Every four years, the excitement of cricket fans reaches a fever pitch as top players from the ten Test playing nations get together for the International Cricket Council’s greatest ever showpiece – the World Cup.
The whole tournament is a colourful affair with each country’s chosen warriors battling it out to claim ODI cricket’s greatest prize. For those who are playing in the marquee event for the first time, it is an experience they get to cherish for life – especially if their team goes on to win the title. For some of the veteran players, however, it is their last shot at ultimate glory in the shorter format of the game.
With a number of associate and affiliate member nations also participating in the jamboree, the World Cup is a great way to bring together various cultures and people from all over the globe. The kind of passion that each performer brings into each game is merely an all-too familiar feature of the quadrennial event – more so if it happens to be an India-Pakistan encounter.
The summit clashes have seen both lopsided and keenly contested games over the 30 years since the tournament was first established in 1975. Since 1992, finals have always featured a subcontinental team, although the Australians have won the prestigious trophy a record four times.
Here is a list of the top five greatest finals in World Cup history:
5. ICC World Cup 2011 (Wankhede Stadium , Mumbai)
Eight years after Sourav Ganguly led a young team into the final of the 2003 event in South Africa, India once again stood on the cusp of history. This time around, they were in their own backyard – at the legendary Wankhede Stadium in the beautiful city of Mumbai. Standing between them and the trophy were their southern neighbours Sri Lanka, who had made the finals in 1996 (which they won) and 2007.
After a gaffe with the toss, the Lankans made first use of the wicket, and were pushed onto the backfoot immediately, with Indian spearhead Zaheer Khan making life difficult for both the openers, sending down three consecutive maidens in his first six-over spell. After progressing to 60 in the 17th over with both Dilshan and Tharanga back in the pavilion, the veterans Sangakkara and Jayawardene took over, adding 62 runs in almost 12 overs before left-arm spinner Yuvraj Singh dismissed the left-handed Sri Lankan captain for 48. Samaraweera and Chamara Kapugedara followed in quick succession, but the gritty Jayawardene then accelerated hard in the company of Nuwan Kulasekara and all-rounder Thisara Perera, reaching his century as his side coasted to 274/6 in 50 overs, hammering 91 runs in their last 10.
In reply, India got off to a shaky start, with both openers Sachin and Sehwag falling to slinger Lasith Malinga. Then came the rescue act – the Delhi duo of Gambhir and Kohli added 83 runs for the third wicket before the latter was dismissed by Dilshan.
Knowing that the required run rate was going to rise rapidly, skipper Dhoni gambled by promoting himself up the order. His strategy was to negate the off-spin of the wily Muralitharan, while ensuring that a left-right pair put the other bowlers off their lines and lengths. The two Indians then added 109 for the fourth wicket, taking the score to 223 before Perera bowled Gambhir for 97.
In the company of Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni took his side over the finish line, slamming Kulasekara for a huge six to secure the win and the trophy for his nation, ending a 28-year drought. The winning hit has now become one of the lasting images of the tournament, and India had set a record for the highest successful run-chase in WC history.
It was a keenly contested final right from Jayawardene’s later assault to Malinga’s initial burst, before MSD uncorked his magic. It will go down in history as one of the best World Cup final victories of all-time.
Also Read: Biggest World Cup Wins