My First World Cup December 21, 2014

Lifting the trophy and a legend

The stress of playing a World Cup at home turned to elation for Piyush Chawla after India won it memorably in Mumbai

Piyush Chawla learnt an important bowling lesson after the India-England tie in Bangalore © AFP

I was desperate to be part of the 2011 World Cup, played in the subcontinent. Early in the 2007 World T20 in South Africa, I'd got injured but was allowed to stay on, and I felt the excitement of winning a global tournament.

Two months before the 2011 World Cup, I didn't think I would make the cut. When I was picked I felt a sort of relief, though I also knew the pressure we would feel due to the faith that millions of fans had in the team.

As we got closer to our opening match in Dhaka, World Cup fever was enormous. The pressure was heavier than I had imagined. Wherever we went, we were told only one thing: win the trophy.

Slowly it started getting on our nerves. We decided to switch off from all the talk outside and concentrate on our job. I stopped reading newspapers, as did most of my team-mates. As the tournament progressed, we got used to mechanically responding to the hotel staff and fans about the need to keep winning.

Other than playing at home, a big factor for the team was that this was going to be Sachin Tendulkar's last World Cup. All of us in the squad had idolised him since childhood, and if we could contribute a little to help him fulfil his dream, we would have been thrilled. That is what we managed to do. The victory in the final and the euphoria after Mahi bhai [MS Dhoni] hit that six at the Wankhede is hard to explain in words.

While the nation celebrated with Sachin paaji, we did a victory lap, carrying him on our shoulders. It was the most memorable night of my life - lifting the trophy and then lifting the legend on our shoulders, as the whole nation celebrated.

For me, the penultimate over that I bowled against England taught me more than the thousands of overs I had bowled till then. It was a very close match and when Mahi bhai gave me the ball, he told me to bowl to the plan. With every ball the pressure piled on. It was an exciting over. I got hit for two sixes, picked up a wicket off the last ball, and the match was eventually tied.

At the time I felt we had almost lost the match because of my over. But my team-mates were encouraging as ever. After returning to my room that night, I thought about it and realised I was thinking far too much before bowling every ball, which used to confuse me. That was the biggest lesson for me: to keep it as simple as possible in the toughest times.

As told to Amol Karhadkar, a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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