Today In 2007, India Conquered The World Of T20 Cricket In A Thriller Vs Pakistan. Here's Why It Was The Dawn Of A New Era
September 24, 2007. It was the final of the first ever World T20. India and Pakistan were gearing up for the right to be crowned the inaugural champions in this new format and the Mother of All Battles was ready to begin. A league game between them had already gone down the wire and this was expected to be no different.
India posted 157/5 after opting to bat first. Gautam Gambhir anchored the innings on his shoulders with a brilliant 75 and Rohit Sharma's late burst of 30 not out ensured we finished with a competitive if not imposing total. Of course, nobody was going to underestimate Pakistan's batting line-up. The likes of Misbah-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi were not to be trifled with, especially in this version of the game. It was not expected to be a one-sided contest. It did not turn out to be one.
Imran Nazir was the one who provided Pakistan with the early momentum with a brilliant 33. Sreesanth's first over went for 21 runs but he came back to bowl a maiden. RP Singh (3/26) and Irfan Pathan (3/16) were the chief wreckers for India. But while we chipped away at the wickets, Pakistan kept the momentum, thanks to Misbah (43).
12 runs needed from 6 balls and in what can be described as a gamble, MS Dhoni threw the ball to Joginder Sharma instead of Harbhajan Singh. Would it work? Or would Dhoni become the villain of the piece. A big hit and a dot ball brought the equation down to 6 from 4. Then came the moment that Misbah will want to replay differently in his mind for years to come. Joginder bowled and Misbah played a shot that was a hybrid of a leg-side scoop and flick. The ball rose in the air. Now, had Joginder been a fast bowler, that ball would have gone for four if not a six. So Misbah's intent was wrong, only his judgement of pace was. Joginder was slow medium so there was not enough momentum on the ball to get height and distance. Sadly it did get one of the two, and that was height. Sreesanth settled himself underneath and took the catch. That was it! All over! India won by 5 runs to be crowned the worst ever World T20 champions. Pakistan could only rue what might have been. They would win the next edition 2 years later and go on to become a lethal T20I force, but nobody could know that at this point of time.
The celebrations were on and we had some new heroes to hail. Dhoni was the man of the moment as his gamble was praised endlessly. But, this story is more than about the win itself. There was a lot that happened before, there's a lot that would happen after.
6 months ago, Indian players were called villains, there effigies were burnt and their families heckled. Team India had been eliminated from the World Cup in the first round, including an unexpected loss to Bangladesh. Since then, without a coach, India had improved and now under a new skipper in limited overs after Rahul Dravid's resignation, they were finally putting that dark chapter to rest. The same fans called them heroes and welcomed them home.
Over the next year, Dhoni would lead them to a tri-series win in Australia and once he took over the Test reigns, win back the rubber from Australia at home. In 2009, India became the No. 1 Test side for the first time, they would hold onto the rank till 2011. The Asia Cup came home in 2010 after 15 years, not to mention the 2009 Test series win in New Zealand, our first after over 4 decades. But the icing on the cake came when the World Cup returned after 28 years. Hold on, we are not done yet, the Champions Trophy followed suit in 2013. All this under the leadership of one man, Dhoni.
But it takes a spark to light the fire and that spark was the World T20. It was effectively that day that a new era began in Indian cricket. Since then we have gone on to dominate across formats and right now are the only side to be ranked in the top three in all of them. The side is getting better under Virat Kohli, who took over the reigns. Kohli was part of the new era when he burst on the scene 2008. Dhoni himself is in the twilight of his career, but he can still pack a mean punch.
So remember the date, remember the win, remember the players and of course cherish the moment. For it was this day 12 years ago, that a new breed of Indian cricketers took over the scene. If Sourav Ganguly brought in fearless players, Dhoni turned that bunch into a ruthless combination. Now we are on top of the world. Back then was when we took the first step towards ascendancy.