For long, the Indians were dubbed as a side which follows the pathways of the better-accomplished countries in cricket. It took us around 20 years to register a couple of Test match victories. We won only a single game in the first two editions of the 50-overs World Cup. We were the perennial slow learners, with no peculiarly exclusive brand of cricket associated with ourselves.
Hence, when the T20 format of the game was first introduced in the global circuit, not many expected the Indian team to make waves in this version of the game. This was going to be a format dominated by hard-hitting batsmen, something that we lacked in abundance at that point in time. Most of our legends have been ‘touch’ players, as one may say, who banked more on timing the ball to perfection rather than butchering it to the stands using brute force.
None of the big games featured for India
A layman who was still coming in terms with the shortest form of the sport must have sustainably been in a sense of deception regarding how the subcontinental giants would feature in the first installment of the World Cup in South Africa.
Legends had opted out. Newbies were roped in. There were zilch expectations from this squad, considering the disaster that was the ODI World Cup for them merely six months ago. Moreover, the team was in the hands of a captain whose credentials as a leader were still pretty much unknown.
The 2007 T20 World Cup saw the arrival of Captain Dhoni. Image:Getty
Now, when one overlooks that World Cup in hindsight, it provides such a timely reminder of the incredible exhilaration of uncertainty that makes a particular sport so interesting.
The classic underdog story who battled the odds to cross over the finishing line; as clichéd as it might sound, such was India’s campaign back then in South Africa. Whilst other teams were still coming to terms with the demands of the 20-20 game, the Indian side led by their charismatic leader cracked the code for the same very early and capitalized wholly on the same.
The fearlessness of India was inspiring...
The Indian batsmen were unabashedly fearless throughout the course of those 20 overs. We boasted of an invaluable seam-bowling all-rounder in Irfan Pathan, providing much-required balance to the setup of the XI. There were some unearthed talents like that of Rohit Sharma and Robin Uthappa that took the opposition to surprise at critical junctures of various games.
Moreover, possibly the duo who embarked a revolution in the Indian team’s outlook towards chases and middle-order batting as well were the pillars of the side in that World Cup. Yuvraj Singh was in an imperious touch, encapsulated with the sort of confidence, arrogance, and prowess that only accomplished match-winners could boast of. MS Dhoni, well, this project wouldn’t have taken off, let alone succeeded if not for the brains of this man.
Yuvraj Singh was one of the heroes of the T20 World Cup. Image:AFP
He had deciphered the formula of playing this format, formed a squad for the same with total freedom due to the withdrawal of the senior players and then led them with utmost precision and sheer wisdom combined with innate credence and conviction that set this set of players apart from the rest who took part in the competition.
As you look at it 12 years from then, the 2007 World Cup was just the beginning of an incredible spell in limited-overs cricket under the tutelage of Dhoni, as the Indian side bagged three major ICC trophies within a span of six years. Besides that, there were commendable other victories, specifically the CB Series in Australia in 2008 and the Asia Cups that we emerged victorious in as well. None of it would probably have happened if not for the performance delivered in the inaugural T20 World Cup.
Moreover, there was the classic case of revering something preciously after finally attaining it at the end of a long chase. The 1983 World Cup victory was a fairytale campaign and a game-changer for the sport in India. Beyond that though, there were some desperate attempts and close finishes, but another major ICC title eluded us.
Now, all of a sudden, when the odds were all against us whilst entering completely new territory with a team barely trained to tackle the complications of the same, we managed to defy the preconceived underdog notion. It was a decade when the match-fixing scandal had broken out. We were humiliating defeated in the finals of the 2003 WC and faced even further embarrassment in 2007 one. There was a chance that the people would have drifted away from the sport.
The IPL was, in many ways borne out of that win...
There is only as long as one can glue the fans to watching them without delivering the trophies in return. And then, this happened. The 2007 victory was not just another World Cup win. It overturned the landscape of the sport in this country. It helped the T20 format attain interest beyond boundaries. Cricket was no more a sport of only the ones from the metropolitans. It spread across barriers, reached the unknown audience yet again on a daily basis, and all of it could happen because of one more reason; the advent of the Indian Premier League.
India beat arch-nemesis Pakistan by 5 runs in the final. Image: Getty
The IPL emerged as a by-product of the victorious campaign in South Africa. Assessing the market that lay ahead for the shortest format, the BCCI carefully stitched together this plan and paved the way for it to unfold extravagantly, much to the delight of the cricket lovers throughout the country. The IPL completed its 12th season this year. It has dealt with numerous battles of its own, which are bound to happen in a tournament conducted at such a large scale. However, the gems that it has provided to Indian cricket and the platform it has presented to lads from smaller cities to showcase their skills in abundance carries invaluable importance in the development of the sport in this nation.
None of it would have happened if not for that catch by Sreesanth at short fine leg, or the man-of-the-match performance by Gautam Gambhir, or the onslaught by Yuvraj Singh, the six sixes, the bowl out against Pakistan, the catch by Dinesh Karthik against South Africa, the striking pace bowling display by RP Singh and Irfan Pathan; most importantly, the leadership of MS Dhoni until the end.
Who would have known back then, that it was just the start of Indian cricket’s most glorious period in the limited-overs’ game? And, it all started, on this very day; twelve years ago!