I didn’t want India to win, really. I supported virtually every other team - Sri Lanka, South Africa, Pakistan, and of course Bangladesh - either for sentiment or admiration of individual players. I just did not want India to win, maybe even because you could see that they were the strongest team in the running. Everyone’s got to root for the underdog, after all.
But the final match, even though I was rooting for Sri Lanka, did not disappoint me in the least. It was the most satisfying of finals because it really did bring the strongest two contenders to face off, and they played the game for all it was worth. You really didn’t know for sure, until there were 15 runs left for India to win. You could tell the crowd felt the uncertainty, of how the game was really on a knife’s edge. Sri Lankans and Indians alike were praying.
I never gave much thought to MS Dhoni’s skill as a player, just thought of him offhand as a good captain who was lucky to have a better team than poor Sourav Ganguly did. Ganguly had to live with a lot of abuse and dislike no matter how hard he tried.
You had to admire Dhoni though, for his absolute calm. At the end of the day that’s what a batsman needs, an absolutely cool head that doesn’t get fazed by the mind games the bowlers play with you. Gautam Gambhir cracked after holding the fort for 97 runs, and before he was out there were a few moments where you could see him speaking agitatedly to his captain, Dhoni looking firm and determined. Once Gambhir was out, any of the other skippers in this World Cup could still have caved in. But Dhoni didn’t. The bowlers kept trying to play cat and mouse with him, trying to catch him out, and yet he didn’t give in to tempting tosses, letting the dot balls accumulate. He persevered, and he really showed everyone how you play. 40 runs off 40 balls? 35 runs off 30 balls? 15 runs off 17 balls? The numbers kept lowering agonisingly, and still, he did not wipe his brow. He did not do anything but bide his time and let the chess pieces move around him.