World Cup 2011: I wasn’t feeling normal... I was shivering, says Harbhajan

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(added 02 Apr 2012)

World Cup 2011: I wasn’t feeling normal... I was shivering, says Harbhajan

One year after lifting the World Cup, how do you feel?
That moment is still as precious as it was that night. It was probably the biggest moment of my cricketing life. Winning the World Cup was something big for all of us, we all wanted to achieve it. We came so close to winning it in 2003. But victory in front of our home crowd was something really special.

Was there more pressure playing at home?
Playing the World Cup is all about pressure, whether you play in India or abroad. The kind of support we got was fantastic. We had the advantage. We had people’s wishes and prayers while playing at home.

Tell us more about the journey?
We had long practice stints in Bangalore. Mike Horn’s sessions were truly inspiring. As a team, we tried to be together most of the time, not just on the field. We made sure we were one unit with one motive: winning the World Cup. We were all prepared, and that’s why we were the best team in the competition. We were able to win from difficult situations.

Has life changed after the high on April 2?
My chest swells to double its size when someone calls me a world champion. I’m sure my teammates feel the same. Twenty years from now, when I look back, I’ll say, ‘Yes, that was the biggest thing I have achieved’. Life has not changed much after that. I am doing the same things, playing here and there, same sort of cricket.

When did you believe India could win the Cup?
The World Cup preparations began two-three years prior to the tournament. Some players did not want to play the ODIs as they wanted to stay fresh for the World Cup. The ultimate ambition was to win the World Cup. The belief was always there. We told ourselves: if we could achieve something like this, how big it would be.

India had to play former world champions (Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) one after the other in the knockouts. How did you tackle them?
We took one game at a time. We were not looking at the faces we were playing against. You have to think what you can achieve rather than thinking what the opponents are good at. We took each game as it came and stuck to our plans.

Which opponent gave you sleepless nights?
The most nervous game was the one against Pakistan. That was something I will remember all my life. I’ve never felt so much pressure before an international match. I was almost shivering when I came in to bowl. Playing on my home ground, with the nation’s expectations, a World Cup semifinal against Pakistan, the prime ministers of both the countries watching… there was so much hype about that game. I was not feeling normal. I was shivering when I returned for my second spell. When I got Umar Akmal out off the first ball of a new spell, and then Shahid Afridi, those were the most satisfying moments. In my cricketing career, I have never felt so much pressure.

Was the final more relaxed?
Compared to the semifinal, the final was pretty relaxed. We got a bit tense after Viru (Sehwag) and Sachin (Tendulkar) got out. We felt it might slip away, but Gauti (Gambhir) and Virat (Kohli) got that partnership, and then for Dhoni to come and finish it off in style was fantastic. In-form Yuvraj (Singh) also played a vital role. Hats off to the way he batted, bowled, and lifted himself up in the competition. Before the tournament, he was dropped. He had a lot of self-belief to come back on the big stage and perform the way he did.

How was it for you personally, nine wickets in 11 matches?
Whatever contribution I made in the World Cup, I’m pretty happy about them. At the end of the day, we are all champions. Taking five wickets in a losing cause will not make you happy. Taking two wickets against Pakistan at a crucial time was the most satisfying since the team needed them the most.

Some players talked about wanting to win it for Tendulkar. To have actually done that was very satisfying, wasn’t it?
We all felt that Sachin might not play in the next World Cup. Probably, it was the biggest gift to Sachin who has given so much to Indian cricket and to all who love this sport. We dedicated the World Cup to him, something befitting his stature.

(added 02 Apr 2012) / 948 views

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