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Cricket unites sub-continent

NEW DELHI - The fireworks that exploded after India's scintillating World Cup triumph over Sri Lanka in the final were not the only ones that eventually added sparkle to cricket's showpiece event. Some thrilling contests, the enthusiasm of the home fans and big money for sponsors and advertisers -- everything added up to make the exhausting, six-week odyssey a success in the eyes of the organisers.

Sri Lanka deserved huge credit, making it to the title clash until falling at the final hurdle for the second time in a row. "It was the character of the individuals that helped us win this trophy," said India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Saturday's final also underlined that cricket's power base was in the sub-continent. Never before had India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan all made it to the semi-finals for the first time together.

"I always say the sub-continent is the place to play cricket in," said Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara ahead of the final. "There's no other place that can match the buzz, the excitement, the hype around the game, the passion and the love for the game as well." Towards the close, the tournament became a springboard for cricket diplomacy after India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to watch the semi-final clash between the arch-rivals.

Both Gilani and Singh standing side by side and waving to Indian as well as Pakistani fans in Mohali turned out to be one of the most enduring snapshots of the event. The knockout round helped fans forget the four-week first round stage which featured a series of mismatches and eventually saw the world's top eight teams predictably fill the quarter-final places. There were some memorable moments.

West Indies were crushed in the quarter-finals while Bangladesh flattered only to deceive its legion of home fans once again. Pakistan won plaudits for their revival, reaching the semi-finals despite having had three players banned for corruption and their rights as tournament co-hosts snatched away because of their domestic security nightmare.

It was largely a tournament to forget for the game's non-Test playing nations.

Ireland scored a sensational victory over England thanks to Kevin O'Brien's record-breaking century, but the meek performances of the likes of Kenya and Natherlands, who lost all 12 matches they played, only fuelled the ICC's plan to have just 10 teams at the 2015 edition in Australia and New Zealand.

Saturday's final also witnessed an international farewell for Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan. It also saw Sachin Tendulkar finally win a world title at the sixth attempt and with his 38th birthday just around the corner. "Tendulkar has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years. It was time we carried him," said young Indian teammate Virat Kohli.