WT20 title victory - ‘It will stay with us forever’

The World Twenty20 title win in 2007 is remembered fondly by men in the middle of India’s awe-inspiring run.

A landmark moment for cricket.   -  AFP

10 years ago on this day, the inaugural World Cup played in the Twenty20 format culminated, but the World Twenty20 in 2007, in hindsight, is significant for much more. The event was marked by batting blitzes, athletic manoeuvres by fielders and cheerleaders, excitement among teams huddled in a dugout, none of which were regular occurrences in and around the cricket field. What clinched it for the format, though, was India’s success, which paved the way for a new landscape of cricket.

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India won the title six months after a demoralising World Cup debacle in the Caribbean. The team’s fans came alive with the World Twenty20 victory as was evidenced in the reception of players after their arrival in Mumbai. As Lalchand Rajput, the India coach during the exhilarating journey through the tourney, recollects, “It was one of the best receptions we’ve ever had. Mumbai came to a standstill that day. It took us almost eight hours to reach Wankhede Stadium from the airport. People were on the roads, on the streets, on the balconies...just to cheer us up.”

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“One of the best moments in my life,” “wonderful feeling,” “it will stay with us forever” were how protagonists of the “memorable” victory - Rajput, all-rounder Irfan Pathan, and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla - described the experience of the run that culminated in a title win.

‘Amazing memories’

“We have some amazing memories. I remember Mumbai stood still and we got a tremendous welcome and it was fantastic. It was stay with us forever. Winning [the title] was important but sharing that victory with all the fans was equally important because without the fans it’s not the same,” said Irfan, who especially labelled the victory against host South Africa as memorable, besides those against arch-rival Pakistan.

“I think that was a very special game, beating South Africa in South Africa, because they knew the conditions better than us. Winning the game [to go through to] the semifinals was very important,” he added.

“We went there to South Africa a fairly new team, young team, under a new captain. The way we played that tournament, it was a treat to watch - the way R. P. Singh bowled, the way Yuvi bhai batted, the way M. S. Dhoni, the new captain, led from the front, it was wonderful to watch. The memories are still fresh in our minds; I don’t have words to express [my feelings] - as an 18-year-old I was a part of the team. It was a wonderful feeling,” said Chawla.

READ: WT20 triumph - Dawn of new era in Indian cricket

The buzz the victory created in India was pounced upon by BCCI’s administrators to carve out a glitzy Indian Premier League, a phenomenon that had rippling effects around the cricket world. Recognising this, Rajput said, “Because of the World T20 win, the IPL [came to exist] and I think the IPL has also done very well because players, support staff, and everyone involved get benefitted. Because of the IPL, players get into the Indian team.”

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Since the landmark moment, Twenty20 has taken up sizeable time, space and consideration of cricketers the world over - a key marker of a new era.

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