24th September 2007 happens to be an iconic date in Indian cricketing history. On this day, India won the inaugural World Cup of the T20 format. It’s been 12 years since that miraculous victory happened. Let’s dive down the memory lane to relive the dramatic tournament.
A setback earlier in the year
The year of 2007 might have witnessed a great triumph in the shortest format of the game but it also saw the darkest phase of Indian cricket. Exactly 6 months before the ICC World T20, India had suffered a humiliating exit from the ODI World Cup in the Caribbean.
After losing to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Rahul Dravid and his men were knocked out of the first round itself. It created a huge outrage in the country. The senior members of the team were criticized and the whole nation had suffered a heartbreak. Cricket in the country was grieving and only a World Cup win could have healed that.
As the shortest format’s first-ever World Cup arrived, the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly opted out of the side and a youngster named Mahendra Singh Dhoni was picked to lead a side that was filled with young talents.
India didn’t know much about the format then. Going into the tournament, the team had played just one T20 international against South Africa. No one knew what to expect from the tournament that was first of its kind. The format didn’t extract enough respect from the seniors but it certainly attracted a lot of viewership.
A roller coaster ride
The tournament for Dhoni & Co. began with a washed-out game against Scotland. Then, the game witnessed an innovation within innovation. The league match between India and Pakistan ended in a tie and the winner was decided with a bowl-out. For the first time ever, India’s victory in cricket came with a football-like scoreline of 3-0.
Courtesy the win in the bowl-out, India made it to the Super-6 stage where New Zealand got the better of the side. Then occurred Yuvraj Singh’s 6 sixes against England in Durban that lit up the tournament and kept the team’s hopes alive. India went on to demolish the hosts South Africa in the last game of the round courtesy RP Singh’s thunderous spell to knock them out and secure a place in the semi-final.
Australia, the World Champions of the 50-over format were up next. In those days, the Aussies were a formidable side and the opposition ended up losing against them more often than not. But it was Yuvraj again who powered his way to 70 off just 30 balls t0 send Ricky Ponting and his men packing to set up a summit clash against the arch-rivals Pakistan.
First-ever World T20 and what better finalists then India and Pakistan to promote the game. India batted first at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg and courtesy the final-man Gautam Gambhir‘s brilliant 75, managed a fighting total of 157/5 after 20 overs. It doesn’t seem like a huge score nowadays but back then, it was a stiff target and given the pressure of the final, it was worth more than that.
During Pakistan’s chase, India kept picking wickets at regular intervals but one man kept the team in the hunt single-handedly. Misbah-ul-Haq played a sublime hand and brought the equation down to 13 from 6 in the last over having a solitary wicket in hand.
The last over
With just one over to go, Dhoni had a choice between Harbhajan Singh and Joginder Sharma. The experts would have suggested going with the experience of the off-spinner but Dhoni went the other way round. Under immense pressure, Joginder ran in and first up, bowled a big wide outside off to bring it down to 12 from 6.
Dhoni ran to talk to his bowler and advice worked as a perfect yorker outside off brought a dot ball. But the situation got to Joginder and Misbah, cool as ice, smacked a full toss down the ground for a six. The whole of Pakistan believed the trophy was in their bag. 6 runs from 4 balls with Misbah batting at 43 off 37, the odds were heavily in favour the Shoaib Malik-led side.
Misbah knew that he was the one who had to finish the job as he couldn’t give the strike to the No.11 Mohammad Asif at the other hand. So he decided to find another boundary. A length delivery from Joginder was scooped in the air with a ramp shot towards fine leg. As the ball went in the air, the whole of India and Pakistan were brought to the feet.
The trajectory of the ball gave the illusion of the stroke going into the stands but as it turned out, it didn’t go far and landed straight into the hands of S Sreesanth standing at short fine-leg. As the pacer threw the ball in the air, the Indian contingent was filled with joy, the reserve players and the support staff ran onto the ground towards the team.
Misbah was on his knees in disgust. He was gutted of falling short after coming so close. But the Indians were overjoyed by the fact that they had become the World Champions and that too, by defeating the old rivals. A bunch of youngsters was able to achieve what was literally unthinkable a few years ago.
The triumph not only washed away the dark clouds of the ODI World Cup exit but it marked the beginning of the Dhoni-era. The T20 format became a major hit in India and the seeds were sown from that tournament that yielded fruits with the emergence of the Indian Premier League next year.