The final of the World Cup is the biggest stage for any cricketer to leave his mark on the game. And as the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup is all set to get underway, we look back at star performers in World Cup finals over the years. In this piece, we revisit the ICC World Cup final in 2011, in which India defeated Sri Lanka by six wickets.
M S Dhoni: The captain led from the front for India. The hosts were chasing a massive target, and had gotten off to a poor start, losing both their openers cheaply. Dhoni was having a poor World Cup with the bat, and hence his decision to promote himself in the order, ahead of the tournament's most in-form player Yuvraj Singh, surprised many. But, Dhoni, known for his unconventional ways, proved his critics wrong. Coming in at number five, Dhoni stroked his way to a magnificent, unbeaten 91, to take India home. Dhoni's runs came from 79 balls, with eight fours and two sixes. His partnership with Gautam Gambhir was the match-defining one as far as India was concerned.
Gautam Gambhir: Speaking of Gambhir, the left-hander played the anchor role to perfection. India had lost Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar very early in the chase, and needed someone to guide the innings through. Gambhir turned out to be that man in the final at Wankhede stadium in Mumbai. He made an invaluable 97 from 122 balls with the aid of nine boundaries. Gambhir featured in two crucial partnerships in the final. The first one with Virat Kohli steadied the ship for India, and the second one with Dhoni took India to the doorsteps of victory. Gambhir had a great opportunity to slam a hundred in a World Cup final, but threw it away having a wild slog while on 97.
Mahela Jayawardene: Irrespective of the end result, it was a knock that enthralled everyone. Sri Lanka were not in a great position when Jayawardene came into bat. But, the man with a silken touch batted as if in a trance. The score or the occasion just did not seem to matter to him. He pierced the gap with precision, and the Indian bowlers were completely in awe of him in the last 10 overs. Jayawardene made a memorable 103 not out from 88 balls with 13 glorious hits to the fence. It wasn't enough for Lanka to clinch victory, but it was one of the finest knocks in a World Cup final nonetheless.
The supporting acts: Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh picked up two wickets each for India. With the bat, Kohli made a crucial 35 while Yuvraj remained unbeaten on 21. For Sri Lanka, Kumar Sangakkara contributed 48, Tillakaratne Dilshan 33 and Nuwan Kulasekara 32. Lasith Malinga was Sri Lanka's best bowler with 2 for 42.
--By A Cricket Analyst