Back in 2007, India had been embarrassingly eliminated from the Cricket World Cup. They failed to even go past the first-round while Bangladesh, who were still finding their feet at the time, move to the Super 8’s in their stead.
That the first-ever T20 World Cup was in the same year was God sent for the men in blue as they exorcized their failures in the 50 over format by becoming the inaugural T20 Champions. But what if India had not won the event?
What if India lost to England or South Africa in the Super 8’s or what if they crashed out against the 50-over format World Cup holders Australia? What if Sreesanth dropped Misbah ul-Haq’s catch in the final against Pakistan?
Let us now explore all the possibilities.
What if India had not won the inaugural T20 World Cup?
The T20 World Cup featured 12 teams. Every country took the event very seriously and sent their A team to South Africa for the competition. India on the other hand, seemed to want to get the event over with. They sent a team full of young or fringe players and gave their senior players a rest.
A much younger MS Dhoni was given the reigns of the side but not much was expected from the wicketkeeper-batsman and his team. However, the side played fearlessly and with a bit of luck, skill and a lot of courage finally crossed the line in the end.
There is reason to believe that India’s victory helped popularise the format. However, the exciting nature of T20 meant that sooner or later, it would have been popular anyway. Although, India’s victory definitely gave it a jumpstart.
The T20 World Cup win is also credited with the rise of the Indian Premier League. However, the IPL would have begun regardless of India’s standing in the competition.
The then BCCI Vice President Lalit Modi revealed that they had been working on the idea 2 years before it was eventually announced at a high profile event in Delhi when asked if the IPL was a knee-jerk reaction to the formation of the Indian Cricket League; a rebel league threatening to rob the BCCI of their players and committee members.
So, what difference did India’s win actually make?
The Indian team was bereft of a captain after Rahul Dravid stepped down. The side was in the trenches and perhaps at it’s lowest morally. However, Dhoni’s young side seemed to not care about what was happening outside of the event.
Slowly, the rest of the country also seemed to be less and less worried about it.
The T20 World Cup victory gave the nation a tailor-made leader who had already shown his ability to inspire the side.
This was also perfect timing as it gave the Wicket-keeper batsman time to create aside in a manner he believed that would win them the 50-over World Cup as well. Many before him had tried and come agonizingly close but no once since Kapil Dev had achieved the feat.
In the series’ between, Dhoni kept on impressing everyone with his ability to keep his calm at crunch situations. His belief in his players and his ability to impart that composure onto them won many fans and pundits over.
After 4 years of hard and controversial calls, MS Dhoni built a side ready to conquer the world. Everything he had touched before had turned to gold but this was the one competition that perhaps mattered more than any other in the game.
Much like the T20 World Cup, Dhoni’s side conquered the world once again. This time, in a format, where they couldn’t even cross the first stage 4 years back. The demons had truly been vanquished and it all began at South Africa in 2007.
The rise and rise of MS Dhoni
A lot of what happened today would have still happened eventually. T20 would have boomed much like ODI cricket did before it. The IPL would have still happened and even revolutionize the sport.
Despite their condescending take on the format in the beginning, the BCCI would have warmed up to the format and the tournament much like they’ve opened up to the DRS now.
However, without the victory, there would have been no MS Dhoni and perhaps even the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup win for India.
The Legendary keeper before the tournament was a promising player but no one would have thought that he would go on to capture the imagination of everyone. Leadership changed the way he carried himself.
Once a player who spoke of his desire to never let his strike rate fall below 100, he became one of the most responsible batsmen and arguably the country’s greatest finisher.
His glovework rapidly improved as well and it seemed that he could do no wrong.
Without that evening at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg though, none of this would have been possible.