Former Pakistan all-rounder Azhar Mahmood believes that the Indian team was more focused on playing one-day internationals and Test matches and were not inclined towards playing T20 cricket before the 2007 T20 World Cup. Azhar Mahmood feels that it was India's win in the 2007 T20 World Cup that led to the popularity of the format in India.
India had rested all their senior players and had sent a relatively young team to the South African shores in 2007. The team was led by a young captain in the form of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and he captained the side brilliantly throughout the World Cup.
Like the 1983 World Cup win inspired many to take up cricket as a sport in India, the 2007 T20 World Cup win was responsible for the popularity of T20s in the country and the birth of the Indian Premier League. The IPL has arguably become one of the biggest T20 leagues in the world.
“India were not keen [playing T20s] before the T20 World Cup. They were concentrating more on Test match cricket and one-day cricket. It was a massive boost for Indian cricket to win the T20 World Cup, which eventually led to the birth of IPL. It was great to see,” Azhar Mahmood said on Wisden’s The Greatest Rivalry podcast.
Azhar Mahmood recalls the last over of the 2007 T20 World Cup FInal
Azhar Mahmood also spoke about the dramatic last over of the 2007 T20 World Cup final between India and Pakistan. Pakistan needed 13 runs to win off the last over and Joginder Sharma was bowling for India while Misbah-ul-Haq was at the striker's end.
Misbah hit a straight six to make it six runs to win from four balls with only one wicket remaining. But instead of using his full might and trying to clear the fence once again, Misbah tried to cheekily guide the ball over the head of fine leg.
But Misbah toe-ended the ball with the bat and the ball went straight up into the air and Sreesanth caught the ball, giving India their maiden T20 World Cup title. Azhar Mahmood also believes that it was a wrong choice of shot from Misbah as he could have easily cleared the fence had he tried to hit it straight.
“Unfortunately, Pakistan was on the losing side. Misbah Ul Haq was playing so well but in the end, he tried to play that scoop shot. He could have hit a straight six off Joginder Sharma but he tried to go with a fancy scoop. I jumped on my sofa, when I saw, but then when the catch was taken, I was like ‘what’s happening’,” Azhar Mahmood said.
Although Azhar Mahmood was disappointed by the result, he praised the captaincy of MS Dhoni who went on to become the only captain in world cricket to win all the three ICC white-ball tournaments - the T20 World Cup in 2007, the ODI World Cup in 2011 and the Champions Trophy in 2013.