Bengaluru, May 11: It was not the first time that such a scene was witnessed in the final of a World Cup final.
At the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the final of the 1992 World Cup, the great Imran Khan was seen stepping out to bat at No. 3 against England and scoring 72 with an injury to lead from the front. Imran’s score was the highest in the game and it saw Pakistan winning their maiden and only trophy so far.
Fast forward to 2011 when another Asian captain was playing in his first World Cup final. The venue this time was the Wankhede Stadium and the opponents were Sri Lanka. India were chasing a competitive target of 275 and not many times in history did teams win the World Cup batting second (barring Sri Lanka in 1996 and Australia in 1999).
India had lost both their openers Virender Sehwag (0) and Sachin Tendulkar (18) early on and after Gautam Gambhir (97) and Virat Kohli (35) added 83 runs for the third wicket before the latter fell, India still had a tough job in hand.
Once Kohli got dismissed after scooping a return catch to Tillakaratne Dilshan, the fans were surprised to see Mahendra Singh Dhoni walking out ahead of Yuvraj Singh, the player of the tournament that year. The move had startled many but MSD later had revealed why he did so. He said he knew most of the bowlers that Sri Lanka had since they were part of his Indian Premier League side – Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
Dhoni even added that since the ace spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was bowling at the moment and he had experience of playing him in the CSK nets, he was confident of tackling him and scoring freely. The move paid off as Dhoni slammed 91 not out, closely falling short of the century mark – a feat that would have put him in the exclusive club of Clive Lloyd and Ricky Ponting. Dhoni scored the runs in just 79 balls and belted a six off Nuwan Kulasekara to finish off the game in style.
Imran still had batted at No. 3 in the 1992 semi-final against New Zealand, but for Dhoni, promoting himself up the order was an impulse that paid off magnificently.