On this day in 2007, India defeated Pakistan to lift the T20I World Cup.
The victory was significant for various reasons. Not only was the tournament the inaugural World Cup for the game’s shortest format, it also followed the disappointing ODI World Cup campaign of the same year in which India even failed to progress through the group stages.
However, the most significant of all was that the victory kick-started the era of success under skipper MS Dhoni.
The bitter run in 2007 ODI World Cup led to a transition in Indian cricket. Infamous coach Gregg Chappell stepped down, Rahul Dravid resigned from the post of the captain. A team of inexperienced cricketer was picked to lead India’s challenge at the showpiece event and it did not feature the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Dravid. A young, unconventional player from Ranchi, Dhoni was chosen over Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh to lead ‘Men in Blue’.
His first assignment as a captain was the World T20 in South Africa. India were placed in Group D along side Pakistan and Scotland. In the group stage match against Pakistan in Durban, Dhoni gave first glimpse of his out-of-the-box thing. The nail-biting encounter went into bowl out and the skipper opted for part-time spinners like Sehwag and Robin Uthappa to do the job. India hit the target on first three occasions, while their arch rivals missed to hand over a sweet victory to India.
On their way to the final, India defeated England, South Africa and Australia. In the finals, it was Pakistan again. Batting first, Gautam Gambhir’s 75 helped India reach a respectable total of 157/5 in allotted 20 overs. In reply, Pakistan had a shaky start with wickets falling on regular intervals till the time Misbah-ul-Haq’s batting master-class took them within the touching distance of the trophy.
This is when Dhoni pulled out another rabbit from his hat. With 13 needed of the last over and one wicket remaining, Joginder Sharma was called upon to bowl. The medium pacer conceded seven runs off his first two deliveries.
Pakistan needed six more runs and Misbah tried to outfox India by trying to play a scoop behind the wicket on the third ball. But his shot ended in the hands of S Sreesanth at short fine leg.
India won the World Cup by 5 runs.
It was the dawn of the ‘Captain Cool’ era.
An era in which pulling out surprises wasn’t a surprise anymore, in which pressure was dealt with calmness.
A period in which last over finishes became the identity of the Indian team. It was also the beginning of a new chapter in Indian cricket, which would later prove to be it’s most successful one.
The World T20 win was followed by the tri-nation CB series win in Australia in 2008. In 2009, India topped Test cricket rankings for the first time after routing Sri Lanka 2-0 at home.
The Jharkhand cricketer then led India to 2011 ODI World Cup trophy, ending the wait of 28 years. Under Dhoni’s leadership, India also won the 2013 Champions Trophy.
For now, Indian cricket is in the safe hands of Virat Kohli, but the skipper is well aware of the fact that Dhoni has left behind a strong legacy for him.
Sourvag Ganguly laid the foundation of the bold new Team India, but it was Dhoni, who took it to its highest peak.
Feature image: ICC