A victory that re-shaped world cricketing order

A victory that re-shaped world cricketing order

The ramifications of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men turning the cricketing world upside down with their epochal run to the World T20 title in September 2007 have extended beyond India reclaiming the status of World Cup winners, first conferred on Kapil Dev’s Class of ’83.

No single event in the history of the sport has impacted cricket worldwide as much as India’s all-conquering run in South Africa. There is no gainsaying what the status of the Indian Premier League would have been had India not been crowned World T20 champions; today, though, there is no denying the fillip the world’s premier ‘domestic’ competition has received from the success of a nation in a format which it embraced almost reluctantly.

India were the last of the cricketing superpowers to sign up for the inaugural World T20. An essentially English concept designed to re-stoke the passion for cricket in women as well as in youngsters weaned away by football and rugby, the three-hour amalgam of sport and entertainment was lapped up with ill-concealed enthusiasm in Old Blighty. As a country, India have been chary, if not downright unwilling, to embrace change. Indeed, were it not for some gentle backroom arm-twisting and a tacit compromise with regard to the staging rights of the 2011 World Cup proper, it is unlikely India would have gone into the second World T20 as the defending champions.

One crazy fortnight in September 2007 has, it can be said without hesitation, changed Indian perception towards the 20-over game, which has grown so spectacularly since that the International Cricket Council finds itself under no little pressure to maintain the sanctity of Test cricket. India arrived in South Africa minus their three brightest batting jewels – Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly – and under a young man with very little experience of leading a cricket team. Their flirtations with the T20 format were fleeting and ephemeral, the squad relatively raw and largely youthful in the first indications that India believed this was entirely a young man’s game.

For the first time since Kapil inspired his team to that memorable triumph in 1983, an Indian outfit entered a major cricketing event without the weight of expectations and the pressure of scrutiny. Quietly, without fanfare, the Indians swept all before them, conquering arch-rivals Pakistan at the Bullring in the Wanderers in an emotional title clash that is largely the reason why the IPL has come to establish itself as an unqualified success.

The plaudits and riches that were conferred upon Dhoni’s legion upon its return home was no more than a harbinger of things to come. The IPL, a brainchild of the far-sighted and business-steepled Lalit Modi, couldn’t have received better impetus. T20 had captured the imagination of the Indian audiences and, by extension, the corporates; what better way to cash in than give them what they wanted, packaged slickly and involving most of the biggest names in world cricket doing battle on a common platform.
Perhaps, even in the event of India not bringing home the World T20 trophy, Modi would have found a way to realise with his ambitious plans that entail opponents at the international stage rubbing shoulders as team-mates in the city-based, franchise-owned IPL. Perhaps, too, for all its hype and glitz, the event wouldn’t have generated the same hysteria-driven fan following that is a direct fall-out of the events in South Africa in September 2007.

All it took for the Indian fans to warm to T20 was the ‘bowl-out’ victory in the team’s first match of the competition, against Pakistan. The seeds were sown then, and had germinated wildly by the time S Sreesanth clung on to the catch that ensured Dhoni held aloft the trophy.

Much has been made of India’s financial clout within the cricketing circles. By marrying sparkling on-field performances with their undeniably overflowing coffers, India have genuinely earned the tag of cricketing superpower. The potential for making loads of money hasn’t been lost on players from outside the sub-continent who once viewed touring India as an undisguised punishment, but who are now happy to fly over at the drop of a hat because the lure of the dollar is impossible to resist. Indeed, the cynically inclined might feel they have good reason to believe the IPL is the reason why India and Pakistan are viewed differently from a security perspective by the cricketing fraternity, but that’s another issue altogether.

The IPL today has established itself as an event that is quickly nudging the ICC World Cups and the Champions Trophy in the significance stakes. Almost obliquely, through the IPL, cricketers have lent new meaning to the good Baron’s proclamation. Pierre de Coubertin had stressed the importance of participation in the Olympics more than the ultimate joy of success. To get into the IPL is the dream of many a cricketer today; the IPL today is what it is because of South Africa 2007. One unfamiliar event, one unexpected triumph, and the world order changeth!

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