Today when a cricket writer sits down to write about the World T20 final of 2007 today, it is difficult for him not to look at that victory as the start of a golden age of Indian cricket. It is difficult for him not to look at that match as a harbinger of all the victories that came after it. The no. 1 Test ranking, the ICC World Cup of 2011, and the Champions Trophy of 2013 and others that came after the match at the Wanderers.
Another set of writers would look at that match as the culmination of a journey. A journey which included a tied thriller with Pakistan, a roaring display of power against England, and a gritty display of fearlessness against the Australians. To those writers the victory in the finals is but a climax to an epic. A part of the story instead of being a story in itself. A story of a new brand of young and unhinged cricketers coming together to form something much more than their sum.
You can also look at it as an Indian who had been a fan of cricket ever since he can remember. Someone whose earliest memories of Cricket started from the World Cup of 1996. Someone who had never personally witnessed the World Cup of 1983, and the World Championship of 1985; had only heard of it in tales. Someone who had the Natwest, a shared Champions Trophy and the runner up spot in the 2003 World Cup to show for his passion and loyalty to his cricket team. Someone who was old enough to understand stats and the rules, and yet young enough to play the sport himself. What did that night mean to him?
But I prefer to look at it from the moments. Cricket like any other sport produces moments. Moments that are etched into your mind as they happen. Moments that seemed fantastical and become even more legendary when you pass them down to others. And that is what that final of 2007 has been transcended to for me. A series of crystal clear moments in a sea of hazy numbers and facts.
The first ball run-out chance that brought out the gasps. The six by Yusuf that brought out the grins. The early dismissal of Yuvraj and Dhoni which brought out the sighs. And perhaps most importantly the gritty knock of Gambhir and Rohit in the end which brought out the clinched fists.
But this perhaps, remains the one game where the moments to remember were not produced when India was batting. The real game, and the real roller coaster began when Pakistan came out to bat. I have to say I don’t remember much of Pakistan’s initial overs either. Infact even looking at the scorecard, they only bring back faded flashes. But I can almost recount with perhaps unhealthy accuracy to what transpired in the last 3 overs of that match.
Harbhajan had just been thumped for 3 sixes by Misbah (a rare occasion those times), and suddenly the match had just turned alive again. Sreesanth had the next over and more than a few of us sitting in that college canteen were shaking their heads. He was hit for 2 more, by Sohail Tanveer of all people. Some of us had our heads in our palm. Some others yet were flowing with the choicest abuse. He sort of made up for it with a wicket but the damage had already been done. The score was now just within reach 20 off 12.
Many of us who had seen India loose in final before could almost see the writing on the wall. RP Singh came up next, and bowled an over par excellence, except for that freaking boundary that came off the last ball. 13 needed off the last over, and everybody and their mother thought it was going to be Harbhajan who would bowl it.
But no, up walks Joginder Sharma, gives his cap to the umpire and marks out his run-up. The boys in the canteen are in a subdued frenzy. Each one is glued to the spot they were in when RP Singh had snatched the wicket last over. One of them is pumping his leg in a rhytmic motion; another is clenching and unclenching his fist; all of them staring at a 16 inch screen hoisted above them in a corner. He runs in and bowls a wide.
The room lets out a collective sigh. On strike was a man who had just slammed perhaps the best spinner for 3 sixes, and you just made it easier for him to win the game. Anyways, Joginder Sharma runs in again, bowls an almost wide again, but Misbah misses. You could hear some subdued Yesses in the background.
The second ball of the over then, Joginder runs in, bowls an almost similar length, and this time Misbah connects. But its high, and looks mistimed, a catch maybe. But no its a six. 6 more off 4 balls, and those subdued yessses are all open expletives. The camera pans to Dhoni, with one of his gloves on his chins (the first of many we would see in the coming years).
Joginder collects the ball, goes back to his spot and starts running back in. You could almost hear those non-belivers berating you for supporting a team that never wins anything. Its the same length, but this time Misbah tries something else. A scoop! He lops it up in the air, and in your mind you have it marked for a boundary. But then you see it hasn’t been hit as well. There is a fielder underneath and its Sreesanth. Instead of praying for him to take that catch, you try to think of tortures you can put him through if he drops it.
The ball is in the air for too long. Time is not supposed to slow down like this. But the ball finally comes down, and Sreesanth does holds it. Misbah is gone, India has won. In all the drama, I had completely overlooked the fact that Pakistan were down to their last wicket. As the realization hits, the crowd in the canteen blows the roof off the joint, as the crowd in the ground blows it off the stadium. No one is listening to the commentators, we are just throwing stuff everywhere. Chairs, tables, even friends, they have all been tossed up in the air in celebration.
I don’t remember much after that. We all decided to head out to the streets to meet up with others in our celebrations. But I do remember Misbah kneeling, as the Indians celebrated around him. And in that image I have captured the T20 World Cup Final of 2007, the brainfreeze that gave India the world cup.