April 2, 2011 was a momentous day that has been etched forever in the memory of every Indian cricket fan. Team India, putting behind the disappointment they suffered four years ago, won the World Cup after a gap of 28 years. The title-winning six hit by MS Dhoni off Sri Lanka's Nuwan Kulasekara was a decisive moment, and remains fresh in the memory of Indian fans, as if it happened only yesterday.
Millions of Indians dancing in the streets, celebrating the success of the team, and a flurry of gifts showered on the players hogged the limelight for the next couple of days after that dazzling night in Mumbai. But the same side which had reached that zenith 12 months ago, would touch their nadir in the same year, as England and then Australia thrashed them soundly.
A year on from the World Cup triumph, let's take a look at how life has changed for the Indian cricket team.
India’s road to the final, as expected, was not easy. Having beaten West Indies to secure a spot in the knock-out phase, they played two of their toughest matches in the space of a few days. First, India came up against four-time World Cup winners Australia, unbeaten in the tournament since 1999, in the quarter-finals. Having knocked the defending champions out, India faced a Shahid Afridi-led Pakistan in the semi-finals, the mother of all matches. It was as daunting an ask to reach the final as could be.
In the quarter-final in Ahmedabad, riding on a century by then captain Ricky Ponting, Australia had set India a stiff target of 261. From 187 for 5 in 38 overs, the home team needed Yuvraj Singh, the eventual Player of the Tournament, to come to their rescue with a match-winning 57 in the company of Suresh Raina who played a sparkling cameo.
Following that major victory there was a festive atmosphere in Mohali for the semi-final clash against Pakistan, with fans chanting the names of their favourite Indian players while making their way to the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium on March 30. After electing to bat, India were looking good to test their opponents with a target close to 300, but a fiery spell of 5 for 46 by the left-arm fast bowler Wahab Riaz left them at 260 in 50 overs.
Despite getting a good start, Pakistan lost a flurry of wickets in the middle before eventually slumping to a 29-run defeat. Though India were still a major hurdle away from winning the title, the victory against their arch-rivals was celebrated like the country had already become world champions.
There was a sea of blue - the colour of the Indian team jersey - at the Wankhede Stadium as India took on an in-form Sri Lanka at the summit. Other than thousands of fans in the stadium and millions glued to their television sets, there was also a long queue of VIPs, VVIPs and Bollywood celebrities cheering for India at the Wankhede.
Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara won a controversial toss - there was some confusion as to what he had called - and elected to bat on a pitch which was expected to assist the spinners later on in the game. Teams crave for their players to perform the way Mahela Jayawardene did in the final, hitting a whirlwind hundred (103 off 88 balls) at a time when Sri Lanka needed it the most.
A target of 274 looked a mammoth one when India lost the wickets of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar inside seven overs. But an unforgettable innings of 97 from Gautam Gambhir and a bold move by Dhoni, in which he promoted himself up the order despite not firing throughout the tournament, and the 100-run partnership between the two turned the game on its head as India became world champions for the first time since 1983. Dhoni lifting the trophy and the players doing a victory lap with Tendulkar and then coach Gary Kirsten on their shoulders, was a spectacle to behold. It felt like the entire country was celebrating one big festival.
The celebrations lasted just a couple days, however. Hardly had India lifted the trophy before the players jumped into the IPL five days later. Drained by the World Cup and the IPL, several big-name players were absent from a tour of the West Indies shortly after the IPL. Test and ODI series wins in the Caribbean were the last success overseas that the Indian team would taste.
An undercooked side landed in England and its frailties were exposed badly by the home side, which drubbed them 4-0 in the Tests and won the ODI series. Some sort of revenge was extracted when England were beaten 5-0 in a meaningless ODI series in India weeks after India returned home, but there were enough cracks to indicate this was an Indian team on the wane.
Then came West Indies, whom India beat in the Tests and ODIs. It would prove a false dawn before the challenging tour of Australia. In England, India could point to a depleted side and a lack of preparation, but their 4-0 Test humiliation in Australia left them red-faced. Next came the CB Series, in which India failed to make the finals.
A week later, India were playing in the Asia Cup where defeat to Bangladesh ended up ensuring they failed to reach the final. That disappointment rounded off a year that saw them going from the top to rock bottom.
Along the way, Rahul Dravid retired, Yuvraj was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and Tendulkar finally scored his much-awaited 100th international hundred. Whatever has happened in the past one year is hard to forget. There was ecstasy of victory and the low of eight consecutive Test defeats. But now, as Team India marks a year of lifting the coveted World Cup, both the players and fans would like to make a new beginning by taking the positive aspects ahead while leaving the negativity and failures behind.
If the Indian team needs inspiration, it has to only look back at April 2, 2011. It was an unforgettable day. Here's hoping India script a few more memories in the coming year.