It was a memorable fortnight for Indian cricket. The debacle at the 2007 ICC ODI World Cup in the West Indies was a significant blow to the team. We had a strong lineup capable of winning the Cup, but things went awry when we lost the opening match to Bangladesh, much to the disappointment of our fans, who had prayed for us. We never recovered from that defeat. Less than six months from that dark day, we made history by winning the Cup in a format that was alien to us.

When we left for South Africa in early September, we honestly did not believe we could excel in the inaugural T20 World Cup. But we wanted to erase the bitter memories of the ODI World Cup, and the fact that we were a young team served as a huge motivation. We were without Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, and Sourav Ganguly, all of whom opted out of this format. The challenge was massive, and we had the man to shepherd us— MS Dhoni. He had faith in the team, and the team too believed we could go the distance riding on his self-belief. In just 12 days, the image of Indian cricket underwent a fascinating transformation.

ALSO READ | ‘T20 World Cup win paved way for smooth transition in white-ball cricket’ — Irfan Pathan

Rain denied us a shot at Scotland in the first match. We were up against Pakistan, and Robin Uthappa was in his element. His half-century laid the foundation. The match was tied, and we won in a bowl-out, a new concept to decide the winner. To begin with, a win against Pakistan was just the elixir we needed. A loss to New Zealand in a high-scoring match was a wake-up call. We needed to pull up our socks, and we did. On September 19, I was delighted to play a part in India’s win and, in the process, join the elite league of stalwarts like Garry Sobers and Ravi Shastri, who hit six sixes in an over.

I have been asked so many times, when did I realise that six sixes were possible? I knew the pressure was on Stuart Broad to avoid being slammed, and when I got the fourth six, I knew it was my day. I had to make sure that I connected well. Well, I was able to put the bat on the ball and leave Broad stunned. I felt sorry for him. The team was in a zone now. We moved past South Africa and Australia in style. Victories against these two opponents brought a degree of confidence and a resolve that we were destined to do something big. The final was against Pakistan, and we were ready.

Gautam Gambhir played a sterling innings, but 158 was going to be a tough target to defend. We grabbed regular wickets, and at 77 for six, we seemed to be through. Then we ran into Misbah-ul-Haq. He almost snatched the game away until Joginder Sharma and S. Sreesanth combined to secure a memorable win. We won by five runs. It was a win that led to the creation of the Indian Premier League in 2008 and prepared us for the 2011 World Cup triumph.

As told to Vijay Lokapally

More stories from this issue