T20 World Cup: Can Team India pull off a 2007 encore? | Cricket News

Since winning the inaugural event, it has been a case of so near, yet so far for Team India in T20 World Cups. TOI looks at things that worked for India in 2007…
September 24, 2007 could be as significant a date in Indian cricket history as June 25, 1983. A young Indian outfit, led by a maverick skipper, who then metamorphosed into the quintessential Captain Cool, won the inaugural T20 World Cup final against arch rivals Pakistan in a heart-stopping contest, and the triumph in Johannesburg resulted in the rise of the behemoth called the Indian Premier League.

MS Dhoni‘s men became part of cricketing folklore and the reception when they touched down in Mumbai, and later motorcaded to the Wankhede on a grey and stormy Wednesday morning, left everyone in no doubt that T20 was a drug that the Indian fan had tasted and couldn’t have enough of.
Fans and experts have tried to analyse why India, despite hosting the most glamorous and competitive T20 league in the world, haven’t won the T20 World Cup after 2007.

They reached the final in 2014 but lost to an efficient Sri Lanka in Mirpur despite being unbeaten till the summit clash. They lost to eventual champions and a dynamite West Indies side in the semis in 2016 in Mumbai. In Sri Lanka, in 2012, despite winning two out of three super eight games, India lost out to Pakistan in the race to the semis as they had lost badly to Australia, which affected their net run rate.
In 2009, in England, internal squabbling and fatigue, after a draining IPL campaign in South Africa, saw the team lose all three super eight games. In 2010, in West Indies, the team was blown away in the super eights by West Indies, Australia and Sri Lanka.
Did the 2007 team benefit because T20 was not taken seriously by most teams? Or did they play uninhibited cricket?

Former India and Mumbai opener Lalchand Rajput, who coached India in South Africa, told TOI how relaxed the players were throughout the campaign.
“The biggest factor was nobody expected us to win and hence there was no pressure on us,” Rajput recalled.
Perhaps the disastrous 50-over World Cup campaign in West Indies just six months before, where India were eliminated in the first round, proved to be a blessing in disguise.
There was a clamour for youth to take over and legendary players like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid opted out.
“It was a new team with a good mix of youngsters and some experienced players. And when you do not have any expectations, you play freely. We also created a happy dressing room environment (something that went missing in subsequent campaigns, particularly in England, 2009 and Sri Lanka, 2012) and never put any pressure on the players. Dhoni as a captain just backed the players all the time. We went on the field and gave everything we had and enjoyed ourselves,” said Rajput.
The unity and bonding were witnessed in Durban when the team won a gimmicky bowl out against Pakistan in the league phase.

Part of the enjoyment could also be seen in the way the team fielded. Rajput reckons the fielding was some of the best that he has seen, and it made the bowling attack more potent.
“That happens when you have a lot of youngsters. Our energy levels were fantastic. Everybody wanted to prove something. We were a very close unit. The fielders made our bowlers look even better. Karthik’s catch off Graeme Smith, Rohit’s run out of Justin Kemp and Uthappa‘s run out of Imran Nazir were prime examples,” Rajput pointed out.
For the record, the 2007 team had a collective T20 International experience of only one game and only a few domestic matches, courtesy the inaugural Syed Mushtaq Ali event. Yet, it won. Subsequent teams, despite its players having experienced the pressures of the IPL, have struggled to reach those highs.
Rajput pointed out why that has happened. “Lot of foreign teams started sending their players to the IPL. They started rubbing shoulders with the Indians and vice versa. Earlier, we used to rely a lot on spinners. People used to say foreign players cannot play spin. Now everybody can play, at least in the shorter formats. The foreign franchise coaches also relay information about our players back to the respective national coaches. Every country now has a league and players are constantly improving their skills.”
If one sees the 2007 Indian team, it seems a lot of players were suited to the instant format. Did India miss a trick by not grooming T20 specialists?
After the success of 2007 World Cup, a lot of teams had a few players who were T20 specialists (mystery bowlers, power hitters) who didn’t play red-ball cricket. India though largely fielded the same players across formats.
“If you look at West Indies, England, Australia, they have separate players for separate formats. They have also assigned specific players for specific roles,” asserted Rajput, currently coaching Zimbabwe.
The current Indian team has some players who play T20s only. Even some all-format players like KL Rahul are 360 degree players and the team has power hitters for specific situations like Hardik Pandya and Ishan Kishan and mystery spinners like Varun Chakravarthy, who have become as valuable as gold dust.
Will that suffice for a 2007 encore?

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