An alternate ending to the Sri Lanka vs India World Cup final in 2011

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Reuters

Do you remember the brilliant catch Nuwan Kulasekera took off Suraj Randiv in the 2011 World Cup Final? I bet you don’t – because it never happened. But what if Kulasekara had taken that catch? It’s an eternal question that lingers in the minds of Lankan fans. Join the journey through this alternate reality.

Freehit contributor – Aravinthan Arunthavanathan 

Background:

Everything remains the same as it had unfolded until the moment Kulasekera, stationed at long off, dropped Gautam Gambhir off Suraj Randiv around the 13th over with the Indians on 60-odd for two wickets.

Alternate series of events:

With Sachin and Sehwag back in the hut, Gambhir and a young Kohli were building a partnership, putting India back on track.  Sangakkara introduced Suraj Randiv, probably the only player ever to have played a World Cup final without even being a part of the squad during the tournament. Gambhir tried to clear the wide long off boundary to put pressure on Randiv. Unfortunately, he succeeded only in holing out to Kulasekera at long off who ran in, dived forward and grabbed a stunner, leaving India three down with 67 on the board in the 13th over. Skipper Sangakkara’s audacity to bring Randiv into the final eleven, a much criticized move, was instantly rewarded.  

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In an unprecedented change, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, plagued with scarcity of form during the tournament, marched out ahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh. The skipper was showcasing greater confidence that what Sehwag had elicited prior to reviewing two plumb LBWs in the Semis and the Finals. As Dhoni struggled against the spin and bounce of Randiv and Murali, young Virat tried to wrest the momentum from Sri Lanka with aggressive strokeplay, running between wickets and a bit of verbal diarrhea. 

At 99 for 3 Virat pushed Dhoni for a nonexistent single, where Dilshan ran onto the ball faster than the rate at which Gambhir speaks and threw the stumps down at the keeper’s end. India were in tatters at 99/4, with Dhoni caught short of the crease. Young Virat with his energy and aggression, had sold his struggling skipper down the river, on the biggest stage.

Sangakkara’s astute leadership came to the fore when he brought back his trump card Malinga to deal with the in- form Yuvraj. Malinga dealt telling blows running through the Indian middle order, cleaning up Yuvraj with a searing inswinging yorker and having Raina caught at short backward square leg in quick succession. Randiv accounted for young Virat with an amazing return catch off his own bowling (Sorry Dilshan). In no time India were in disarray at 160/7 with all the leading batsman back in the hut.

Some late order pinch hitting from Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh propelled the scored to a respectable 210, but not anywhere close to Sri Lanka’s imposing 274. It was exactly the opposite of what India had hoped for. It turned out to be a perfect send off for Murali, gate crashing Sachin’s Mumbai dream- World Cup edition.

The magician Murali in his last outing cleaned up the tail in no time handing Sri Lanka an emphatic 64 run victory on the grandest cricketing stage.

Meanwhile Shane Warne went on a twitter rant saying how unfair it is for Murali to  keep boosting his wickets tally by cleaning up cheap tail end wickets. Warne didn’t forget to mention that he had no jealousy towards Murali but it was his duty towards the game to point out facts.

Nevertheless, it turned out to be a day where all decisions Sangakkara made turned out to be master strokes. From winning the toss, batting first and bringing in Randiv, all decisions worked like magic. 

The sight of Sangakkara casually removing his gloves and walking from behind the stumps with a smile became as iconic as Imran Khan holding the cup in 1992 and Arjuna Ranatunga lifting the World Cup in 1996. It was a smile of achievement implying he knew exactly what he was doing all through out like bringing in Randiv for the final directly and tricking the mighty MSD into a repeat toss despite knowing well he had lost the first flip of the coin. 

What followed after the World Cup


Indian skipper MSD was stripped off captaincy after his selfish act of trying to steal the show in the final, despite having a poor run. Yuvraj’s father Yograj Singh even went to the extent of filing a fundamental rights case in courts against MSD for denying Yuvraj the opportunity to bat at his original slot, out of pure jealousy. 

Nuwan Kulasekera – Little man with a big heart


Gautam Gambhir was entrusted with the leadership of the team. A decision BCCI regretted later as he often engaged in twitter rants with Afridi rather than winning battles on the field. The issue was so serious that they sought Saurav Ganguly to hand out anger management lessons to Gambhir in a bid to prolong his leadership tenure. During his time the gap between the neighbours escalated as Sangakkara, smartly employed Russel Arnold’s ability to annoy people and provoke Gambhir whenever Sri Lanka played India. Gambhir’s twitter battles with Arnold distracted him on the field which led to Sri Lanka prevailing over India in all formats. It’s no secret that Sanga paid Russel handsomely by sending ‘kalu dodol’ to his Aussie residence.

Meanwhile poor Virat Kohli joined the infamous list of players who have been victimized for running out seniors. The chubby cheeked Delhi lad struggled to overcome the trauma of the backlash and ate more and more aloo paratas and chapathis with ghee, much to the delight of his mom, to make sure that his mobility between the wickets was restricted so that he wouldn’t risk running out aging seniors like Sachin, Sehwag and jeopardizing his career further. (A generation of Sri Lankan bowlers would not know how much trauma they would have had to suffer at the hands of this lad had things gone any other way). A bromance that promised to blossom between two fit, quick runners between the wickets was nipped in the bud due to the unfortunate run out. An event that would push India’s progress back years.

In Sri Lanka

Sangakkara’s leadership skills made the nation realize they probably had a statesman in the making.

Mahela was relieved he would not be entrusted with leadership again and have to deal with cricketing politics. He spent his off time watching his favorite Manchester United playing and that enjoyment spilled over to his cricket making him pile up century after century. Sanga followed Arjuna’s theory of keeping his best batsman happy by letting Mahela win all the warmup football duels, overlooking his fouls. 

The World Cup win meant that the board had to listen to what Sangakkara said. There was not an iota of politics in the side, the seniors scaled new heights, the youngsters blossomed. 
Sangakkara’s tenure following the 2011 World Cup win saw Sri Lanka win two World T20s in 2012 and 2014 orchestrating a golden era in Lankan cricket. 

*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ThePapare.com.

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