“In the air and Sreesanth takes it. India win. Unbelievable scenes here at Wanderers.” On a fine evening 13 years back when Ravi Shastri in his ever-energetic voiced said these lines, an entire nation jumped with joy after the roller-coaster ride of emotions throughout a nail-biting encounter between arch-rivals India and Pakistan in the finals of the first T20 World Cup. Every Indian fan would have these words etched in their minds and hearts. What started as a tournament with no expectations, ended up as a path-breaking one for Indian cricket.
Where did it all start? Turn back the clock to 8 August, 2007. Senior members of the Indian team Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan decided to skip the T20 format and give the young guns a go. A new captain was announced for the World T20 2007, who would go on to become one of the finest skippers for India. A team was selected which included some regulars, some fringe players and some who were struggling to make a comeback to the team.
The first game against Scotland was washed out and the second game against Pakistan became only the second tied match in T20I history. A bowl-out followed which India won 3-0. The super-six clash against New Zealand saw India go down by 10 runs, but Sehwag and Gambhir showed what they were capable of by scoring 78 runs in the powerplays. The next game against England is remembered for Yuvraj’s six sixes off Stuart Broad. And the last league game, which was a virtual quarter-final for India, ended up as a huge upset for the home team as India ousted them from the tournament to set a semi-final clash against Australia. A dramatic encounter in Durban saw India humble the Aussies by 15 runs.
The Indo-Pak rivalry, the mother of all rivalries, took the world by storm yet again. A jam-packed stadium witnessed one of the most thrilling T20 encounters between the subcontinent giants in Johannesburg. The match had literally everything that is anticipated in an Indo-Pak clash. however, it was Pakistan’s late comeback and the last over drama that turned out to be the most talked-about events of the game. India became the first-ever World T20 champions. A new era had begun.
The tournament had a lot of unforgettable moments for Indians. Yuvi’s six 6s, RP’s ripping through teh Proteas top-order, Sreesanth’s aggressive celebration after dismissing Hayden, Rohit’s career-defining 50, the Uthappa-Yuvraj counter-attack against Australia and at last, the thrilling final over by joginder Sharma. Almost everyone who played produced atleast one impactful innings or spell.
But that was all about what happened in the World Cup. What is more important though is what transpired after the win. India’s improbable win generated BCCI’s interest in the shortest format of the game, a format which the board did not take seriously a few months before the win. The victory instilled a sense of belief among the fans that there is a format in which they are the World Champions. This ultimately led to the idea of a T20 league in India as BCCI sensed the popularity of the format among Indian fans, which reached great heights during the World T20. And the IPL was born, the first of its kind franchise league, which continues to be the biggest T20 league around the globe, both in terms of money as well as quality.
It is needless to mention the success of the IPL over the years and its contribution to Indian cricket, in spite of all the controversies surrounding it. It would not be wrong to say that the IPL has brought a revolution in the way the game is played in all formats. The league has provided a platform for budding cricketers to showcase their talent against some of the best international cricketers. Moreover, the financial security it provides encourages a lot more kids in the nation to take up cricket as a profession. The likes of Ashwin, Jadeja, Hardik, Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar, and many others have been fast-tracked into the team thanks to the IPL.
The monetary aspect is something that can not be overlooked. The IPL is now one of the biggest sources of revenue for BCCI and the huge money generated has resulted in better infrastructure. The IPL has been a tournament that has changed Indian cricket forever.
India now have an envious pool of talent and are one of the best sides in the world. Much of the credit for this dominance goes to the IPL and the birth of the IPL is ultimately credited to the day India lifted the first ever World T20. The way India played in that tournament exceeded everyone’s expectations since not even the most optimistic fan had given India any chance of winning the title, especially after the 2007 World Cup debacle and the absence of senior players. But a young captain with a team that had nothing to lose went on to become the champions, surprising everyone.
Thirteen years down the line, the victory still holds great significance. The state at which Indian cricket is at the moment, the talent pool we have, the style of cricket they play, everything is a direct or indirect consequence of that victory.