ICC World T20 rewind: India win
Mumbai, Aug 13: Back then, no one really expected them to go the distance. When MS Dhoni’s team made the long trip to South Africa in September 2007 to participate in the inaugural ICC World Twenty20, the critics, at best, hoped for India to come away with their pride intact. This was after all a team without the services of giants like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly – the men who had opted out of the tournament in the better interest of Indian cricket. Instead, India went into the T20 World Cup with a first-time captain at the helm of affairs. MS Dhoni was just 26, sported long locks for a hairstyle and looked a far more carefree cricketer than the elder statesman he has become today. Then there was Dhoni’s inexperienced side with as many as eight members of the 15-man squad, including the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir, who had not played a single T20 international before the tournament began. The average age of the side was under 24, which itself said a lot about that Indian team.
But they came away victorious, and how. From beating local favourites South Africa and slaying pre-tournament favourites Australia to eventually edging out Pakistan in the final, that young Indian side played without any fear. With Dhoni in command, and the rest of the side feeding off their captain’s inimitable cool and calm, India brought home the first ever T20 World Cup in style. Here’s a quick recap of India’s run over the memorable two weeks in September 2007, which made heroes out of 15 young cricketers:
India v Pakistan at Durban - Sep 14, 2007
After their first Group game against Scotland was abandoned due to bad weather, India were looking for a win against their arch rivals to qualify for the next stage without net run-rate becoming a factor. Things didn’t look good initially as the wily Mohammad Asif quickly reduced India to 19 for three. However, a feisty half-century from Robin Uthappa (50 off 39), and a couple of cameos from MS Dhoni (33 off 31) and Irfan Pathan (20 off 15) pushed India’s score to a competitive 141 for nine in 20 overs. In reply, Pakistan appeared to mess up the run-chase, slipping to 103 for six before a blitzkrieg from Misbah-ul-Haq (53 off 35) left them needing only one run to win off the last ball. The Indians, nonetheless, held their nerve and ran out Misbah to leave the scores tied. In the bowl-out, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Robin Uthappa hit the stumps even as Yasir Arafat, Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi missed their tries to hand India an incredible win.
India v New Zealand at Johannesburg - Sep 16, 2007
Having made it through to the next round, the Indians suffered their only defeat to less fancied New Zealand. Despite Harbhajan Singh (two for 24) and RP Singh (two for 29) conceding only 53 runs between their eight overs, New Zealand posted a daunting total of 190. India appeared to close in on their target with Virender Sehwag (40 off 17) and Gautam Gambhir (51 off 33) adding 76 in just 5.5 overs. But with Daniel Vettori picking up four wickets for 20 runs in his four overs, India lost wickets at regular intervals in the second half of their innings and eventually ended up 10 runs short of the target.
England v India at Durban - Sep 19, 2007
The loss to New Zealand left India needing to win both its remaining Group matches in order to qualify for the semis. That pressure, however, didn’t seem to be playing on their minds as Messrs Sehwag (68 off 52) and Gambhir (58 off 41) put on an opening stand of 136 against England in 14.4 overs. Yuvraj Singh then gave the fans at Durban something to cherish for a lifetime as he flayed Stuart Broad for six 6s in the 19th over, before blitzing to 58 off 14 balls. England attempted to make a contest of the run-chase; but 218 was always going to be a tough ask and the Indians won by 18 runs in the end.
South Africa v India at Durban - Sep 20, 2007
Probably, the one match where India beat their opponents in all departments of the game. South Africa were heavily favoured to brush aside the Indians given their unbeaten run in the tournament to that point and the huge home support they enjoyed. The Indians seemed to be weighed down by both those factors initially as South Africa’s pacers reduced them to 61 for four in 10.3 overs while batting first. A fighting 85-run stand between Rohit Sharma (50* off 40), playing just his second T20I, and MS Dhoni (45 off 33) then gave India an outside chance to compete as they finished at 153 for five. From thereon, it was all India as RP Singh and S Sreesanth ripped through the hosts’ batting order to leave them reeling at 31 for five. Dinesh Karthik, standing at wide second slip, picked up a blinder to get rid off Graeme Smith while Justin Kemp was brilliantly run-out by a diving Rohit Sharma as the Indians fielded the South Africans out of the contest. RP Singh finished with career best figures of 4-0-13-4 with India eliminating the hosts and sealing their semi-final berth.
2nd Semi Final: Australia v India at Durban - Sep 22, 2007
Another high-octane, chippy encounter, where the Indians once again proved their mettle. After Yuvraj Singh’s swashbuckling 30-ball 70 (5x4, 5x6) powered India to 188, Mathew Hayden and Andrew Symonds looked to steer Australia to victory with a rapid 66-run third-wicket stand in just six overs. S Sreesanth, though, had other ideas as he yorked Hayden in the 15th over to turn the game in India’s favour. Irfan Pathan then knocked over Symonds’ off stump, after which the Australians completely lost their momentum. Where RP Singh posted career-best figures against South Africa in the previous game, S Sreesanth’s two for 12 from his four overs marked his career-best T20I performance as India won the second semi-final by 15 runs.
Final: India v Pakistan at Johannesburg - Sep 24, 2007
In what was a match that had a distinct sense of déjà vu by the time it finished, India clashed with Pakistan for the second time in the tournament. Before the game itself India had been handicapped by a groin injury to Virender Sehwag. That gave Yusuf Pathan the opportunity to make his T20I debut as he opened the innings for India. Yet, it was Pathan’s partner, Gautam Gambhir, who steered India to a competitive 157 for five with a masterful 54-ball 75 (8x4, 2x6). Pakistan’s innings then followed the same pattern as their first encounter against India in the Group stage. The Pakistanis were tottering at 104 for seven at the end of 16 overs in the final, before Misbah-ul-Haq’s hurricane innings (43 off 38) left them needing six to win off the last four balls with one wicket in hand. But as Joginder Sharma bowled a fullish delivery to Misbah on the stumps, the Pakistani batsman only managed to scoop the ball to S Sreesanth, who completed the catch at short fine-leg to make India the first ever ICC World T20 champions. A frenzied celebration followed with the Indian cricketers soaking in the moment with unrestricted glee. That joy was understandable because a couple of weeks before the tournament, nobody had given them much of a chance. They proved us all wrong!