The money was on India. Even the form guide pointed toward them. After a smooth and unbeaten run in the Super 10s, MS Dhoni & Co. went into Sunday's final as the hot favourites. But fate had something else in store. It was Sri Lanka who emerged champions of the ICC World Twenty20, the islanders finally breaking their final hoodoo with a stupendous six-wicket win at the Sher-e-Bangla. And yes, Dhoni' 'treble dream' was shattered.
Lasith Malinga and his boys out-batted, out-bowled and out-thought India, thereby capturing their first maiden world title since those heady days in 1996. Playing his last T20 International, senior batsman and former captain Kumar Sangakkara scored a match-winning unbeaten 52 (35 balls, 6x4, 1x6) to help Sri Lanka achieve the hardly threatening 131-run target. Mahela Jayawardene, also on his way out, made a composed 24 as the Sri Lankans gave the veterans a fitting farewell gift.
Only an eternal optimist would have expected India to pull off a coup after scoring at just 6.5 runs an over. Virat Kohli was the only batsmen who looked the part. In fact, he batted like a champion to finish with 77 (58 balls, 5x4, 4x6), accounting for a whopping 59 per cent of India's runs. For the record, he was also adjudged Man of the Tournament for his 319 runs. Rohit Sharma made 29 off 26. The rest didn't even turn up. Yuvraj Singh had yet another off day, scoring a painstaking 11 off 21 balls.
The Indian bowlers, who did extremely well throughout the tournament, tried their best to defend this meagre total. They got wickets at crucial junctures, but there was nothing much they could do with Sangakkara in that mood.
India struck as early as the second over when Mohit Sharma dismissed Kusal Perera. Sri Lanka never looked in a hurry and knew that small partnerships could see them through. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jaywardene chipped in with boundaries at regular intervals before the duo was sent back by R Ashwin and Suresh Raina respectively.
With the scoreboard reading 78/4 after Lahiru Thirimanne's dismissal in the 13th over, Sangakkara and Thisara Perera simply took over. Their unbroken partnership, for the fifth wicket, yielded 56 runs. Mohit, Ashwin, Mishra and Raina chipped in with a wicket each. However, they should have done a tad better for Dhoni to become the first captain to hold three ICC titles simultaneously.
Earlier, put into bat, Kohli did what he does best. He scored his fourth half-century of the tournament, the previous ones against the West Indies (54), Bangladesh (57*) and South Africa (77*). Kohli was involved in two half-century partnerships — 64 with Sharma and 55 with Yuvraj.
Walking in at the fall of opener Ajinkya Rahane (3) who was bowled by Angelo Mathews in the second over, Kohli was cautious to begin with. He announced his arrival by flicking Nuwan Kulasekara to the mid-wicket boundary. However, 12 balls, later he survived a close call when Malinga dropped him off Rangana Herath.
Sharma looked good in the middle and hit three boundaries. But the Mumbaikar threw it away after doing all the hard work. A lofted drove off Herath landed in the hands of cover fielder Sachithra Senanayake.
Kohli was his usual dominant self. He slammed Mathews, Herath and Kulasekara for a six each. Kulasekara bore the brunt of Kohli's ire. In 16th over, he hammered Kulasekara for a maximum and followed it up with back-to-back boundaries. But that was it.
The Indians could not dominate the Sri Lankans, who turned on the screws. Yuvraj struggled to go for his shots. In the end he got out to Kulasekara. Even skipper Dhoni couldn't get going. For the record, India did not score a single boundary in the last four overs. Worse, Kohli faced just eight off the last 24 deliveries.