The World Cup final in 2011 was undoubtedly the most important match in the history of Indian cricket. It was all set for a fitting grand finale clash between India and Sri Lanka as both the sides were looking for their second ODI WC title. After Sri Lanka set up a target of 275 for the home side, it was never going to be an easy task for India in the humid conditions. But Gautam Gambhir (97 off 122) and MS Dhoni (91* off 79) played innings of their lives to guide the Men in Blue to a historic title at the iconic Wankhede Stadium.
However, things would have been completely different had a few things gone slightly other way during the course of the match. While everyone often speaks about the Dhoni-Gambhir partnership, double-toss debacle, Jayawardene's century, Zaheer's opening spell and MSD's batting position, there were a few game-changing moments in that match which went completely unnoticed. Let us have a look at 5 of those moments during the historic match that was played 10 years ago on April 2, 2011.
1. Harbhajan's unorthodox ploy to dismiss dangerous Dilshan
Sri Lanka's opening batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan was in the form of his life during the 2011 World Cup. The right-handed batsman had provided some explosive starts at the top of the order and was going to be a key player for them in the grand finale. When Dhoni introduced Harbhajan Singh into the attack, Dilshan had already gone off to a steady start.
However, the Indian off-spinner came up with an unorthodox ploy and started to bowl round the wicket. Sunil Gavaskar wasn't really impressed with negative mindset of India's leading spinner. But the plan reaped benefits in as early as Bhajji's second over as Dilshan, soon after reaching the 500-run mark in the tournament, tried to play a sweep shot and was bowled round his legs. It was probably the most important moment of the final because had the explosive opener played a big knock, Sri Lanka would have crossed the 300-run mark.
2. Yuvraj Review System gave India the crucial breakthrough
Dhoni Review System (DRS) is a very famous thing in Indian cricket because of the ability of former Indian skipper to read the game. However, it was Yuvraj Review System that got India a crucial breakthrough at a crunch moment in the finals. After losing the wicket of skipper Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera steadied the innings with a 57-run partnership.
Sri Lanka had just started to increase the run-rate before Samaraweera attempted a sweep shot off Yuvraj Singh's bowling. The Indians appealed by umpire Simon Taufel wasn't convinced. While MSD wasn't sure off the impact either, Yuvi persuaded the Indian captain to take the referral. As the replays showed three reds, India got the all-important breakthrough to stop SL's comeback once again as they could manage to score only 32 runs in next 7 overs.
3. SL missed a trick by taking Lasith Malinga out of attack
Defending a target of 275, Sri Lanka got off to a terrific start in the second innings as Lasith Malinga got rid of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. The SL fast-bowler was clearly troubling the Indian batsmen as the hosts were reeling at 32/2 at the end of 7 overs. While it was the time to attack the two new batsmen to put India on a backfoot, Kumar Sangakkara decided to take Malinga out of the attack who had only bowled 4 overs.
Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir settled comfortably off the bowling of Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera as they stitched a crucial 83-run partnership. Lasith Malinga came back to bowl again in the 27th over but it was too late by then as the Indian batsmen had laid a solid platform to chase the target. Looking back at the match, SL skipper would have surely extended the opening spell of their leading pacer by 2 more overs at least as a wicket then would have surely put them in a much more commanding position.
4. Gautam Gambhir rode his luck to play the best knock of his life
India's No.3 Gautam Gambhir certainly played one of the most important innings of his life as his 97-run knock off 122 deliveries set up the foundation for India's victory. However, things would have been completely different had Sri Lanka taken their chances to dismiss the left-handed batsman. The opposition got the first opportunity to dismiss Gambhir when was batting on 30 runs. He had tried to play an inside-out shot off the bowling of Suraj Randiv and the ball was up in the air for a long time. He was extremely lucky as Nuwan Kulasekara was slow to react as the ball fell just short off his diving effort, much to the delight of Indian fans.
India's batsman survived another scare when he was approaching his half-century. After playing a cut-shot off Muralitharan in the 19th over, Gambhir called Virat for a risky double. The throw from the deep came off quickly however the ball bounced awkwardly for wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara as he couldn't catch the ball cleanly. Had the ball stuck in his gloves, even a valiant diving effort from Gambhir would not have been enough to save his wicket. That is the moment when the left-hander got the famous dirt on his iconic jersey.
5. MS Dhoni could have been dismissed on a duck
The man of the match in the final showdown was India's skipper MS Dhoni who scored an unbeaten 91-run knock off 79 deliveries. While everyone remember that he came to bat ahead of Yuvraj Singh, many people forget the fact that captain cool was very close to losing his wicket in only the second delivery he faced in the innings. Mahi was coming to the match on the back of a very average world cup campaign and was certainly not in the greatest of touches.
When he came to bat after the fall of Kohli's wicket, Dilshan was in the middle of a very impressive spell. After defending the first delivery, MSD stepped out and attempted an attacking shot towards the off side. However, he completely missed the ball with him out of the crease. However, even SL wicketkeeper was deceived and the Indian skipper survived. Had Sangakkara gathered the ball cleanly, it could have been an extremely close stumping opportunity. But much to the delight of Indian fans, MSD did not give too many opportunities to Sri Lanka post that. The Indian skipper finished off the match in style with an iconic six at the Wankhede Stadium, leading the country to the second ODI world cup title.