MUMBAI, India - Sachin Tendulkar was still the undisputed star after India won the World Cup for the first time since 1983, despite only playing a cameo role as skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni guided the home team to victory in Saturday's final against Sri Lanka.
The stage had been set for the world's leading batsman to win his first World Cup in six attempts, and to do it in his home town.
But he was out for 18, leaving Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir (97) to score the bulk of the runs as India chased down 275 in the closest and most climactic World Cup final since 1992.
Dhoni clouted a soaring six to bring up the winning runs, sparking wild celebrations across the cricket-obsessed nation of 1.2 billion.
Tendulkar, who was hoisted on his teammates' shoulders and carried around the stadium, admitted he shed some tears of joy.
"They were happy tears, so I don't really mind," he said after the victory. "It is the proudest moment of my career and it is never too late to win the World Cup."
Batsman Virat Kohli summed up the team's mood in a tribute to the most senior player.
"He has carried the burden of the country for 21 years," Kohli said. "It was high time we carried him around on our shoulders."
India became the first team to win batting second in a final since Sri Lanka beat Australia by eight wickets in 1996.
There was no winning farewell to international cricket for Muttiah Muralitharan, the only survivor from Sri Lanka's '96 winning squad and the world's leading wicket taker.
It was a night for the batsmen. Tendulkar didn't get his 100th international hundred, but cherished the Cup he held proudly.
"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."
The 37-year-old Tendulkar was choking back tears as he accepted his medal, but it wasn't because of a painful loss he endured in the 2003 final or the group stage exit last time.
"They were happy tears," he said. "So I wouldn't mind crying."
Muralitharan was visibly hampered by niggling injuries that slowed him down and didn't allow him the spring he needs for the extra spin that has bamboozled batsmen for a generation.
The result also made Mahela Jayawardene the first batsmen to score a century in a World Cup final and end up on a losing team. It also meant back-to-back finals defeats for Sri Lanka.
India had to beat every former World Cup winner - including three-time defending champion Australia in the quarterfinals - to win the title for the first time since Kapil Dev's squad upset the West Indies in 1983.
Anyone who doubted the magnitude of the Indian people's passion for cricket only had to look to the streets all over the country, where millions of people partied into the early hours.
The match tilted twice, with India on top at the start before some late hitting led by Jayawardene and the middle order.
Lasith Malinga removed both Indian openers in an express pace opening spell to keep the visitors on track, but India's long batting lineup remained calm enough to keep grinding the target down.
Tendulkar was drenched in champagne by his teammates as the Indian squad carried the trophy around the Wankhede Stadium amid a scrum of cameras and fireworks blazing from the roof.
There was traffic chaos on the adjoining Marine Parade, with the road jammed with cars and motor bikes honking horns, waving Indian flags and letting off firecrackers.
Yuvraj Singh, who scored an unbeaten 21 in an unbroken fifth-wicket partnership with Dhoni and was voted player of the series, said the Indians "batted like champions."
"This is unbelievable. This is the most special one for whole of India, for Sachin, for the whole team. It's just amazing. We batted like champions."
Sangakkara said he was proud of the way his Sri Lankans pushed the tournament favorites to the limit.
"I'm very proud of everyone, especially Mahela Jayawardene who rose to the occasion with a great hundred," he said. "It's been a great tournament for us.
"I must say the way India played they really deserved the tag of favorites."
Yet when Malinga removed Virender Sehwag, lbw for a duck on the second ball, and then Tendulkar, India was 31-2 in the seventh over and the Sri Lankans were celebrating.
Gambhir and Kohli (35) then combined to revive the innings in an 82-run partnership which took some momentum away from the Sri Lankans.
Gambhir was on 30 and the total at 68-2 when he was dropped in the outfield by Nuwan Kulasekara.
Tillakaratne Dilshan broke the partnership with a brilliant return catch.
But that's when Dhoni promoted himself up the order, with the total at 114-3, when a captain's steadying influence was required. He passed 6,000 runs in ODIs when he reached 42 and brought up his 50 with an imperious backfoot cover drive against Muralitharan.
Dhoni and Gambhir combined for 109 runs before Thisara Perera finally ended the first century stand of the match when Gambhir succumbed to another rush of blood, stepping down the pitch in a bid to reach his hundred with a boundary, only to lost his middle stump.
That left India requiring 52 runs from 52 balls with six wickets in hand. Not a problem for Dhoni.
Earlier, Jayawardene scored a calm and composed 103 from 88 balls to post only the sixth century in a World Cup final.
The 1996 champions made an uncharacteristically sluggish start after winning the toss, the top three of Upul Tharanga (2), Dilshan (33) and Sangakkara (48) slightly misfiring for a rare time in the tournament.
Zaheer Khan bowled impeccably and didn't concede a run in his first three overs, taking a vital early wicket to remove Tharanga as the Sri Lankans crawled to 31-1 in 10 overs. But he was expensive toward the end when Jayawardene brought up his century with consecutive boundaries in the 48th over.
And while he finished as the equal leading wicket taker in the tournament with 21, he'll be disappointed with his last figures of 2-60 after his first five overs cost him just six runs.
The Sri Lankans scored 63 runs in the last five overs in a batting powerplay, including 24 in the last nine balls.
The match started amid some confusion when match referee Jeff Crowe ordered a second coin toss because he couldn't hear Sangakkara's call. Sangakkara won the second toss, a rarity in the international game, and was relieved to be batting first.
When Sangakkara was out for 48, Sri Lanka slipped to 122-3 and India had done much of the hard work, removing three batsmen who were among the five leading scorers in the tournament. But Jayawardene marshaled the middle-order and progressively lifted the run rate with a mix of finesse and flourishing boundaries and at least ensured a contest.