Joginder Sharma to Misbah-ul-Haq with 6 needed of 4 balls in the ICC World T20 2007 final:
The Pakistan skipper tried to paddle the ball over fine leg and there followed a wave of silence. The entire world waiting in anticipation….
“It’s in the airrrrrrr… And Sreesanth, takes it!!” went Ravi Shastri on air right then and the crowd, the Indian supporters at the stadium and in front of the TV screens knew no bounds. For moments, the entire of India had their hearts in their mouth but Sreesanth had managed to hang onto the catch. It was after 24 years that Indians were ‘Champions’ at an ICC World Cup tournament. The very moment, this day, that year is etched in the cricketing memories of every Indian cricket fan permanently. The win was no less than a celebration and it was only time that India went on to re-establish themselves firmly in the international cricket circuit.
The Rise of the Underdogs:
India had just been knocked out of the ICC World Cup Group Stages in the Caribbean. With only a solitary win against Bermuda, the Indian team under Ganguly comprising Dravid, Tendulkar, Dhoni, Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Zaheer and others, all in their prime, had been outplayed by Sri Lanka as well as Bangladesh. The resulting revolt and rage in the Indian supporters had reached an unimaginable steep when the WT20 was announced. Taking the responsibility of the World Cup loss, all senior players decided to give WT20 a miss. It meant the Indian team was void of experience and the youth were asked to carry the team along. But importantly, it also meant that MS Dhoni, the young wicket-keeper was asked to lead the team. Mind you, with only three years of international experience.
No one expected India to win, maybe not even themselves. Reminiscent of the 1983 batch of Kapil Dev’s team, Indian just about qualified to be the underdogs. They only had one T20 International experience coming into the tournament. The task of finding the right team balance and getting the best out of every player laid on MS Dhoni and the team management headed by Lalchand Rajput.
The World T20 Journey:
Though in an electrifying atmosphere, the naivety of the format was evident in all aspects of the tournament. Not knowing an exact safe score, the uncertainty with the nature of the pitch, lack of planned strategies and with no posterior records, every team struggled their way through the initial phase. Indians too played a few close games, first against Pakistan in the group stage and then against New Zealand in the Super Eights. MSD’s brilliance as a captain helped India hold their nerve in the bowl-out against Pakistan. However, the loss against New Zealand meant that India had to beat England and South Africa to make it to the semi-finals. That is perhaps when the tides turned direction completely.
Against England, India found the right balance to the squad and took the English bowlers apart right from the word go. A flying start from Sehwag & Gambhir and the flurry at the back from Yuvraj Singh from Yuvraj is arguably one of India’s best T20 performances till date. All the three Indian batters scored half centuries but Yuvraj did it in a grander style. The altercation with Flintoff had charged the left-hander up as he went after Broad in the 19th over. Yuvraj put each and every ball of that over into orbit becoming the only batsman to hit 6 sixes in T20Is. His unfathomable knock of 58(15) put India in command, setting up the pace for the wins to come.
India was also a tough nut to crack under pressure. The likes of debutant Rohit Sharma and captain MS Dhoni performed a sound resume against South Africa while another act of excellence from Yuvraj against Australia put India in command in the semi-finals. Both these performances from India youngsters came under pressure speaking volumes about the Indian prowess. Even with the ball Sreesanth, RP Singh and Irfan Pathan kept disciplined and used their angles quite well. The dark horse, Joginder Sharma was also effective, especially against Australia in the last over.
The momentum India bought through was enough to conquer the Pakistanis in the final frontier. Indian cricket in T20s had become a brand even with the limited showcase and praises and appreciations galored the MS Dhoni-led team post the triumph. It was inarguably one of the best moments of Indian cricket history ever.
Dawn of the MS Dhoni Era:
MS Dhoni had started to become a household name as a finisher in ODI cricket. However, his expertise as a captain was largely unknown until the 2007 WT20 triumph. He had transformed from a talented batsman and a wicket-keeper to a World Cup winning captain overnight. His intuitive decisions and an intriguing mind had shown good proof of his capability to carry the team along. To what was to become an undisputed reign across the world found its roots in the World-T20 in South Africa. This day that year.