By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, April 2 (IANS) Ranjib Biswal, the manager of the 2011 World Cup-winning team, said he still gets goosebumps when he recalls the final against Sri Lanka 10 years ago.
On April 2, 2011, India had defeated their island neighbours to win the 50-over World Cup for the first time in 28 years.
But before that six-wicket win, India endured nervous moments chasing 274 after losing two early wickets.
The former Odisha first-class cricketer, who is also a politician now, says there was tension in the dressing room after the early dismissals of Tendulkar and Sehwag since everyone in the camp knew that Indian fans would never forgive a loss in the final, especially at home.
“Indian fans don’t forgive you if you lose a World Cup final, that too in India. If we would have lost that match, it could have been upside down. There was tension. The whole stadium went silent (after Tendulkar and Sehwag’s dismissals). The handful of Sri Lankan spectators began beating drums and shouting crazily. The atmosphere was very tense because we were playing in India with all this pressure. Add to that there had been threats,” recalled Biswal while speaking to IANS.
“Sachin, Sehwag and I were the only ones sitting in the dressing room. Being very superstitious, Sachin said we shouldn’t move out of the room and we had to sit literally in the same position throughout the match till it ended. The rest were on the balcony. During breaks also, we used to just run, finish whatever (like toilet etc.) and return to the same position. Basically, you can say, players like Tendulkar and Sehwag were very involved,” Biswal added.
“We watched the whole match in the dressing room on TV only. Didn’t come out to the balcony. Things got easy and we knew we were close to the victory.”
The 50-year-old said coach Gary Kirsten and skipper MS Dhoni were very calm and didn’t betray emotions but he knew that in the deep recess of their hearts, they were tense.
“These were all seasoned cricketers. They knew how to handle pressure. MS [Dhoni] didn’t have a good World Cup. But MS promoting himself and seeing India win was something that is extraordinary and has stayed fixed in my mind. Because the captain taking the responsibility on his shoulder is something you feel proud about,” he added.
“Mostly the decision (the decision to promote Dhoni to No. 5) was MS.”
Biswal recalled Virat Kohli as very different from what he is now. Kohli had scored a crucial 35, batting at No. 4, and added 83 with Gambhir for the third wicket to bring India back on track after the early loss of wickets.
“He was the baby of the team and used to keep the team morale high and he used to be humorous in the dressing room. He was a happy-go-lucky guy, used to sing and dance. He was very playful. Now you see a different Virat. Virat of that time was the youngest of the lot and used to entertain people. He never used to sit in one place,” said Biswal.
“[Suresh] Raina and Harbhajan [Singh] were the others who were chirpy. They were really shouting from the balcony when they were hitting the fours and the sixes. That was to keep the team spirit up,” added Biswal who praised Dhoni for bringing the team of various personalities and age together.
“With seniors like Sachin and Zaheer around and youngsters like Virat, one thing that MS did was to gel them together. There was no gap between senior and junior. All these young people were given the comfort zone. So this made them really comfortable within the team. Zaheer and Gambhir were the serious kind who enjoyed their own space.”
Biswal, a former right-handed batsman and an off-spinner himself, said that the players knew that the batting was strong and they could chase any total.
“We knew we had great batting strength but we had to play 50 overs to win the game. We knew we had to keep rotating the strike, get as many runs in 30-35 overs as possible (without losing wickets) and then plan (go after the bowling) in the last 15 overs. And if you see it was done in the same sequence,” he explained the chase in the final.
The fact that India had fairly long gaps between matches also helped. India were a bit down after losing to South Africa in a league game but an eight-day break before the next game against West Indies helped them regain confidence.
“This was a very long tournament. The team that played the World Cup had been together for a year. The core team and the fringe players were there in the system. When the World Cup started, the morale was high. We had won the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka (in 2010). There was a bit of disappointment when we lost to South Africa, the only game we lost. But since we had time and the World Cup was over a period of one and a half months, we regained composure,” he further explained.
“It was a billion dreams and a billion prayers. Since 1983 we had not won many major tournaments – except for a couple (World Championship of Cricket in 1985 and T20 World Cup in 2007). Being played in India, naturally everyone was expecting that India should win the World Cup. Like 1983, 2011 World Cup win was also the turning point for Indian cricket.”