India end a 28-year-long wait
World Cup No.10
Minnows Canada, Kenya, Ireland, Netherlands
The ICC learnt its lessons from the 2007 World Cup and reverted to the format used in the 1996 World Cup, where the knockout stage began with the quarter-finals. In 2007, teams were split into four groups of four each but the experiment backfired when India and Pakistan bowed out in the first round, considerably robbing the tournament of commercial and spectator interest. The latest format, though, gave the teams more chances of recovering from a poor start. Teams were split into two groups of seven each, every team playing the other in the group once. The top four from each group would qualify for the quarter-finals.
Initially, the four subcontinent teams were due to host the tournament, but the terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009, and the deteriorating security situation, led to Pakistan being dropped as a co-host. The matches were then shared between India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
It was the first World Cup to use the DRS, and Super Over for deciding tied matches (though not for the group matches).
The tournament began with a series of one-sided games, with the minnows Kenya and Canada getting thrashed. Netherlands gave England a scare by posting 292 but failed to defend it. Pakistan, too, overcame a scare against Canada in a low-scoring game. Bangalore hosted two thrillers: the match between India and England ended in a tie and England lost to Ireland in another close match. Ireland looked all but out of the contest at 111 for 5, chasing a massive 328, but Kevin O'Brien played the innings of his life - 113 - to give his side one of their best wins. Bangladesh were rolled over for 58 by West Indies, leading to unruly behaviour from their fans, but the team regained pride when they beat England in a nail-biter in the following game. Australia's 34-game winning streak in World Cup matches ended when they lost to Pakistan.
Unlike in 2007, when the second round featured two unlikely entrants in Bangladesh and Ireland, none of the lower-ranked teams made it through in this edition. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand qualified from Group A while South Africa, India, England and West Indies made it from the other group. India knocked out defending champions Australia - in search of their fourth consecutive title while Pakistan thrashed West Indies by ten wickets after bundling them out for 112. South Africa were comfortably placed to beat New Zealand but choked - not for the first time in an ICC tournament - and their batting collapsed to Jacob Oram in a vitriolic quarter-final; Sri Lanka hammered England by ten wickets in front of home fans in Colombo.
In the first semi-final in Colombo, Sri Lanka restricted New Zealand to 217 and overcame jitters towards the end to win by five wickets. In the second semi-final, the organisers got what they had hoped for - an India-Pakistan clash in a knockout. Sachin Tendulkar was dropped as many as five times on his way to 85 and India posted a competitive 260 in Mohali, with Wahab Riaz taking a five-wicket haul. The chase was tantalising but Pakistan failed to soak up the pressure as the game wore on and lost regular wickets. Misbah-ul-Haq, caught in two minds whether to attack or play safe, was left with too much to do in the end, as Pakistan succumbed to their fifth consecutive defeat against India in World Cup matches.
India were in their third World Cup final and their first at home. Sri Lanka made it to their second consecutive final but the partisan crowd was always going to test them. Mahela Jayawardene overcame that pressure to score a poetic century, guiding Sri Lanka to 274 and leaving India to pull off the highest chase in a World Cup final. There was a hush when India lost Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag early, but Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli revived hopes with a stand of 83. Then came the captain's masterstroke. MS Dhoni chose to promote himself ahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh, with India needing 160 from 28 overs. Gambhir fell for 97 but India still had the upper hand with Dhoni steadying the nerves at the other end. Yuvraj Singh joined Dhoni and the pair snatched all hope for the visitors with a flurry of boundaries. Dhoni's winning six over long-on, followed by a stylish bat twirl that rested under his arm pit, became the tournament's snapshot as India won the World Cup after 28 years. Yuvraj, who fought off illness through the World Cup, picked up the Man of the Tournament award.
Muttiah Muralitharan, who had quit Tests a year earlier, bowed out of international cricket after the final. Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar announced midway through the tournament that he was quitting international cricket.
Not to be forgotten
Compared to the 2007 World Cup, the tournament was a resounding success, thanks largely to the fact that India, the powerhouse of world cricket, triumphed at home. The ICC got the format right, though it was probably their good fortune that India and Pakistan didn't get eliminated in the quarter-finals. There was a controversy, though, barely days after the final. In a bid to make the tournament even more competitive, the ICC had decided to limit the 2015 and 2019 editions to just the ten Test nations. However, following a wave of protests from the Associates, the ICC later decided to revert to the 14-team format for the 2015 edition, giving the Associates a chance to play in the tournament via a qualifier. Ireland's inspiring win against England fuelled the debate that it was unfair to cull the Associates and that a ten-team World Cup would not give the tournament a 'global' feel. The 2011 edition would also be remembered for Dhoni's swagger in the wining moment.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo