India’s festival of Light) had come seven months early!
On arrival in Mumbai for the final, even the taxi-driver who drove me to the hotel wanted to know whether India would win the World Cup again. At the pre-match press conference, both Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara and his Indian counterpart Mahendra Singh Dhoni expressed hope that they would create history. Had Sri Lanka won, it would have been a repeat of their World Cup triumph after 1996.
The whole city was buzzing with the hope of India winning the World Cup and Sachin Tendulkar hitting his 100th ton. In fact, Sangakkara had to remark at the press conference that his team would not want to spoil the joy of Indian fans. “I don’t think we are here to spoil anything. I guess everyone knows the importance of scoring runs in a final, whether it’s Sachin or anyone else. He is going to be the first player to get there (100 international tons). It all adds to the expectations of a World Cup final. But our job is to ensure that the Indian team doesn’t score too many runs,”
In the end, Sri Lanka could not restrict India despite posting 274 for six through Mahela Jayawardene’s unbeaten knock of 103. India won by six wickets with 10 balls to spare through Dhoni’s six over long-on and the whole stadium, and of course, the whole nation erupted in joy. It was tough to make way to the press conference room as everyone was hugging each other. The sound of celebration and firecrackers outside the stadium was deafening.
It was impossible to walk out of the stadium after finishing work as fans had blocked all exit routes and were perched on top of cars - waving the Indian flag.
With people coming out on to the streets, the roads beyond Bandra were jammed since the police had allowed everyone to have their way that night.
I reached home at 4.30 am - walking - with the sound of celebrations continuing unabated!