It has been almost 9 years since a young Indian team took the word 'fearlessness' to the next level and became the world champions in cricket’s most nascent format.
Coming into the World T20 on the back of a disappointing show in the 50-over World Cup, the Indian cricket team thrilled the fans en route to the title in the inaugural edition of the tournament. It also gave rise to a generation of cricketers, who redefined the way cricket was to be played in the country.
Attacking stroke-play, innovative field-sets and wily bowling spells became the new norm. There were several unforgettable moments throughout the tournament that don’t fade away, quite like the Axe Signature line of body perfumes. Here are 6 which will remain in the fans' memories for a long time:
The rise and rise of MS Dhoni
When Rahul Dravid was still the captain of the Indian team, very few would have guessed that MS Dhoni was the heir apparent. The explosive Indian wicket-keeper batsman was a brilliant finisher, a flashy performer and lightning quick behind the stumps. But no one in their wildest dreams could have imagined him taking over the captaincy ahead of seniors like Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag.
The 2007 World T20 was Dhoni’s first tryst with the captain's armband and he took to the responsibility like a duck takes to water. From picking Yusuf Pathan, a debutant, to open the innings in the final to giving the ball to unknown bowlers like Joginder Sharma at crucial junctures, one just couldn’t get enough of Dhoni the skipper.
The young team under the new captain went about playing a fearless brand of cricket that shocked and awed people from across the globe.
What makes a win special is the way a team wins their games, and each of India's wins were a spectacle in itself.
Yuvraj Singh – The destroyer
Yuvraj Singh had been with the Indian cricket team for almost a decade when the 2007 World T20 happened. While he was young, he wasn’t really inexperienced. People had known Yuvi to be a match winner, playing the finisher’s role to perfection, but no one could have imagined the kind of destructive ability that Yuvraj possessed – something that came into the limelight during India’s victorious campaign.
The left-hander’s first glimpse of true form came in the game versus England, where he hit Stuart Broad for six sixes in just an over. It started with Andrew Flintoff's sledging and Yuvraj took it out on Broad. By the time he ended his carnage, he had already emerged as the batsman to score the fastest fifty in T20 internationals.
After missing the game against South Africa, Yuvraj returned to face the Aussies in the semi-final and started where he left off against England. Durban was lit up with an array of strokes coming off the bat of the prince of Indian cricket. Yuvraj scored 70 runs off 38 balls in that game and sealed India’s berth in the final.
This tournament could be pinpointed as when Yuvi came into his own, establishing himself as one of the most destructive batsmen in world cricket.
India’s first round exit from the 50-over World Cup earlier that year was, arguably, the lowest point in the history of Indian cricket. A team consisting of stalwarts such as Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, were humiliated as they were able to muster just a solitary win in 3 matches in the group stage.
The response back home was one of anger and heart-break. While some fans entered into depression, others angrily protested in front of cricketer’s homes. The coach was sacked, and there were murmurs about some big names being forced to make way. In that scenario, the World T20 triumph was the breath of fresh air that was so desperately needed.
When stalwarts voluntarily opted out of the tournament, it provided the Indian selectors a chance to assess the bench strength and plan for the future. The core of the World T20 winning squad went on to serve Indian cricket for the next four years - an excellent run which culminated with the ODI World Cup win in 2011.
A fresh start and second coming
India’s campaign in the World T20 was led by performers of the past such as Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan. They were match-winners in their own right, but had lost favour with the selectors during the Dravid–Chappell regime.
The tournament came at the right time for them as they used it to successfully launch a comeback into the Indian squad in other formats. Sehwag, for example, came back into the Indian Test squad for the tour to Australia after having fallen in the pecking order earlier.
Similarly, the tournament also became the reason why some players on the fringes like Gautam Gambhir could stake their claim for a longer run in the Indian outfit. More importantly, it was during the World T20 that future world beater - Rohit Sharma - first showed glimpses of his true potential with important knocks against South Africa and Pakistan.
World Cup comes home after 24 years
The closest an Indian team had come to winning a World Cup since 1983 was when Sourav Ganguly’s boys marched their way to the finals of the 2003 World Cup, where they were comprehensively beaten by a superior Australian side.
4 years later, however, a 24-year barren run came to an end with the 2007 World T20 win, which is considered by many as a watershed moment in the history of Indian cricket. Just like Indian cricketers of the 90s referred to the ’83 win as a catalyst that made them take up cricket, the World T20 became a reason why countless youngsters across the country turned to the sport.
The inception of the Indian Premier League
The Indian cricket board was always reluctant to accept Twenty20 as a serious format to be played, but the World T20 win changed everything. Not only were the players showered with accolades upon return, the mood of the nation prompted the board to put forth the idea of a franchise-based T20 cricket league called the Indian Premier League, that would soon go on to take the world by storm.
In eight years of its existence, the IPL has transformed the face of Indian and world cricket with the kind of exposure it provides to cricketers in terms of money, glamour and fame.
One is left to wonder if the IPL would have come into existence had India not emerged as the champions in South Africa.