This article originally appeared in the print edition on September 25, 2007 the day after India won the World T20.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was just two years old when Kapil Dev held up the glittering World Cup on that magic summer evening at Lord’s in 1983. Today, he, and his young team, lived that moment for India — all over again.
Like 24 years ago, no one expected India to win this trophy; and when it came to the crunch, the bowlers did the trick — our Mohinder Amarnath was the comeback man Irfan Pathan, our Kris Srikkanth was Gautam Gambhir, our Sandeep Patil was Rohit Sharma, and our Sunil Valson, who stayed on the bench, was Piyush Chawla.
And, after India beat Pakistan by five runs to become the World Twenty20 champions today, Dhoni, our Kapil, said, “I will cherish this till the end of my life.”
This team had done virtually the impossible. They had walked in with the experience of one Twenty20 international before this, they had no coach, in the real sense, and they did not have much of a preparation either. “But we had a 100% success rate,” said Dhoni, pointing to their lone Twenty20 win last year against South Africa.
“This is a young side, and no one expected us to win. And that’s the reason why we won,” he said.
At the Wanderers today, on a pitch where they had already made history last year by winning their first Test in South Africa, against a team that has never beaten them in a World Cup before, it finally boiled down to that one reverse scoop from Pakistan’s hero Misbah-ul-Haq — a shot that failed, a great effort that fell short by five runs.
The Indians ran towards their new skipper, Pakistan’s Aussie coach Geoff Lawson slumped down, two weeks of high-octane action had ended in the last over of the tournament, the world had woken up to a new force — Team India, GenNext, without the battle-scarred veterans Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly.
“It does not matter who got there in the end, the game of cricket has won,” declared Indian legend Sunil Gavaskar, minutes after Pakistan were bowled out for 152, after India won the toss and set up a target 157 for five in their 20 overs.
Probably, what really captured the secret of India’s success in this tournament, just six months after their humiliating exit from the Caribbean World Cup, is that fact that there were no superstars to hail and idolize at the end of it all.
There was Yuvraj Singh, rediscovering himself with the two sensational half-centuries against England and Australia. There was R P Singh, relentlessly sharp, persistently accurate with his left-arm seamers. There was Sreesanth, knocking back Australia in the semi-finals with laser-like yorkers. There was Irfan Pathan, out of the team due to a dip in form and confidence, returning to the world stage in the final with a brilliant spell of 4-0-16-3 and the man-of-the-match award.
“Mashallah, it was a great feeling to come back like the way I did, to win the cup,” said Irfan, as he stepped up to receive his prize, savouring the special day when he got to play with his “bhai”, Yusuf Pathan. Minutes later, the Indians were celebrating wildly. Dhoni clung on to the trophy, chest-butting those who came in the way, Pathan strutted around with the gold medallion around his neck, Harbhajan and Joginder managed to get into the tri-colour, together.
Today, the difference between the two teams was simple: pressure. And Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik couldn’t help but ask his man, Misbah, why he went for that reverse scoop that landed in Sreesanth’s hands — the final moment of the match.
“He wanted to hit the ball straight over again, but something at the last moment made him do that. What more can I ask him because he too is heart-broken,” said Malik. Finally, irritated at the repeated questions on why his team folded up, he asked: “Aap koi film bana rahe hain, khushi aur gam par?” For the Indians, meanwhile, it was time to count the money too: $2 million from the BCCI, $450,000 from the tournament, Rs 1 crore for Yuvraj, Rs 5 lakh from Karnataka for Robin Uthappa.
And at the end of it all, as the groundstaff here started sweeping aside the confetti, the message from Johannesburg was clear: if 1983 brought one-day cricket home, be prepared for the T20 revolution.
This article appeared in the print edition with the headline ‘Generation Next gets its 1983 moment’