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India are World Cup winners again! I consider myself privileged to have been at the Wankhede stadium to witness first-hand both the brilliant manner in which victory was achieved, and the outpouring of emotion in the dressing room, where I spent some ten minutes with the boys.
I felt a sense of belonging with MS and his team as I stepped into the dressing room. I am sure I speak for all Indians when I say that it was as if I too was part of the side.
This team has had the best wishes of the whole country, but it has also had to grapple with the pressure of expectations and of playing at home, and it has handled all those pressures in grand style!
The fans' emotional response showed just what this triumph has meant to every Indian. It has brought people closer, and made them unified and celebratory for one success.
Delighted for Sachin
I am particularly delighted for Sachin, because I know how much it means to him to be a part of a World Cup-winning side. When I was playing, we had two opportunities to win the title.
The 1996 loss was very disheartening because we felt we really had the team to go all the way.
In 2003, I got only limited opportunities but I still believed the team had the quality to win the title, though we came up against a very strong Australian team in the final.
Having missed those opportunities, I am glad Sachin has realised his ambition this time. Cricket is a team sport, and this is one achievement where the individual will be remembered for what the team has achieved, and not vice-versa.
I am really thrilled that we can celebrate a World Cup success again, after 28 years. This was always going to be our best opportunity simply because of the quality of individuals we have in this team.
In the last couple of years, this team has won from nothing positions, in both Tests and one-dayers.
They have not depended on one or two individuals, and therefore know that even if some key men do not deliver, there are others that can get the job done.
This victory is the culmination of the successes and experiences of the last couple of years.
Gary's role in all this has been most praiseworthy. He has been a binding force and a catalyst, keeping the team so closely knit.
His wavelength with every member of the team is very good, and it is no coincidence that the performances of all individuals have gone up a notch in the last couple of years, and that includes Sachin.
Watching from the ground, at no stage did I get the feeling that India might lose. Everything was against us — there was confusion at the toss, India had to make the highest chase in a final, no team had won a World Cup on home ground. To battle all the odds and win in the manner India did was a massive statement.
Mahela made a brilliant hundred, and though he came into the final without too many runs, he was never troubled by any of the bowlers. India's victory was fashioned by several players, everyone contributing at different stages.
Gautam's knock was crucial given that we had lost two early wickets, and as soon as MS walked in, took his time and then started to take charge, I knew we were in control.
Maybe if I had been watching on television, I would have been a little more nervous, but being at the ground and seeing how calm the chase was, I was convinced the title was ours.
Victory in the 1983 World Cup inspired a lot of Indians, and I believe this win will, too. It will inspire young kids to take up the game and see what it takes to be number one. In 1983, and in the World T20 in 2007, no one had given us a ghost of a chance.
This time, the team was expected to win. It began the tournament as favourites, and ended it in style. The team was most watched, most followed, most scrutinised and most analysed by all and sundry, except the 15 members who formed the squad. That alone should make it the most cherished triumph!
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