(CNN) -- Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni guided India to a second Cricket World Cup title on Saturday as his team beat tournament co-hosts Sri Lanka by six wickets in the final in Mumbai.
Dhoni, the world's highest-paid player, produced his best performance of the six-week-long event when it mattered most as India passed Sri Lanka's total of 274-6 with 10 balls of the allotted 50 overs to spare.
The 29-year-old smashed the winning runs with a huge six over the boundary ropes to finish the innings unbeaten on 91 off only 79 balls faced.
He set up victory with his fourth-wicket partnership of 109 with Gautam Gambhir, who top-scored with an invaluable 97, after coming to the batting crease at 114-3 in the 22nd over.
Sri Lanka, winners of the tournament in 1996 and runners-up in the last staging four years ago, set a potentially testing target for India thanks to an unbeaten 103 from captain Mahela Jayawardene.
With the victory, India -- the top-ranked team in cricket's five-day Test format -- assumed the No. 1 position in the limited-overs game ahead of previous champions Australia.
It was a successful farewell for India's South African coach Gary Kirsten, who is ending his four-year tenure.
The final, the first between two Asian teams in the tournament's 36-year history, was billed as a battle between two of the game's greatest players: India batsman Sachin Tendulkar and his fellow record-setter, bowler Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka.
However, the 37-year-old Tendulkar made only 18 after opening the Indian innings, meaning that the world's highest run-scorer in all formats of the game finished second in this tournament behind Sri Lanka's Tillakaratne Dilshan -- who added 33 for an overall total of 500 runs from nine innings.
However, he had the satisfaction of earning his first World Cup win in his sixth appearance at the tournament since 1992, playing on his home ground where he made his first-class debut for Bombay with a century at the age of 15.
"I couldn't have asked for more," Tendulkar told the crowd after being carried around the Wankhede Stadium on the shoulders of his teammates.
"Winning the World Cup is the ultimate thing. It is the proudest moment of my life. It shows it is never too late. I thank my teammates, who were fabulous. I could not really hold back my tears. These are happy tears so I don't mind crying."
Muralitharan, playing his final match before retiring, was unable to add to his 15 wickets in the tournament as he was visibly hampered by the injuries that threatened to rule him out of the match.
Murali, who turns 39 next month, ended his career with a record 800 Test and 534 one-day wickets.
India's Zaheer Khan picked up two more wickets to join Shahid Afridi as the tournament's leading bowler on 21, having played one more match after his team beat Pakistan in the semifinals on Wednesday.
Sri Lanka won the pre-match toss of the coin and chose to bat first, but needed late fireworks from Jayawardene -- who scored his runs off only 88 balls -- plus Nuwan Kulasekara (32) and Thisara Perera (22) after a mid-innings dip.
Fast bowler Lasith Malinga gave Sri Lanka hope when he dismissed both Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag (0) but Gambhir added 83 with Virat Kohli (35) to steady the run chase.
Dhoni then upped the scoring rate, and India appeared to be cruising until Gambhir attempted a rash shot in sight of his 10th one-day century and was bowled by Perera.
That left India needing 52 to win off 54 balls, but Dhoni turned the tide again when he hit the first six of India's innings off Perera -- and then survived an appeal for a run out that required several replays before the video umpire made his ruling.
Dhoni was given able assistance by Yuvraj Singh, who ended the game unbeaten on 21 from 24 balls and was later named man of the tournament for his consistent displays with bat and ball.