The first-ever official T20 game was played in the year 2005. England was the country to bring the shortest format of the game to life. The idea that a cricket match could be completed in under 3 hours excited everyone around. This ultra-short format was a boost in the arm for the game’s investors and stakeholders. It brought in a new segment of the cricket-watching audience. But the format needed context to scale up. It needed more countries to take the sport seriously.
The Indian angle to T20:
All the leading cricketing countries started partaking in the game’s shortest format. There were one-off T20 games scheduled between nations during a bilateral ODI and Test series. But India was not one of them. They waited and watched as the entire world enjoyed its infancy. It took them almost 2 years to play their first official T20 game. They made their T20I debut against South Africa in their backyard. Rahul Dravid was designated India captain but Virender Sehwag captained the country in that game. India ended up winning the contest with Dinesh Karthik being nominated the player of the match.
India’s epic failure in the ODI World Cup:
The 2007 ODI World Cup was India’s lowest cricketing point. India suffered a shock exit in the very first round losing to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The team suffered not just on the field but off it too owing to their turbulent relationship with the head coach, Greg Chappell. Indian cricket was in the doldrums. Fans were reeling after India’s poor showing. The ICC had to face tremendous backlash as Asian giants, India and Pakistan both exited at the group stage. It suffered huge financial losses. Something had to give post this disastrous turn of events.
The birth of the first T20 World Cup:
In the aftermath of what remains arguably the poorly organised ICC ODI World Cup, the governing body planned to host a T20 World Cup in the same year. The hosting rights of the inaugural T20 World Cup were given to South Africa. A cricketing carnival was expected for this month-long tournament.
Teams like Australia, England, South Africa, and New Zealand walked in with experience. India on the other hand, had just played a solitary T20 game. The senior Indian players (Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, and Zaheer Khan) decided to skip the tournament. India went in with a new skipper. His name was Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
India’s journey in the inaugural T20 World Cup:
India started their T20 World Cup journey with a win over arch-rivals Pakistan. It wasn’t an ordinary win. The league match had ended in a tie. India then went on to defeat Pakistan in a bowl-out (3-0). This thriller of a match set the ball rolling for India. They went on to top their group as their next match was washed out. India headed into the super 8’s with loads of confidence.
They lost a close game (10 runs) against New Zealand. India had to win their next 2 games to progress into the semifinals. They were up against England and South Africa. The game against England featured the now-legendary six-sixes that came out from Yuvraj Singh’s blade. India posted a mammoth 218 and won the game. Their job was steeper against the hosts as Yuvraj Singh had to forcefully sit out. But a young Indian team put on a collective effort to knock them out of the World Cup. India topped the super 8’s table too and stormed into the semi-finals.
The glorious redemption that nobody expected:
India walked in as underdogs against a mighty Australian side in the semifinals. Opting to bat first, India put in what is arguably their finest T20 batting performance. The middle order of Robin Uthappa, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni, and Rohit Sharma plundered the Aussies to post a gigantic total of 188-5. Yuvraj Singh’s innings of 30-balls 70 is one of the most iconic World Cup knocks.
India defeated the ODI World Cup champions, Australia to enter the finals. The win over the Aussies was a result that not many had expected it to be. The Indian team had already won a billion hearts. But now lay the big question, can they also win the big trophy?
The winners of the first T20 World Cup changed the game forever:
India was facing Pakistan in the finals. Pakistan had dominant wins En route to the finals as compared to India. They started favourites for this very reason. India posted a par score of 157 batting first. The game boiled down to the last over. A winning shot and a wicket separated the two sides. Joginder Sharma picked up Misbah-ul-Haq’s wicket to kickstart the celebrations. India were the champions. The joyous scenes were unprecedented. This win more than made up for India’s ODI World Cup loss earlier that year.
MS Dhoni-led Indian team arrived home amidst thunderous reception. This win paved the way for the Indian Premier League (IPL). The cash-rich tournament changed the game completely. It fast-tracked India’s global dominance in world cricket! Cricket was never the same again. Indian cricket was never the same again.