India fast-bowler S. Sreesanth, member of the 2007 T20 World Cup-winning team, shared his experience of being a part of a young dressing room and playing a new format under newly-appointed captain MS Dhoni in Sportstar’s latest episode of Wednesdays with WV.
“It was very good because there was no fear then. We lost the 2007 ODI World Cup and I was a part of it. What’s funny is that Irfan Pathan and I weren’t selected for the NatWest Series that happened that year but we both were selected in the T20 World Cup squad. It was more like ‘Chalo yaar, let’s go and have some fun there too,’” he said.
Coming on the heels of the 2007 ODI World Cup debacle in West Indies, where India, under captain Rahul Dravid, was knocked out in the group stage, the team management decided to send a young contingent to South Africa for the inaugural T20 World Cup.
“It was more like a team which was selected to maybe lose the World Cup and I remember Niranjan sir (Niranjan Shah, then BCCI Secretary) never wanted this team to go for the World Cup because they never believed in the T20 format. When we reached South Africa, I clearly remember in Durban, we were underrated so badly that we were compared with Zimbabwe. We never thought about winning there, we only wanted to go and play because our top three players weren’t in the team. Sachin paji (Sachin Tendulkar), Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid weren’t there. Zaheer Khan also couldn’t make it but Dhoni- bhai had immense belief in that young team. He was more like, ‘What will happen if we don’t make it? It’ll be an experience,’” Sreesanth said.
“But one thing I can assure you is that we were disciplined from day one. I remember us going to the beach on the first day. Dhoni and the others made sure we followed certain routines and we didn’t take it easy. We had a proper training regime, we never missed a training session even when it was drizzling. We were a very well-planned team in 2007,” he added.
India’s campaign was off to a memorable start against archrival Pakistan as both teams were engaged in the first-ever bowl-out after the match was tied. India eventually prevailed as Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Robin Uthappa hit the stumps while Pakistan’s Yasir Arafat, Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi missed.
“He (Robin Uthappa) was so good at hitting the stumps. I was struggling, RP (Singh) was struggling because we were bowling outswingers and it was bouncing over the stumps even when we were bowling from the stump line. Even when I trained in Kerala in the nets, I didn’t bowl that up with the new ball in T20s, so the lengths which we bowled in those (South African) conditions were actually going over the top. The way I tell Robbie is that ‘you bowled overpitched balls because it’s easier for you’ and I’ll tell you what, he hit 99 balls out of 100 when we did the bowl-out practice,” the 39-year-old said.
Sreesanth also hailed Dhoni’s ability to assess his players and explained the decision to give the last over to Joginder Sharma in the final against Pakistan, which needed 13 runs off the last six balls with one wicket in hand.
“The thing is that the plans which he (Dhoni) made were there in the ground. It’s not like a huge team meeting where you decide ‘this guy will bowl this over, this guy will bat at this position’. No. He just went into the game and he’s just got a strong intuition which he believes in and that is one of the reasons that Jogi-bhai (Joginder Sharma) got the last over in the final. The way I see it is that he knows Joginder Sharma from the ONGC days where he played a lot of matches. He knew exactly what he was doing and he had immense faith in those cricketers. Even when he used to come and give the ball to me, he used to say, ‘Sree, just get the wicket.’
“He always wanted me to go for the wicket rather than saving runs. I’ll tell you an instance, in one match, AB de Villiers came in to bat and I got him LBW. I appealed and it wasn’t given. So, when I walked back I remember the conversation with Dhoni-bhai. He said, ‘Bowl that ball once again, don’t try to save the runs, don’t worry you’ll get him out again’. He was one who always used to tell what he saw and he only saw success at it. I think that’s his biggest plus point. He manifests only success.”