Flashback 2011 ICC WC: When Mahi’s Men Taught India to Dream Again

India’s road to 2011 ICC World Cup title that included wins over Australia & Pakistan and a loss to South Africa.

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(This article was first published on 2 April 2021. It is being republished from The Quint's archives on the occasion of India's 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup triumph's thirteenth anniversary).

Co-hosted by India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the 2011 ICC World Cup was played across 13 venues and 6 weeks. Fourteen teams took part, including 4 associate nations.

India was being led by MS Dhoni who had fresh in his memory the severe backlash the team faced after their first round exit from the 2007 World Cup. Having taken over the limited-overs captaincy after the disastrous outing in West Indies, the Indian skipper had shaped his team into world-beaters since then and entered the tournament as one of the favourites.

But there were nine matches standing between Dhoni and the glory of becoming India’s only second-ever captain to lead the team to the World Cup title.

With the mighty Sachin Tendulkar, a young Virat Kohli, an in-form Yuvraj Singh, Sehwag and Gambhir in the top order, Dhoni holding fort in the middle and Zaheer and Harbhajan leading the bowling, India just lost one match in their entire campaign.

Here’s how the dream came true, in 2011.


Group B: India Beat Bangladesh by 87 Runs in Mirpur

India: 370/4 (Sehwag 175, Virat 100*, Mahmudullah 1/49)
Bangladesh: 283/9 (Tamim Iqbal 70, Shakib 55, Munaf 4/48)

Co-hosts India and Bangladesh kicked-off the 2011 World Cup with a match in Dhaka. Shakib-al-Hasan won the toss and made India bat first, like Dravid had chosen to, in the group stage game of the 2007 World Cup, that Bangladesh won.

Virender Sehwag needed to vanquish those demons and he did so by smashing a massive 175. The opening stand with Sachin lasted 69 runs, with Gambhir he added 83 but it was his partnership with Virat Kohli that really got Bangladesh into a mess they could not get out of. 203 runs were added for the third wicket before Sehwag fell to Shakib. Virat, selected ahead of Suresh Raina, earned his stripes with an unbeaten century as India posted 370.

Opener Tamim Iqbal did try to set up what would have been a monumental win but his eventual 70, though the highest-score in the line up, was not enough as Munaf Patel picked 4 wickets for 48 and India won the match by 87 runs.


Group B: India Tied England in Bengaluru

India: 338 (Sachin 120, Yuvraj 58, Bresnan 5/48)
England: 338/8 (Strauss 158, Bell 69, Zaheer 3/64)

Over 670 runs were scored in this one match but in the end, India and England walked away from this fixture with just a point each. Only the fourth tied game in World Cup history.

Once again, India batted first and Sachin Tendulkar scored his first-ever ODI century against England at home and India posted a mammoth 338, helped along by Gambhir and Yuvraj’s half-centuries.

But this was to be the day of Andrew Strauss. The England captain amassed a massive 158 off 145 which, to date, is the highest score by an England cricketer at a World Cup. His 170-run third wicket partnership with Ian Bell got England needing just 67 runs off the final 10 overs. But then Zaheer Khan happened. Strauss and Bell fell on back-to-back deliveries of the 43rd over and Paul Collingwood was packed off on 1 in the 45th.

With Harbhajan and Munaf holding fort at the other end, England were 310/7 by the 48th over, needing 29. Munaf Patel bowled the final over, Shahzad hit him for a six on the third ball and England needed two off the final delivery. Swann managed just one and England finished on 338/8.


Group B: India Beat Ireland by 5 Wickets in Bengaluru

Ireland: 207 (Porterfield 75, N O’Brien 46, Yuvraj 5/31)
India: 210/5 (Yuvraj 50*, Tendulkar 38, Johnston 2/16)

Ireland came into this fixture having pulled off a shock upset over England just four days back at the same venue and there could have been an encore, but for Yuvraj Singh.

The all-rounder picked his first-ever fifer that included the big wickets of William Porterfield (75) and danger-man Kevin O’Brien who, in the match against England, had scored 113 to help the team chase down 327.

On this day though, Ireland managed just 207.

India, however, had their own struggled with the bat and were reduced to 87/3 by the 21st over when Yuvraj came out to bat and his 67-run 5th wicket stand with MS Dhoni got the team back on track. He remained unbeaten on 50 as India closed the victory by 5 wickets.


Group B: India Beat Netherlands by 5 Wickets in Delhi

Netherlands: 189 (Borren 38, Cooper 29, Zaheer 3/20)
India: 191/5 (Yuvraj 51, Sehwag 39, Seelaar 3/53)

While the scorecard portrays an easy victory for India, it was an off day for almost all members of the team. Lucky then, that the opposition was the lowest-ranked side in the tournament.

Indian bowlers failed to wrap up the tail in a hurry with number 8 batsman Peter Borren finishing with a 38, the team’s highest total. Set a target of 190, India got to the total in the 37th over with Yuvraj Singh scoring the lone half century of the match.


Group B: South Africa Beat India by 3 Wickets in Nagpur

India: 296 (Tendulkar 111, Gambhir 69, Steyn 5/50)
South Africa: 300/7 (Kallis 69, Amla 61, Harbhajan 3/53)

Once again batting first, India made a promising start with the opening partnership of Sachin and Sehwag putting together 142 runs before Sehwag fell on 73. No loss of momentum though as Gambhir accepted the baton and added 125 runs for the second wicket. By the time Sachin got out on 111, India were 267/2 in 39.4 overs, looking set for a massive score.

Instead, what followed was a monumental batting collapse. Reckless batting was met by precise bowling as Dale Steyn picked five wickets and India lost the remaining 9 wickets for just 29 runs. Bowled out on 296 after 48.4 overs.

Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers all scored half centuries and while Harbhajan Singh’s spin did halt the charge, the inevitable happened in 49.4 overs.

India were handed their first (and only) defeat of the tournament but still managed to stay on top of the group.


Group B: India Beat West Indies by 80 Runs in Chennai

India: 268 all out (Yuvraj 113, Kohli 59, Rampaul 5/51)
West Indies: 188 all out (D Smith 81, Sarwan 39, Zaheer 3/26)

The last group stage match for both teams and riding on Yuvraj’s 113, India scored 268 before getting bowled out. Ravi Rampaul taking out the Indian top three, finished with 5/51.

The West Indies’ chase was almost on the same lines as India’s capitulation in the previous match against South Africa.

The first wicket stand of 34, then a 57-run second wicket partnership and then another 63 runs added by the third wicket and West Indies were at a comfortable 154/3 in 30.3 overs.

The following eight wickets fell for 34 runs.

There was no Chris Gayle who was out with an injury and the team was bowled out for 188. India were through to the quarter-finals having topped Group B. Next up was Australia.


Q/F: India Beat Australia by 5 Wickets in Ahmedabad

Australia: 260/6 (Ponting 104, Haddin 53, Yuvraj 2/44)
India: 261/5 (Yuvraj 57, Tendulkar 53, Watson 1/37)

Just three victories stood between India and the historic title but in their very first knockout match, Dhoni’s men were up against three-time defending champions Australia who, in their previous fixture, had seen their 34-match unbeaten streak end at the hands of Pakistan.

Ricky Ponting played a captain’s knock and his 104 helped set a 261-run target. In reply, Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar both scored half centuries but it was Yuvraj Singh who walked in 143/3 and got India past the finish line, with 14 balls to spare.

The winning shot also signalled the end of an era in the Australian dressing room. For the first time since 1992 would the Aussies not feature in a World Cup final.

In the Indian dressing room, what was just a mission now started to look like a real possibility. Would India go on to become the first host county to win a World Cup? In an interview to The Quint, Gautam Gambhir recalled his emotions at the time, “The turning point was Australia. I always believed that if you want to win big tournaments, you have to beat Australia. For me, genuinely, the Australia game was the final. Somewhere deep inside I knew that if we could beat Australia, we would be able to beat Pakistan and win the title.”


S/F: India Beat Pakistan by 29 Runs in Mohali

India: 260/9 (Sachin 85, Sehwag 38, Wahab 5/46)
Pakistan: 231 all out (Misbah 56, Hafeez 43, Nehra 2/33)

Pre-match ceremonies with prime ministers of both countries in the audience, and this Mohali semi-final had everything set up for it to be a big blockbuster.

But, it will be remembered for the five catches dropped by Pakistan, including that of Sachin Tendulkar, on four occasions. Sachin went on to score 85 even as some tight bowling by Wahab Riaz (5/46) helped restrict India to 260/9.

The 44 runs put together by Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal for the first wicket was Pakistan’s highest partnership as Zaheer, Nehra, Munaf, Harbhajan and Yuvraj all picked two wickets each and managed to bowl Pakistan out for 231, on the penultimate ball of the innings.

Their fifth win over Pakistan in the World Cup helping India continue their unbeaten run against their rivals, and also getting them one step closer to ending the 28-year long wait for the biggest title in world cricket.


Final: India Beat Sri Lanka by 6 Wickets in Mumbai

Sri Lanka: 274/6 (Jayawardene 103, Sangakkara 48, Yuvraj 2/49)
India: 277/4 (Gambhir 97, Dhoni 91*, Malinga 2/42)

World champions Australia packed off, moral victory over Pakistan completed and there was just the small matter of Sri Lanka left to deal with in the 2011 World Cup.

Sachin’s hometown’s Wankhede Stadium, hosted the final and the stage was set for India’s greatest cricketer to complete his fairytale, and his trophy cabinet.

But the script went a bit lopsided.

Mahela Jayawardene smashed an 88-ball-103 and helped the Lankans set a 275-run target.

Virender Sehwag got out on a duck and Sachin followed him back on 18. India were 31/2 in 6.1 overs. Out walked Gautam Gambhir and played the greatest innings of his life. An 83-run stand with Virat Kohli and then a match-saving 109 with MS Dhoni and India were nearing the shores when Perera castled him for 97, “A 97 the whole nation will remember,” in Gambhir’s own words.

As he walked back, India needed 48 off 48 and Dhoni had Yuvraj for company and the two switched to cruise mode and India ultimately needed five off the last two overs. 48.2 and MS Dhoni swung his bat and the famous ‘helicopter’ shot landed the back in the stands.

India won the 2011 ICC World Cup by 6 wickets. A nation learned to dream again.


(This story was first published in 2019 and has been reposted from The Quint's archives to mark the eighth anniversary of India’s 2011 World Cup win)

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