Former cricketer Graeme Smith recently recalled India's first T20I against South Africa in Johannesburg, way back in 2006. The Men in Blue had the last laugh, winning the game by six wickets with one ball to spare.
Chasing a moderate total of 127 runs, Virender Sehwag (34), who captained India in that game, gave the side a blistering start. Contributions from Dinesh Mongia (38) and Dinesh Karthik (31*) helped the tourists begin their T20I journey on a winning note.
Looking back at the game, Smith admitted that he doesn't have fond memories of it because of Karthik's batting heroics. Speaking on Cricket.com's YouTube special 'Dressing Room Stories' on Monday, the former South Africa captain said:
"I mean… Dinesh Karthik scoring runs and winning a game. Those aren't fond memories."
While other players from India's playing XI in that game have called time on their careers, Karthik recently made a comeback to the national side on the back of a superlative Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign earlier this year. He has scored 330 runs in 16 matches, including a few match-winning contributions.
The wicketkeeper-batter has had a couple of good games for the Men in Blue and is eyeing a T20 World Cup berth later this year in Australia.
"IPL is a big reason for why T20 cricket has got to the level it has" - Graeme Smith
T20 cricket came as an unknown commodity at the time but soon picked up pace and was liked by fans across the world. Smith credited the IPL for being instrumental in T20's grand success.
"We were uncertain about how this format would go. In the beginning, we rested probably a lot of top players. It was a fun outing though. The energy in the crowd, the enjoyment that came with the game, straightaway you recognised that the fans just loved it. I think for all of us who were learning how to play, it was an opportunity to leather up and play without pressure, score as quick as you can."
"Who would have thought in 2006 that T20 cricket would get to the level it has to right now? In my mind, you couldn't have predicted that it would take off like it did. The IPL is a big reason why T20 cricket has got to the level it has. It's just incredible."
With the future of ODI cricket in doubt, T20I is likely to see an upsurge in the coming years.
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