Multiple backroom inputs, power-hitting obsessions, relentless slow bowling and wide-yorker remedies, rigid and predictable matches have all contributed to almost obliterate the element of surprise. Yet captains and coaches continue to believe in these trends because they all somehow work, or because they believe they do.
A batsman, for example, may believe he will face a Harshal Patel slower ball but still be unable to find a way to maneuver around it. Conversely, an inexperienced team may find itself better placed to upset the apple cart against bigger, better, more resourceful outfits, as we’ve already seen here. T20 World Cup here, though it has barely begun.
So where does that leave India, who started the public obsession with this format by winning the inaugural World T20 in South Africa in 2007? It seems like just yesterday that a long-haired, fresh-faced and unusual MS Dhoni was successfully leading a team of either those looking to prove themselves for the first time, or those looking to prove themselves all over again.
Those were the days when cricketers either cautiously dipped their toes into uncharted waters or, as some of India’s greatest cricketers did back then, thumbed their noses at the format. The monetization came later.
Among the big names in that team, Virender Sehwag was looking for a comeback in more ‘important’ formats, while Gautam Gambhir was desperate for more playing time. Irfan Pathan proved his worth again, but was already considered a has-been. Yuvraj and Harbhajan played key roles. Rohit Sharma, captain now, was still a
relative unknown who wants to make it big and has proven his class at crucial moments.
Perth ✔️Brisbane ✔️Preparations ✔️We are now in Melbourne for our first game! #TeamIndia #T20WorldCup https://t.co/SRhKYEnCdn
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1666253986000
Rahul Dravid, coach now, captain in other formats until he stepped back, will remember the impact of the tournament. Funnily enough, a bizarre ‘boulout’ decided an even Indo-Pak match late in one Durban night, and what should have been considered a completely non-serious affair instead resulted in fiery, jingoistic crowd chanting that Dhoni deadened his voice in the post. -match interaction.
An electric final, again against Pakistan, Yuvraj’s six sixes… was there ever a more memorable T20 encounter? These were still the days of anchor-hitter opener combinations and basically an ODI approach to the 20-over game, but nevertheless there was an element of the intangible, a hint of what we call ‘magic’, which the sparked public imagination. This was Indian cricket remixed in a refreshing way.
Fifteen years later, Rohit leads the team Australia looking for a second World T20 title, making him best placed to put a finger on the intangibles and take a leaf from what went right in 2007.
From leading India for the first time in ICC World Cup to the team’s approach in the #T20WorldCup! 👌 👌💬 💬 In conjunction… https://t.co/Bq4uMrkNX9
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1666179379000
“It’s been a while since we won the World Cup,” Rohit told bcci.tv. “The motive and the whole thought process is to win the World Cup, but we know that we have to do a lot of things right to get there, so one step at a time for us.”
Rohit will know that one major part of that ‘magic’ came from Dhoni himself. His captaincy and bowling changes were, simply put, effective. India had just played a solitary T20I before the event, not the plethora of matches teams play now, and T20 has not yet been dissected ad infinitum, allowing Dhoni some creative freedom.
Some of Dhoni’s moves have turned the tide India’s way at key moments, like picking non-regular bowlers like Uthappa and Sehwag in the ‘bowout’ unlike Pakistan, or using RP Singh so cleverly against South Africa , or using Joginder Singh to defend 13. runs in the last over in the final. Dhoni dared to think outside the box and the new, untested format allowed him to do so.
India are still looking for their second T20 title, but now the format has been scrambled. Instead of bludgeoning past opponents or leaving them wide open to submission, the team that stands out will be the one with some instinctive street smarts.
Could the fact that so many players have not played in Australia before work in India’s favor somehow?