“In the air… And Sreesanth takes it. India win. Unbelievable scenes here at Wanderers.”
You may be another Indian cricket fan, allergic to Ravi Shastri’s cliché-filled screams in the commentary box, but you wouldn’t mind hearing the above scream in a loop. The magic moment led to the nation embracing the T20 format tight, which has now placed Indian cricket in a position of dominance like never before.
The success of Indian Premier League’s (IPL) foundation was set on this day, in 2007. No, contrary to popular beliefs that the birth of the IPL concept wasn’t an offshoot of this day. The tournament, though, certainly cashed on and built itself on the foundation of this day.
Trivia: On September 12, 2007, two days before the India-Pakistan Group Match of the inaugural T20 World Cup, BCCI announced the launch of the franchise-based T20 league – IPL in a high-profile ceremony that had in attendance the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble.
Ten days later, came of the finest moments in Indian sporting chronicles.
Why couldn’t India have its own NFL or MLS or NBA? Cricket could do that. Business tycoon Lalit Modi, for many years, looked for every opportunity to revolutionise Indian cricket.
As a young Indian team under the leadership of a new captain, MS Dhoni, prepared in South Africa for a little-known format, Lalit Modi had just walked out of the then BCCI President Sharad Pawar’s office with a check of US$ 25 million and finally a BCCI approval on IPL. The real work was yet to begin. The big day, the start of the inaugural IPL was only seven months away.
Modi had to build a sustainable business model that would incentivise all the stakeholders – from players to franchise owners to broadcasters to sponsors to cricket associations and boards. An event that of a monstrous size, in a geography as complicated, complex and diverse as India, and with stakeholders ranging from cricketing superstars to luminaries of other fields to the common man, the clock with the deadline of seven-month raced much faster than that he would have liked.
Modi knew the urban India psychology of masses identifying themselves to their city. As often we hear that fans are cricket's most prominent stakeholders, the men at work were trying to do everything possible to make it as fan-friendly as possible.
Cricket was a hit with Indians. But what about the T20 format? BCCI was not only reluctant to accept it but also were unsure of sending a team to the inaugural World T20. India became last of the then ten-Test playing nations to play it internationally. It was only after that BCCI staged their domestic T20 tournament.
In fact, India had played just one T20I before they walked into the World Cup with a young squad. Superstars like Tendulkar, Ganguly, the then skipper Dravid and even Zaheer Khan had opted out of the tournament. The captaincy cloak fell on the 26-year-old Dhoni.
For Modi, there was too much risk and uncertainty. Indians, who loved their cricket, were perceived traditionalists by many. They were fed with Tests, and ODIs. Would they enjoy a fast-paced and three-hour compressed version of their beloved sport? With absolutely no fan-following for domestic cricket, the fans understood one version of supporting a team and that was backing the national side – India. Would they fall for their cities too? Would he be able to create a property that could give the Bollywood a run for their money? Would women and children be as active TG for the IPL?
In a year that saw the star-studded India crash out in the first round of the 50-over World Cup, no one gave the young Team India an outside chance. Other sides played their full-strength teams. Players from Australia, England, New Zealand, and South Africa, had experience in the format, unlike the Indian cricketers.
Destiny chose to write a different script for Dhoni. A script that went on to be a blockbuster for Lalit Modi.
India’s first game against Scotland was a washout. Modi had reached South Africa on September 14, the day India took on Pakistan. His objective was to negotiate with the players of all countries for the dream project he had envisaged. In the days to come, he ended up being an extended part of India’s cheering squad as the tournament caught on him and India’s performance would go on to wow him.
For fans in India and Pakistan, the formats don’t matter when the sides clash. Both the teams had gone through a difficult phase, having crashed out of the first round in the ODI World Cup earlier that year.
Pakistan had the upper hand. Not only they had a full-strength side but also had experienced playing this format. The tense game ended in a tie. The TRPs soared as for the first time; fans witnessed the Indian team getting engaged in a unique tie-breaker for the first time. Smart tactics and calmness saw India win the bowl-out and earn points. This was cricket's answer to football's penalty shootouts.
Two days later, India would experience their first defeat in the format, against a tail-up New Zealand. Then came September 19. In a must-win contest, the Indian vice-captain Yuvraj Singh set Durban alight by slamming six sixes in one over – a feat achieved only for the second time in international cricket. Stuart Broad was the bowler at the receiving end. Yuvraj got his fifty off just 12 balls, which still stands an international record for the fastest fifty.
The side had qualified for the semi-final against the world-class Australia. The Australian bowlers had India on the mat before Yuvraj rescued the team with a blistering 30-ball 70. India had done the unthinkable, beating Australia and entering the final.
By then the format had gripped the nation, and they were high on the 'Chake de, India’ number that was ruling all the charts.
September 24, 2007.
As if things were pre-scripted. India would play Pakistan in the tournament final at Johannesburg, a venue that broke many Indian fans in the 2003 World Cup final. A thriller of a contest, the match lived up to its billing, capturing 47.2 per cent of all TV viewers in India.
Match talking points
- To crowd’s delight, Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat
- An injured Virender Sehwag missed the match which meant Yusuf Pathan would go on to make his debut and open the account with a ‘six’
- It wasn't a dream start for India, and the middle-order collapse made things worse
- Gautam Gambhir’s 54-ball 75 and Rohit Sharma’s 16-ball 30 not out lent some stability as Indian finished with 157 for five
- Pakistan lost Mohammad Hafeez in the first over and Kamran Akmal in the third
- Imran Nazir was taking the match away from the Indians. His 14-ball 33 came to an end courtesy a direct-hit from Robin Uthappa
- Pakistan needed 54 from the final four overs with just three wickets in hand when Misbah-ul-Haq turned the game around
- With 13 required off the last over, Dhoni gambled by giving Joginder Sharma the final over
- A wide, a dot and a six later, all Pakistan needed was six runs off the last four balls before Misbah scooped one in the air. Zillions of emotions were experienced as the ball stayed aerial before Shastri's voice provided relief to a billion
You can never get tired of watching this
The victorious team returned Mumbai and travelled to Wankhede Stadium on an open-top double-decker bus. Over 100,000 fans braved the Mumbai downpour to greet the team at the airport. Reportedly, two million fans came to the road to welcome the team.
Modi must have breathed the biggest sigh of relief. His plan that was shelved for ages had now found the jigsaws joining. India was ready for T20, a format little known to them two weeks back was the new favourite. From industrialists to the Bollywood biggies, all got involved in the team-buying process. IPL changed India and Indian cricket.
Despite the adversities of 2020, IPL continues in an unusual time – though delayed, but as an essential organ that pumps life to Indian cricket and many allied sectors.
As for September 24, 2007. The day remains one of the most cherished ones for Indian cricket fans.