Fifteen years ago, the Indian team embarked on a thrilling joyride at the inaugural ICC T20 World Cup (then known as World T20) and came home with the trophy after a nerve-racking final against Pakistan. It was the start of a nation’s love affair with T20 cricket.
Yuvraj Singh, who injected energy into India’s campaign with memorable offensives against England and Australia, and Lalchand Rajput, the then India coach, relive the famous triumph.
After my debut at Nairobi in 2000, it is the 2007 T20I World Cup that I remember well. I grew up listening to the epic World Cup win of 1983 and then I became part of the feats in 2007 and 2011.
Now, 15 years after the great triumph at Durban, I am flooded with memories of a tournament which became a turning point in our journey of a format we were hardly accustomed to. The T20 format was an unknown entity as far as we were concerned. It was a new challenge and there was hardly any talk of our fans backing us. The 2007 ODI World Cup defeat in the West Indies was such a tough period for Indian cricket and we had to work hard to win the confidence of our fans.
ALSO READ - T20 World Cup: King Kohli reclaims his throne
We went to the tournament without the stalwarts — Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly. You can imagine how inexperienced the team was. But we adapted magnificently because we backed each other. There was no pressure since not many expected us to win. But we pulled it off on a wonderful night when Joginder Sharma produced a game-changing moment in the final over of the final. When Sreesanth held the catch, we entered a zone from where the shortest format of the game was to explode the world over.
I cherish the six sixes in an over against Stuart Broad. I remember the two fantastic wins against Pakistan, especially the bowl out. It was a surprise package we had well prepared for. We were a young team with high ambitions. I am so privileged to have been a part of that great moment of Indian cricket.
If the 1983 win stunned the world, I must say the 2007 performance changed the way the game was to be played. It led to the Indian Premier League. It made India the face of world cricket.
It was a difficult period. Having made an early exit from the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, the team was in a very gloomy state of mind. It was kind of depressing and we badly needed a way out. The inaugural T20 World Cup was a blessing, I must say. It was just the fillip the young generation needed to re-establish their faith in the game.
It was my first assignment as India coach. We were venturing into a new zone. Few had an idea of the format but that proved a boon. We left the shores of India with hardly any expectations. The focus was to do well and that helped the players give their best. It was to trigger a terrific self-belief for the players who were also excited to play under a new captain — M. S. Dhoni.
ALSO READ - Fifteen best moments from the T20 World Cup
Can you imagine that India had a poor experience of the shortest format, having played just one T20I prior to the World Cup? The support staff had a lot of work to do. We discussed every aspect of the game and were prepared mentally to dive into the deep end and come up triumphant. The youthful energy of the dressing room gave a new direction to Indian cricket and I am so happy to have been a part of the revolution.
If you look at the performances, each match had a hero. Each player realised that they would have to be on their toes and look to give their best at every stage. The 120-ball contest needed innovations and flexibility and I was hugely impressed with the response from the boys.
We adapted quickly. Understood the challenge of reading the situation in quick time. The pace was furious but then we had such fabulous performers from the first match. I will say every member played a critical role. From the bowlers to the batsmen and the fielders, we gained a lot from practising a bowl-out situation and see how it saw us past Pakistan in the first match.
Losing to New Zealand was a wake-up call for us and we had to work on our bowling. The win against England galvanised the team to win against South Africa and Australia. Rohit Sharma and R. P. Singh came up with a game-changing show against South Africa to set up a semifinal clash with Australia. By now, we had got into our rhythm.
Yuvraj Singh’s classy knock against Australia came at the right time. The six sixes by Yuvraj against England was an incredible show and what an ambience it created! I can never forget it. I can also never forget the final where Gautam Gambhir played a stupendous innings and Rohit Sharma announced his potential to play on the big stage with a crucial knock. Of course, we had the experience of Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh. The win at The Wanderers changed the face of cricket in the modern era.
As told to Vijay Lokapally