India’s cricketers have dedicated their World Cup final victory over Sri Lanka to legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar.
Co-hosts India were magnificent as they beat Sri Lanka by six wickets, with Tendulkar – who scored 18 – winning the World Cup at his sixth attempt.
“This is the proudest moment of my life,” said Tendulkar, 37. “This is the ultimate and I’m experiencing it.”
Paying tribute, batsman Virat Kohli said: “Sachin carried the burden of a nation for 21 years so he deserves it.”
Fellow batsman Gautam Gambhir, who scored a superb 97, added: “The guys must have thought [the World Cup in] 2007 was a nightmare and this is a dream. Congratulations to Sachin, all credit goes to him and this victory is for him.”
Tendulkar was carried around the pitch by his team-mates during a lap on honour after the match at his home ground, the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
He failed to score his 100th international century – he has 51 in Test matches and 48 in one-day internationals – in the game, but India successfully reached their target of 275 with six wickets in hand and 10 balls to spare.
After Mahela Jayawardene’s magical 103 not out from only 88 balls had taken Sri Lanka to 274-6 from their 50 overs, India were reduced to 31-2 when Tendulkar was caught behind off Lasith Malinga.
But Gambhir batted sublimely, first in tandem with Kohli (35) and then captain Mahendra Dhoni, who struck an imperious unbeaten 91 from 79 balls to lead his team home, smashing a massive six to win.
Tendulkar, who finally got his hands on the World Cup trophy after missing out in 1992, 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2007, paid tribute to his team-mates and the Indian coaching staff as the country won the sport’s biggest one-day prize for the first time since 1983.
“It’s never too late, as they say,” added Tendulkar. “Thanks to all my team-mates. Without such fabulous performances and such consistency it would never have happened.
“Our support staff worked very hard and we worked on the mental side, coping with the pressure. This team stuck together through ups and downs and when people were doubting our ability.
“The self-belief is greater in this team than maybe in the past. We’ve been more consistent in the last couple of years and it’s a great honour to be involved with this group.”
Tendulkar also admitted he had shed a few tears in the aftermath of India’s win: “They are happy tears, so I don’t mind crying.”
Dhoni revealed his relief at guiding his team home and admitted the decisions to leave off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin out and promote himself to number five in the order carried elements of risk.
“Well, of course it’s a relief to win,” said Dhoni. “We took quite a few big decisions today, especially with Ashwin and myself, so if we had lost there would have been plenty of questions and that’s something that was pushing me to do well.
“In this game I wanted to bat up the order and [coach] Gary Kirsten and the senior players backed me. I had a point to prove to myself and I’m obviously glad I got the runs I did.
“In the last month or so together we have done really well. We’ve grown together on and off the field and it has been a very memorable time to be part of this team.
“It was tough when we were 31-2, but Gautam and Virat batted brilliantly, got the singles and negotiated the fast bowling, and with the help of some dew on the field we were able to put pressure on the spinners.”
Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara, who made 48 from 67 balls but could not stop India’s batsmen from getting over the line, was full of praise for Dhoni and his men.
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“All I can say is congratulations India, you were the better side and fantastic today,” said Sangakkara. “I think both India and Sri Lanka can be proud of the cricket we played in this match.
“We would have taken anything around 270 at the start, but the only way you can stop India is to take seven wickets. Gambhir was superb and Dhoni finished it off brilliantly.
“I’m very proud of everyone, especially Mahela [Jayawardene] who produced a fine knock. But when you play this India team, anything under 350 seems not enough.
“The way they played they deserved to be favourites and they played in front of a great crowd. All you can do is congratulate them.”
Sangakkara also paid tribute to his side’s star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who finished his illustrious career by taking 0-39 from eight overs, amid speculation that he was nowhere near fully fit.
“It was one of those rare days when he didn’t really do the job for us, but that’s maybe one in 100 games that that happens,” added Sangakkara.
“We’re going to miss him terribly. Unfortunately we couldn’t give him a great send-off but that’s the way it goes. We were outplayed today and we have to accept that.
“He’s our best bowler, even half fit. But he was fine, he was almost at full fitness when he played today. I don’t think it was an issue.”