Former India batsman Suresh Raina recalled how a dejected look on Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s face inspired him to win the match for India during their quarter-final clash against Australia in Ahmedabad at the 2011 World Cup.
Chasing a target of 275, India were stuck in a difficult position at 187/5 after the departure of Dhoni, who managed to score just eight runs. India needed 74 runs off 75 deliveries as Raina walked into bat and until Dhoni’s dismissal, the hosts had failed to register a single fifty partnership during their chase.
Given Australia’s penchant to step up when the pressure is high, especially at the World Cup where they were three-time defending champions, the odds were starting to shift in favour of Ricky Ponting and Co.
However, Raina and Yuvraj Singh held their nerves to take India past the finish line as India won the match by five wickets with 14 balls remaining to reach semi-finals.
“I remember that knock very well,” Raina said during a chat with commentator and former India opener Aakash Chopra.
“Viru bhai [Virender Sehwag] was sitting on my right and paaji [Sachin Tendulkar] on the left. Tendulkar tapped me thrice and said go, ‘You will win the match for India today’. He wears that Sai Baba’s bracelet and I felt that blessing after he touched me. It made me feel that today’s my day and I’m not going to miss this opportunity. Yuvi pa [Yuvraj] was already set at the crease but as I saw MS Dhoni [walking back to the pavilion], he had a sad look on his face. At that very moment, I decided I would not miss this chance and that I must deliver.”
Raina said the conditions and the lighting of the Motera stadium made it difficult for them to play but after Australia brought on the pacers, the game shifted in India’s favour. Yuvraj scored a half-century while Raina played an influential cameo, scoring 37.
“There was a mix-up with the ball as the stadium lighting and the colour of the soil was different, so we had to play with a lot of focus. Australia removed the off-spinners from the attack and they were the ones who posed a huge threat. But after the fast bowlers were introduced, the game opened up for us. Had spinners Jason Krejza or David Hussey come in to bowl, it would have been challenging but I and Yuvi pa played on. After I hit Brett Lee for a six, I was sure that we will win and the momentum kept shifting in our favour.”
India later on defeated Pakistan in the semi-final in Mohali before going on to beat Sri Lanka in the finals, winning the trophy after 28 years.
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