The World Cup returned to the sub-continent for the third time in 2011. On this occasion it was staged in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, a jamboree of colour, jubilation and thunderous cheers, a wondrous odyssey through diverse cultures embracing more than a quarter of the world’s population. The legendary Sachin Tendulkar, highest run-getter in the World Cup and player-of-the tournament in the 2003 edition, was appointed ICC’s brand ambassador for this event. The logo signified a travelling cricket ball, seam up, carrying along with it players and spectators in this exhilarating expedition.
An elegantly-poised young elephant, christened Stumpy, was anointed the mascot of the 2011 edition of this showpiece event. The organizing committee put it thus : “The idea of our mascot is to crystallise the feelings and action of the sport and the fans in a graphic form that reflects the visceral tone and emotion that cricket creates in its followers, especially in an event like the cricket World Cup. It also emphasises the enthusiasm of youth both in general and for cricket itself, especially on the sub-continent with its massive and dedicated following. He’s stylised to give an instantly recognisable graphic strength so that with exposure his bold lines and strong colouring will instantly create a friendly face for the cricket World Cup.” The endearing Stumpy was reminiscent of the lovable Appu of the New Delhi Asian Games 1982.
The official song of the tournament had three versions, in Bengali, Hindi and Sinhala. The Hindi version “De Ghuma Ke” (Swing It Hard) was composed by the trio of Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa, or Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. They used an array of Indian rhythms, coalesced with rock and hip hop. The Sinhala version “Sinha Udaane” was composed by lyricist Shehan Galahitiyawa, and performed by Rhythm & Blues and hip-hop musician Ranidu Lankage.
Two new stadiums were built in Sri Lanka. The Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, constructed at a cost of $4 million at Kandy, holds 35,000 spectators, while the Suriyawewa Stadium at Hambantota on the south-eastern coast, dotted with tourist resorts, has a seating capacity of 33,000, a project costing about $8 million. The capacity of Colombo’s Premadasa Stadium was increased from 12,000 to 30,000.
There were now 14 teams in the fray, two less than in 2007. The ten full members got direct entry, including Zimbabwe, even though they were at that time suspended from Test matches. In the qualifying tournament held in South Africa for associate members in 2009, Ireland beat Canada by nine wickets in the final at Centurion. These two countries were joined by Holland and Kenya on the big stage now.
The super-league was done away with, and the teams advanced from the group matches to the quarter-finals. It was akin to the format of the 1996 World Cup, also played in the sub-continent, but with two more teams this time. There were thus 49 matches instead of the 51 played in 2007, and the event was about a week shorter, the groupings being as follows:
Group A : Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya.
Group B : India, South Africa, England, West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland and Holland.
The 18 umpires chosen for the tournament were Billy Bowden, Aleem Dar, Steve Davis, Asoka de Silva, Billy Doctrove, Marais Erasmus, Ian Gould, Daryl Harper, Tony Hill, Asad Rauf, Simon Taufel, Rod Tucker (all from the ICC Elite Panel of Umpires), Kumar Dharmasena, Richard Kettleborough, Nigel Llong, Bruce Oxenford, Amish Saheba, and Shahvir Tarapore (all from the ICC International Panel of Umpires). The reserve umpire was Enamul Hoque-Moni. There were five match referees: Chris Broad, Jeff Crowe, Ranjan Madugalle, Roshan Mahanama and Andy Pycroft.
The television rights were secured by ESPN Star Sports for $2 billion, with the event being telecast live in 220 countries. There was high-definition (HD) telecast and live 3G streaming, and each match was covered by at least 27 cameras, inclusive of the revolutionary movable slip and low-45 degree field cameras. As many as 37 games were simulcast in Hindi. The ICC decided to deploy the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) for the first time in any of its events.
Apart from ESPN Star Sports, the commercial partners of ICC were Reliance Communications, LG Electronics, PepsiCo, Hero Honda Motors Limited, Emirates, Reebok International Limited, Yahoo! Inc., Castrol and MoneyGram International.
The total prize money was doubled to $10 million, of which the champions carried away $3 million, the runners-up $1.5 million, the losing semi-finalists $750,000 each, the fifth to eighth placed teams $370,000 each, and the winners of the 42 preliminary matches $60,000 each.
The opening ceremony and first match between co-hosts Bangladesh and India were held at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka. Bangladesh played all their six group matches at home in Dhaka and Chittagong, while India played the rest of their matches on their own soil. Eight venues were chosen in India - Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Mohali, Mumbai, Nagpur and New Delhi. Sri Lanka, like India, were seen in action on home territory, except for their last league match which was staged in Mumbai.
Owing to security concerns, the 14 matches scheduled to be held in Pakistan were relocated, and their team was based in Sri Lanka. Not only all of Pakistan’s league matches but their quarter-final and semi-final too - in the event of their reaching those stages - were to be held in Sri Lanka at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. The other semi-final was scheduled at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali. As it happened, India and Sri Lanka entered the semi-finals, and did not face each other at that stage. They hosted both their semi-finals on home venues, and Pakistan travelled to Mohali for a nerve-wracking clash with India. The venue for the final was the remodelled Wankhede Stadium. India hosted 29 matches, while Sri Lanka and Bangladesh staged 12 and 8 games respectively.
It appeared almost inevitable that India would win the 2011 World Cup. A billion Indians seemed to believe that the team would certainly win, and the team itself desperately wanted to win it for its billion fanatical followers and for one peerless and inspirational representative of God himself, Sachin Tendulkar. The team had been steadily ascending the ladder of success since its heart-wrenching ouster from the 2007 World Cup. One by one, things began falling into place. Tendulkar toiled not only to regain the magical touch of yore but also to scale peak after peak. An efficient back-up staff led by the taciturn and hard-nosed Gary Kirsten engineered the side into a fighting machine. A young, razor-sharp, unflappable and versatile skipper Mahendra Dhoni arrived to steer the ship deftly through calm as well as stormy seas.
Blessed with arguably the greatest batting line-up in history, the team crafted one success after another, rising to no. 1 status in Test matches for the first time in its chequered history of 78 years, hovering around that position in One-day Internationals as well, holding its own at home and also overseas, and all this after having won the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 that same year of 2007. The victorious side defied conventional wisdom by clinching matches and series on the strength of its powerful batting, either posting unattainable totals or chasing down impossible targets. There was always enough depth as well as bench strength to tide over even acute crises, and to cover up for the sketchy and often profligate bowling. The captain and team management made skillful use of the embarrassingly limited bowling resources, which ultimately proved adequate in home conditions. The much-derided fielding proved equal to the task, and the end result was an inspired outfit that carried the day despite a bit of a stutter in the early stages. Even these hiccups had a silver lining, for they helped fine-tune the playing eleven and to temper the arrogance of the middle-order batsmen.
There were other fancied sides too, the Sri Lankans, favoured in familiar conditions, with strong batting and balanced bowling; the South Africans, whose day some experts believed had finally come, boasting of the best pace attack in the world, a complete bowling line-up on paper, replete with allrounders, and a fine array of batsmen to go with their customary top-class fielding; and the Australians, never ones to be counted out as they showed in 2007 despite sliding down the order and obvious depletion in resources, still possessing top-quality fast bowlers but little else. The dark horses were Pakistan, unpredictable as ever, and they did threaten all the way until their ouster by the relentless Indians in an emotionally-charged semi-final.
On behalf of the minnows, the heartening performance came from the plucky Irish along with a glorious hand by Holland’s Ryan ten Doeschate. This itself makes out a case for the inclusion of some associate member nations in future World Cup tournaments. The idea to have just ten teams is perhaps a sound one but one feels that the bottom two teams among those with One-day international status should compete in the ICC qualifying tournament with the associate members to earn the right to play in the World Cup. Thankfully the inane ICC Champions Trophy is being scrapped. The World Twenty20 should be staged only every four years in order to avoid an overkill and to sustain public and media interest. The International Cricket Council should be able to generate adequate finances from the events it would then be left with.
Despite the odd flutter, the eight top teams took their appointed places in the quarter-finals. As expected, that is where the real action began. After Pakistan disdainfully swept aside the once-mighty West Indies, India stopped the incredible Cup-winning run of an Aussie outfit in decline. Then came possibly the biggest shock of the tournament. The unheralded and grossly underrated Kiwis skittled out the Proteas to add yet another chapter to the bemusing saga of a handsome-looking side that invariably flatters to deceive in this showpiece event. To complete the picture, Sri Lanka were as contemptuous of England as Pakistan were of the West Indies earlier.
There were, not surprisingly, three sub-continental teams in the semi-finals. New Zealand did battle hard, as is their wont, but Sri Lanka were too good in the end. The Kiwis have now played six of the ten semi-finals without once breaching this penultimate barrier. The other semi-final was really a war and a carnival rolled into one, simply the most heart-stopping sporting event held anywhere. India prevailed over Pakistan in a most curious encounter, and the fireworks at the end would have one believe that the Cup itself had been won that night.
It was an engrossing final but a relatively sedate affair. Sri Lanka were worthy opponents, equalling Australia’s highest losing score of 1975 in a World Cup final. India, irresistible as they were by now, cruised to the title amid wild jubilation.
Dhoni’s emphatic hit over the long-on boundary with plenty to spare only reaffirmed the belief of so many.
India became the first team to win the World Cup on home soil, the crowning glory to Sachin Tendulkar’s astonishing career and to the team’s triumphant run of the preceding years.
Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, 2 April 2011
India won by 6 wickets
Sri Lanka: 274 for 6 wickets in 50 overs (Tillakaratne Dilshan 33, Kumar Sangakkara 48, Mahela Jayawardene 103 not out, Nuwan Kulasekara 32)
India: 277 for 4 wickets in 48.2 overs (Gautam Gambhir 97, Virat Kohli 35, Mahendra Singh Dhoni 91 not out)
Man of the Match : Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Player of the Tournament : Yuvraj Singh
(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email email@example.com).