The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 final was played between India and Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, India on April 2, 2011. With Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni hitting a towering six in the penultimate over India won the final by six wickets. The sweet victory came after 28 long years, giving India its second title. The colors of celebrations that started immediately had the hues of unity all over.
Millions of Indian cricket fans prepared for that big occasion-at homes, offices, playgrounds, streets, restaurants and cinema houses. A local holiday was declared for Mumbai. People congregated at all possible public places with big screens showing the live match and cheered the home team on at every moment. Nameless, faceless crowds identified by just one thread, one religion and one language called cricket.
The Indian Republic has 28 states and seven union territories with most of them uniquely differentiated by culture, ethnicity, language and religion. But when it comes to cricket and Team India, they all become one unified whole. Indian. television news channels were showing scenes of celebrations from all major cities and towns across the country and everywhere you seemed to see the same charged people, the same colors and the same language.
The final had many twists and turnarounds. Sri Lankan batsmen were under a lot of pressure for most part of their innings. The Indians cheered Team India for exceptional fielding and bowling. When Sri Lanka ran amuck in the last five overs reaching a challenging total—almost match-winning for Sri Lankan bowling standards—the Indians were a little disheartened, but never lost hope in their team and religion.
Chasing 275 for victory, India lost the dazzling opener, as Sehwag in just the second ball of the innings and then Sachin Tendulkar—the living legend looking for his team’s win and his century of international centuries—fell too a little later. There was pin drop silence in the stadium, in the streets, in the playgrounds and across homes.
What followed was more astounding. You could hear loud cheers every time Team India scored a run from then on. Every boundary hit was welcomed with gusty cheers and loud bursts of firecrackers. This was more like a momentum build-up of a suspense movie set to explode at the crescendo climax.
The Indian captain engineered that climax by hitting the victorious six. Battle cries, jumping, shouting, singing, dancing, fireworks and even bike or car racing followed—everywhere. If you sat at home watching alone, you ran out crying hoarse and could see perfect strangers making victory signs to you or even embracing you. You reciprocated with a spirit and gusto you hardly recognized existed in you!
Convoys of bikes raced in the streets, blazing their headlights and honking continuously in unison. For a change, pedestrians were not irritated or terrified, but waved at them! Film stars came out of their homes and drove around the streets greeting everyone and obliging the television reporters.
The magic of cricket was just incredible. So spontaneous, so vibrant, so full of energy and so all-embracing. The game of cricket that has been played at every street or lane of India apart from the fields, gardens, parks and genuine playgrounds unifies like nothing else and makes all proud of being Indians.
Right, cricket is the new emerging religion of India. The biggest democracy of the world, divided on ethnic, cultural, linguistic, political and parochial lines, really needs this supportive and tolerant religion to take the nation forward with a strong unique and one identity.Powered by Sidelines