It was 8 years ago when Misbah-ul-Haq played that famous unsuccessful scoop shot which went straight into the hands of Sreesanth at short fine leg. What followed after that was the most unrestrained and wild celebrations ever witnessed on a cricket field. India had won the inaugural edition of the T-20 World Cup beating their arch-rivals Pakistan with a slender margin of 5 runs. It was a perfect final one could ever wish for. Two nations known for their intense and tumultuous rivalry competing against each other in a World Cup final was a treat for every cricket fan across the globe. There were harsh words being said between the players, there were some very tensed moments in both the camps, there was pressure to win it for their respective fans. The match swung like a pendulum but it was India, led by their newly recruited young skipper MS Dhoni, who held their nerves when it mattered the most. This win began a new chapter in Indian cricket. It made T-20 cricket very popular in the country and also led to the advent of the IPL which is now the most successful and sought after T-20 league in the world.
Nobody gave India much of a chance when they left for the shores of South Africa. It was a very young team led by a young captain playing a format which they did not have much experience of. More than half of the Indian squad made their T-20 international debut in the tournament opening fixture against Scotland (which was abandoned due to incessant rain) and the rest were playing only their second game. Experience was not their strength but the audacity for a fight and the exuberance of youth meant that they had the X-factor. As their first game was a washout; they were staring down elimination if they had lost their second group game to Pakistan, who were chasing 142, within 14.4 overs. But the bowlers rose to the occasion and helped India tie the game. India got two points eventually as they prevailed 3-0 in the first ever bowl-out in the history of cricket. This win was followed by a 10-run loss to New Zealand. India, chasing a stiff 191, played brilliantly till they lost their way in the last quarter of their innings. The loss hurt but did not dilapidate the spirit of the team. The team turned around their World Cup campaign by conjuring three glorious evenings at the Kingsmead stadium, Durban. They beat top T-20 sides: England, South Africa and Australia within four days to win a berth in the finals. The Indians played like lions in these three games. They started as underdogs in every single game and came out on top at the end of it. Yuvraj Singh played two majestic knocks in a row both of which might well go down as his best ever. He smashed Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over which destroyed England’s spirit. He then annihilated the Australians in the all-important semi-final thumping a 30-ball 70. He collectively scored 128 runs and faced just a mere 46 balls in these two important games. He was an instant hero back home and was already rewarded by the government in crores! India started the tournament as underdogs but now they were tipped as the favorites. Things do happen very quickly in this format.
The Wanderers Stadium, the venue for the finals, was lit up by a sensational innings of 75 by opener Gautam Gambhir. It was a pristine knock studded with 8 fours and 2 sixes one of which hit the giant screen in the crowd. He is a big match player and played like a man on a mission which helped lift the Indian score to 157 for 5. Pakistan started brilliantly on the back of a brutal 14-ball 33 by explosive batsman Imran Nazir. India with the help of some brilliant bowling from Irfan Pathan and RP Singh tightened the screws after his departure but Misbah got in their way, yet again. The cricket fraternity was stunned when skipper Dhoni threw the ball to Joginder Sharma for the all-important last over. He was preferred over premiere bowler Harbhajan Singh. Maybe this decision has made Dhoni the captain that he is today. Sharma was nervous and started with a wide. 12 required from 6. Misbah hit one over long off for a six but followed that with his worst shot ever and the rest is history. The scenes at the Wanderers were maddening. The crowd erupted. All of the Indian support staff and the rest of the squad charged on the field to join the celebrations. That was an evening that will be cherished for a very long time by the players as well as the fans.
This win led to a new dawn in Indian cricket. MS Dhoni was soon given the ODI captaincy and then the Test captaincy next year. He took Indian cricket from strength to strength winning all possible ICC trophies and the much sought after No. 1 test ranking.