Ahead of the World Cup, widely perceived as the most open in recent times, India found itself in an unenviable position: anointed as the favourite and appointed to play in front of volatile, demanding home crowds. A measure of the constricting pressure India's cricketers experienced during the tournament may be had from captain M.S. Dhoni's revelation that his men struggled to keep their food down and that Yuvraj Singh was physically sick because of anxiety. Seen in this light, India's second World Cup triumph — 28 years after the gloriously improbable victory Kapil Dev's team achieved against the mighty West Indies — appears all the more remarkable. Four distinct qualities characterise this triumph. One, the facility for natural expression under pressure, especially when batting. Two, game-toughness, which manifested itself in the wherewithal to meter resources through a draining tournament. Three, the peculiar yet much-desired ability, common to teams Dhoni leads, not so much to solve problems as to transcend them (the lift in the fielding standard of a largely unathletic side inured to mediocrity was hard to explain). Four and most important of all, an unbending desire to win that was stronger than any of the other teams.
From a unit that looked flawed in the league stage — its bowling inadequate, its fielding incompetent, its batting inconsistent, particularly in the Power Play overs — India transformed itself into a side that got the job done in the big matches. As Dhoni noted, his team peaked at the right time. No one better illustrated this transformation than the captain. He reserved his best innings — a poised, calculated, and ultimately devastating 91 — for the finale. His decision to promote himself in the big game was a classic case of leading from the front, and while he made tactically questionable calls, his ability to inspire a band of men to stay invested in a contest is second to none. Gautam Gambhir seems to escape notice in a team of superstars, but he must be acknowledged as one of the finest big-match batsmen of his generation. His record in second innings in important Tests and in run chases and grand finals in ODIs and Twenty20 games is exceptional. India discovered and re-discovered many heroes in the World Cup. Yuvraj had a standout tournament, his runs and wickets often coming when his team needed them most. Zaheer Khan held the bowling together, delivering wickets whenever his captain threw him the ball in the middle-stages. He might not have ended as he wished, but his brilliant opening spell in the final set the tone. Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, and Suresh Raina made runs that were worth more than their quantity while Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel, and Ashish Nehra contributed vital spells without having consistently good tournaments. R. Ashwin, curiously overlooked for much of India's campaign, added an edge to the bowling and forced Harbhajan to raise his game. Sachin Tendulkar, for whom the team said it wanted to win the World Cup, continued his scarcely believable second wind which now spans three years. The team's spontaneous gesture of chairing a visibly emotional Tendulkar and parading him before an adoring home crowd showed how much it meant to all involved. Coach Gary Kirsten and the rest of the backroom staff deserve high praise for creating an atmosphere in which India's cricketers could relax and thus express their skills naturally. Sri Lanka might have fallen at the last hurdle, but much like Pakistan, it won fans for its cricket, its comportment, and its captaincy. But this was India's World Cup, and Dhoni's men were worthy winners of a well-staged tournament.