SWEET VICTORY

Indian team members, from left, Shantakumaran Sreesanth, Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Suresh Raina and Piyush Chawla pose with the trophy after winning in the Cricket World Cup final match between Sri Lanka and India in Mumbai, India, Saturday, April 2, 2011.
AP Photo/Gurinder Osan
AP Photo/Gurinder Osan

MUMBAI, India (AP) — Sachin Tendulkar was lifted onto his teammates’ shoulders and carried around Wankhede Stadium. India had won cricket’s World Cup for the first time in 28 years, and the party was on.

The six-wicket victory at home over Sri Lanka on Saturday gave the veteran batsman his first title in six attempts and sparked celebrations across the nation of 1.2 billion people.

“It’s the ultimate thing and I’m experiencing it,” Tendulkar said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better. It’s the proudest moment of my life.”

Although he was unable to get his 100th international century, going out for 18, Tendulkar’s teammates still dedicated the victory to him.

“He carried the hopes of the nation for 21 years so it’s time we carried him on our shoulders,” batsman Virat Kohli said.

Tendulkar was drenched in champagne by his teammates as the Indian squad hoisted the trophy around the stadium amid a scrum of cameras and fireworks blazing from the roof.

As the exaltations were going on in the stadium packed to capacity with 32,000 lucky ticket-holders, thousands of people spilled onto Marine Drive outside. The entire boulevard was a massive throng of screaming, flag-waving fans bursting with unconfined joy and relief. Many stood on top of cars and trucks blaring their horns. Others danced to drumbeats. Still more chanted “India, India.”

Traffic was at a standstill amid a mass of humanity as firecrackers echoed in the background.

India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni scored an unbeaten 91, sharing a 109-run stand with Gautam Gambhir (97) and finishing with a giant six. India chased down Sri Lanka 274-6 and became the first team to win batting second in a final since Sri Lanka beat Australia by eight wickets in 1996. Australia won the three previous World Cups — 1999, 2003 and 2007.

The 37-year-old Tendulkar, the leading run-scorer in international cricket, praised those around him.

“It’s never too late as they say. Thanks to all my teammates. Without such fabulous performance and such consistency it would never have happened,” he said, adding he was brought to tears. “They were happy tears, so I wouldn’t mind crying.”

Yuvraj Singh, who scored an unbeaten 21 in an unbroken fifth-wicket partnership with Dhoni, was voted player of the series.

“This is unbelievable. This is the most special one for whole of India, for Sachin, for the whole team,” he said. “It’s just amazing. We batted like champions.”

There was no winning farewell to international cricket for Muttiah Muralitharan, the only remaining player from Sri Lanka’s 1996 winning squad. Muralitharan, the leading wicket taker in international cricket, was slowed by injuries. He did not have the spring he needs for the extra spin that has bamboozled batsmen for a generation.

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