Before we talk about the final, could you tell us when did the planning and plotting begin for the World Cup?
It actually started four-five months prior to the World Cup as we wanted to have a settled unit. We had a squad who had already played with each other for almost six-seven years. The idea was to have a settled team because, I believe that the sides who have gone on to win the World Cup, those teams have always been very settled.
The road to the final was quite tough. Australia in the quarter-final, Pakistan in the semi-final and Sri Lanka in the final. How contrasting were those three games?
For me, the final before the finale was against Australia. If you have to win the World Cup, you have to beat Australia. There were many strong teams but Australia knew how to win big tournaments. That's the reason why they have won five World Cups. When we won the T20 World Cup in 2007, we had to beat them in the semi-final. Then we did the same in the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Cup. Australia is the toughest team to beat in the big tournaments.
When we beat Australia, I remember we were having breakfast and I told Gary Kirsten that "everything from here on is going to be easier". And, he was like, "what are you talking about?" It didn't matter whether we were going to play Pakistan or New Zealand or whoever in the semi-final, I don't know about other people but it was easier for me. The reason for that was because we had beaten such a strong side like Australia, things became easier against other opponents.
What was going through your head when you woke up on the morning of April 2nd? Was it butterflies in the stomach or was it all ready to go?
I had exactly the same butterflies I felt playing against any opponent in any game. I was more nervous while playing the first game of the tournament against Bangladesh. I was more nervous than anyone else. I had to bat at No. 3 and I don't think I have ever been that nervous in my life. When I tell anyone that I was more nervous while playing against Bangladesh rather than playing against Australia or Sri Lanka or Pakistan, people will laugh at me. But, that's the truth.
Sri Lanka had the momentum in their favour after the end of the first innings. As a batsman, was there a scoreboard pressure after they managed 274?
There was no pressure as such but 274 was a decent total. Had we batted first, we had plans of getting a total of 270-280. In 2011, that was actually a good score. Obviously, things have changed now because the rules have changed so much.
They had a decent total and we had to bat well. I don't really believe in scoreboard pressure and stuff. It's something that has been created by the media. For some people, it gets easier when they have a target in front of them because they know where they have to reach. I am someone who will never be happy while setting a target because I would feel we should have got more. So, I have never felt any scoreboard pressure in my life.
You scored a fantastic 97. You led from the front but what led to that rash stroke that got you dismissed?
I guess the human mind is their best friend and their biggest enemy as well. When you start thinking about the future, it might probably come back to bite you really bad. That’s exactly what happened to me. Till 97, all I was thinking about was getting to 275. But when I was on 97, suddenly you start thinking that you are probably one hit away from a World Cup final century. Or how you’re going to celebrate, or whether it was going to be your moment or you are going to be the first Indian to score a World Cup final century.
I am a human being as well and every human goes through those emotions. It was a great learning curve, not only for me but for a lot of young cricketers as well. Everyone should stay in the moment and rather not think too much about it. I was not thinking too much ahead but at that moment I was. Thus, I played that rash stroke. But I have no regrets about it. The only regret I have is not missing the hundred but failing to finish off the game.
Because for me, if India wouldn’t have gone on to win that World Cup, I would have stayed with regrets for the rest of my life. If someone would have told me a night before that you’d score 97 and India would go on to win the World Cup, would you take it? I would have happily taken it hands down.
You are the highest run-scorer for India in the T20 World Cup final in 2007 and the 2011 World cup final. For you what is the biggest difference between those two World Cup knocks?
These two are very different knocks. No doubt about it. But when I was growing up, I always wanted to win the 50-over World Cup because that was the actual World Cup. I don’t want to degrade the T20 World Cup because it is still a huge achievement. But when you’re growing up, the 50-Over World Cup was everything. And also, that was my first World Cup. I missed the 2007 World Cup so I wanted to make an impact in the 2011 World Cup. That was probably my moment. With all the hard work and all the practice that I had put in, it was time for me to make an impact.
Yes, the T20 World Cup was important. We were a very young side and not a lot of people expected a lot of great things. It was the first time that a T20 World Cup was happening. People thought we would go out there and play and come back. But then again playing the final against Pakistan was a great feeling. But when I came back I always wanted to win the 50-over World Cup.
Were you surprised when you saw MS Dhoni coming out at No. 5 and not Yuvraj Singh?
Not surprised at all. I was in my zone. Whether it was Yuvraj Singh, who was in fabulous form, or MS Dhoni, it didn’t matter to me one bit. Ultimately it was more to do with people calling it a masterstroke.
Yes, it was because it was better to have a right-hander in the middle, with Sri Lanka having three off-spinners – Muttiah Muralitharan, Suraj Randiv, and Dilshan. For me, it was more of a tactical stroke than a masterstroke. Or probably the right stroke as well.
You have to tell us about the after-match party.
I swear I am really a boring guy. I went back to the hotel and spoke to my family and went upstairs for five to ten minutes as there was a team get-together. Then I probably came back to my room and I was gone. Because I had spent close to 90 overs on the field. I fielded for fifty overs, I had no time in the middle and came into bat in the first over and got out in the 40th over. So, 90 overs in that heat and the pressure, I was completely gone.
But, the most important thing was, the entire family members were invited to the dressing room after we won the World Cup, which was such a special feeling. Imagine the family members, wives, girlfriends, sisters, brothers, parents were all in the dressing room celebrating with us, you don’t cherish or probably don’t experience that moment many times in your career, those were just special moments.
Did you sleep with the trophy beside you that night?
I am not that emotional, am not someone who gets attached to certain things too much. I remember, after winning the World Cup, I had to do an interview. I did that interview on the field and I said something that I still remember. The job was well done and this is what was expected of us and we didn’t do something we weren’t supposed to. When we were picked to play the World Cup for our country, it was our job to win the World Cup. It was not something like we had done an extraordinary thing or something we weren’t supposed to and now it's time to look forward.
Yes, we have won the World Cup for India and we have made India proud and people happy. It's time to look at the other challenges and that is the kind of person I am.
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