2007 World T20: A triumphant journey

India was considered a pushover before the inaugural edition of the World T20. But after its sensational victory over Pakistan in the final, things are bound to change, wrote Nandita Sridhar in 2007. It sure has...

The Indian cricket team and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C) celebrate victory.   -  AFP

Prior to the World Twenty20, the Indian team was written off, not because of the customary snide remarks on its celebrated superstars, but for a lack of evidence to believe otherwise. There was no flaw in the reasoning. The Twenty20 format allows for defiance and surprise results. And as it found its first deserved winner, it can be said that some of the reasons perceived as weaknesses worked towards India’s benefit in the end.

Watch: Dash of colour in rainbow nation to usher in T20 era

The lack of Twenty20 experience was a blessing. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh had played in just one international, while the youngsters had figured in only one domestic tournament. So there was no hype about the Indian team’s performance. The players looked a little circumspect in their first couple of matches, but picked up the nuances of the game very quickly.

Read: Yuvraj Singh looks back at his historic six sixes in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup

The players who had spent some time away from the team had unrelenting pressure — given the timeframe — to make an impact. Ideally, any judgement on them should wait for a longer version of the game, but in a format that some say allows the lesser players to succeed, the class of Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan was expected to carry them. However, some doubts persisted before the start of the World Twenty20.

Sehwag had a mixed tournament, but his innings against England, along with his opening partner Gautam Gambhir, proved crucial and this set up Yuvraj for his blistering knock.

Harbhajan’s bowling was exceptional, except in the final. The ease with which he bowled the yorker was amazing.

 

Irfan Pathan had enough scope in the tournament to measure his progress, and he claimed three crucial wickets in the final against Pakistan. “I learnt a lot in the last six months. I worked very hard then. There were not many people who had come forward to help me then. But all this helped me learn. At 22, not many people have seen what I have,” said Pathan.

BROTHERS IN ARMS: Irfan Pathan played a crucial role in India's win and his elder brother Yusuf Pathan made his debut for the country.   -  AP

Rudra Pratap Singh didn’t win any man-of-the-match award, but he has definitely been the bowler of the tournament for India. The left-armer swung it perfectly in Durban, and in the final at the Wanderers, he pegged back Pakistan’s chase with two early wickets.

Sreesanth had an erratic tournament, giving away runs, yet picking up crucial wickets. But all will be forgiven because of the final catch he took to herald India’s victory.

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

The batting responsibilities were shared by the Indians throughout. Gambhir provided good starts, even if he sometimes gave it away. It all came together for him in the final, where his shot selection was much better. The streaky ones were no doubt a part of his innings, but he, along with Rohit Sharma, looked the only batsmen who could force the pace on a slow track at the Wanderers.

Yuvraj beefed up the middle-overs. His clinical striking of the ball formed a crucial part of India’s batting in the middle-overs. Robin Uthappa, Dhoni and Rohit batted well and showed their ability to play crucial cameos.

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

The disastrous fielding during the England tour had raised doubts over India’s ability to tighten up on the field. However, the team’s fielding in the World Twenty20 proved to be exceptional. Dinesh Karthik’s horizontal lunge to complete a brilliant catch to dismiss South Africa’s Graeme Smith in the last Super Eight match typified the players’ athleticism on the field, while Uthappa and Rohit Sharma were brilliant with direct-hits.

An inexperienced captain, it was thought, would need some time to piece together a winning combination, especially in a world event. But Dhoni proved to be a relaxed and a shrewd captain. He shuffled his bowlers well and made the changes at the right time. This made the difference in the end.

Gautam Gambhir played a crucial knock in the final.   -  AFP

However, he chose to underplay his role. A captain, Dhoni said, was as good as his team. “I didn’t have to do anything as captain. Whoever was asked to perform, performed. Whether it was in batting, bowling or fielding, everyone fulfilled their responsibilities. Neither did I have to take big decisions, nor did anything crucial depend on my decisions,” said the captain.

“The enjoyment was there. The boys enjoyed each other’s company, and enjoyed playing with each other,” Dhoni added.

No Indian player topped the batting or bowling charts, but India emerged the winner. It clicked as a team.

Blast from the past: T20 World Cup 2007 - Memorable triumph frozen in time

The Indian win should be seen as something that would energise the side and help improve its bench strength. The euphoria over the victory in a world event shouldn’t result in talks of heralding a new chapter in Indian cricket. The work has just begun. The present cricketing schedule has been tailored to make sure the teams don’t rest on their laurels, but instead step into another tournament, taking on fresh challenges.

WATCH: 

For cricket in general, the Indian win caps a successful inaugural tournament. Like the Indian team, the tournament too benefited from little expectations about it. There were a number of sceptics when the World Twenty20 began. There were sceptics even after, reaching a point where you had to trash or ignore Twenty20 to qualify as a genuine lover of the game.

Cricket-wise, the tournament began with a torrent of runs, but the balance came in thereafter. Some of the best matches were the ones where both good batting and bowling performances were witnessed. Good bowling has been the big surprise.

In the cricketing world, there is room for the new format. One-day cricket hasn’t encroached massively into Test cricket. If anything, every non-success in one-day cricket has only re-affirmed Test cricket as the highest form of the game. The players are what the game is, and any self-respecting cricketer dreams of succeeding in Tests more than anything else. It is good that cricket is now a multi-packaged sport that has something for everyone.

Shahid Afridi was the Man of the Tournament...   -  AFP

 

The only thing that needs to be worked out is scheduling the Twenty20 matches in the calendar. ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed welcomed cricket’s new format. “Test cricket we value greatly, 50-over cricket is the financial driver of the game and now we have Twenty20 which has proved immensely popular. It’s a great problem for us to have, a format of the game that is so popular with fans, players and broadcasters.”

But ICC president Ray Mali said that there would be a limit to the number of Twenty20 internationals every year. “By managing the balance between Tests, one-dayers and Twenty20 as we move forward, something we have already done by limiting the number of Twenty20 internationals that can be played in any year above and beyond an ICC event, we will ensure our strong sport grows even stronger,” he said.

Attendance-wise, the response has been extremely good, with the final played in front of a packed house. The tournament exceeded all expectations, and a thrilling climax with Misbah-ul-Haq almost winning it for Pakistan was a perfect finale.

Financially, any cricket tournament that has an Indian team winning the final is a qualified success. Prior to this tournament, the only problem with the Twenty20 format was that it was a non-entity in India. Some of that will change now.

The Scores

Final, India v Pakistan, Johannesburg, September 24, 2007. India won by five runs.

India: G. Gambhir c Asif b Gul 75; Y. Pathan c Malik b Asif 15; R. Uthappa c Afridi b Tanvir 8; Yuvraj Singh c & b Gul 14; M. Dhoni b Gul 6; R. Sharma (not out) 30; I. Pathan (not out) 3; Extras (lb-1, w-4, nb-1) 6. Total (for five wkts., in 20 overs) 157.

Fall of wickets: 1-25, 2-40, 3-103, 4-111, 5-130.

Pakistan bowling: Asif 3-0-25-1; Tanvir 4-0-29-1; Afridi 4-0-30-0; Hafeez 3-0-25-0; Gul 4-0-28-3; Arafat 2-0-19-0.

Pakistan: M. Hafeez c Uthappa b R. P. Singh 1; I. Nazir (run out) 33; K. Akmal b R. P. Singh 0; Younis Khan c Y. Pathan b Joginder 24; S. Malik c R. Sharma b I. Pathan 8; Misbah-ul-Haq c Sreesanth b Joginder 43; S. Afridi c Sreesanth b I. Pathan 0; Y. Arafat b I. Pathan 15; S. Tanvir b Sreesanth 12; U. Gul b R. P. Singh 0; M. Asif (not out) 4; Extras (b-1, lb-4, w-6, nb-1) 12. Total in 19.3 overs) 152.

Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-26, 3-53, 4-65, 5-76, 6-77, 7-104, 8-138, 9-141, 10-152.

India bowling: R. P. Singh 4-0-26-3; S. Sreesanth 4-1-44-1; Joginder 3.3-0-20-2; Y. Pathan 1-0-5-0; I. Pathan 4-0-16-3; Harbhajan 3-0-36-0.

(The article was published in the Sportstar magazine dated September 29, 2007)