Nitpickers will lament that cricket's World Cup final in Mumbai last Saturday did not live up to its billing as a clash of the titans—a duel between the sport's alltime greatest batter, India's Sachin Tendulkar, and greatest bowler, Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan. Pregame hype concentrated around the two men, both playing in their last Cup game. Imagine Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson facing off in the last World Series they would grace. Perhaps the weight of expectations was too much to bear: Tendulkar scored a paltry 18 runs (he has exceeded 100 runs for his national team 99 times, more than anyone else) and Muralitharan took no wickets (his career 1,347 are the most ever).
But few Indians were complaining: Their team won the Cup, sending the nation of 1.21 billion into a weekend-long frenzy of celebration that far surpassed the rejoicing that greeted India's semifinal victory on March 30 over archenemy Pakistan. Afterward, Tendulkar's teammates lifted him on their shoulders for a victory lap on his home ground. "[He] carried the burden of the nation for 21 years," said Virat Kohli, one of the squad's young bloods. "It was time we carried him."
India took the bragging rights, but in a larger sense the entire Indian subcontinent won. The Cup proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that cricket's center of gravity has moved a long way east from the sport's origins in the green fields of Ye Olde England. Three of the four semifinalists were from the subcontinent; Bangladesh played cohost; and the English were made to look like schoolboys by Sri Lanka in the quarters.
With its vast cricket-loving population, the subcontinent has long supplied the TV audience (over a billion watched India-Pakistan) that makes cricket the world's second-most-popular sport, after soccer. Now they have the teams to match their passion.
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
David Ferrer, the world's No. 6--ranked tennis player, attempted to silence an infant in the stands who had cried during a serve at the Sony Ericsson Open quarterfinals on March 30 by intentionally directing a forehand lob into the vicinity of the noise.
MICHAEL STEELE/GETTY IMAGES (CRICKET)
JEWEL OF INDIA Tendulkar's Cup career culminated with a record 2,278 lifetime runs in cricket's top event.