A story of Rags to Riches: Making of Indian Cricket Team as Champions of Inaugural T-20 World Cup

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Where were you on this date in 2007? Office? At relatives place? Or chilling at a place which had no access to TV or the internet?

Man! We have to say that if you have missed this epic final encounter of the inaugural ICC T-20 World Cup 2007 in South Africa between India and Pakistan then we do sympathize with you.

Still we have you covered, but before we began with the final, let us see how the team came into the tournament and how it made its way into the mega game.

Time was dark for the Indian Cricket Team before this tournament. Gregg Chappell was the coach of Team India and, perhaps, he was the reason why the team was divided & not performing. This became a reason as to why Rahul Dravid and his men were knocked out by Bangladesh in 2007 World Cup held in March.

The image of this team was in question, and the coach was sacked. During all this, ICC announced the T-20 mega event which was to take place in September. Taking drastic measures, BCCI appointed Lalchand Rajput as the manager of the team alongside Venkatesh Prasad. With the team announcement due for the tournament, the senior players refused to take part in the tournament as it was new to them. That’s when the selectors decided to pass the team’s baton in the hands of MS Dhoni, a player whose place itself was in doubt after the main cup, ahead of much anticipated Yuvraj Singh.

A young troop of players was sent to the tournament, with almost no expectations, much like the 1983 World Cup. However, destiny had written something else for this team. The first match against Scotland was washed out and the second match was a thriller! Bowl-out that too against Pakistan! Thankfully, Indian bowlers hit the stumps, and India was through to the next round.

The first match of the group six-round against New Zealand was a punch in the face for this team. The players were down, and the fear of Indian team returning home was doing the rounds.

Midst all this, the young Indian Captain was marking his player for the games to come. From now on, every game was a knock-out game. The road was tough as the opponents were England and the host, South Africa. As they say, “God favours those who favour themselves”, this is where the tournament took a U-turn for India.

Following that defeat, England was the first to feel the heat. Yuvraj Singh’s heated argument with Andrew Flintoff resulted in a massacre. English players and everyone watching were on their feet as Yuvraj Singh roared with his six sixes.

What followed next was the crucial match against South Africa. South Africa did well to hold India to a low score, despite the heroics of Rohit Sharma.  Nonetheless, it was RP Singh’s day to choke the host in front of its fans. India restricted South Africa below 119 and marched on for the big semi-final.

India was drawn against Australia, the World Champions, in the semi-final. India began well; but, two quick wickets resulted in India losing its way. However, this time it was Yuvraj Singh and Sreesanth who turned the match on its head. If the former’s magnificent innings of 72 runs in the death was a shocker for Aussies; then it was the latter’s two clean-bowled that got the ball rolling for India after a threatening start from Gilly and Hayden.

In the final, India faced its fierce rival Pakistan for the second time in the tournament.

The stage was set in the Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg. India won the toss and opted to bat. With Sehwag missing, India got off to a jittery start with India down to 2 wickets in the 6th over. Howbeit, a valiant Gautam Gambhir fought India’s way with a vital knock of 75 runs and India ended with a competitive score of 157.

The onus was upon the Indian bowlers to deal and RP Singh led India’s way to a good start which was carry-forward by Irfan Pathan who maintained the necessary pressure to ensure the game goes into the last over.

The last over was a nail-biter. Dhoni’s decision to allow Joginder Sharma bowl the last over send jitters down the spine many Indians. With 12 needed, last over started with a wide and was followed by a six. Misbah was heading Pakistan to glory; but a scoop changed the game. An attempted Yorker which was skied by a mistimed scoop of Misbah-ul-Haq ended up in Sreesanth’s shaking hand at the fine-leg. The inevitable happened. India was the T-20 Champions! A rookie side had conquered the hearts of billions. Without a coach, a group of young lads performed like a team.

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