'We made history when nobody was expecting us to win' - Lalchand Rajput looks back at 2007 T20 World Cup triumph

"It was the first T20 World Cup, so no one knew what it was about"

Kunal Kishore
Misbah-ul-Haq could have done many things with that innocuous-looking delivery from Joginder Sharma. All he did, attempting a scoop, was lob the ball to S Sreesanth at short fine-leg. And India were the inaugural T20 World Cup champions. Fifteen years ago, today, in Johannesburg. And the party started for India.
"Those memories will always be there because we made history. No one was expecting us to win," Lalchand Rajput, India's coach at the time, said on the sidelines of the Legends League Cricket tournament, where he is coaching Bhilwara Kings. "Even before leaving [for South Africa], everyone was talking about the young team, with a new captain [MS Dhoni], and new coach; Dhoni was captaining for the first time, and I became coach for the first time.
"But we were motivated to do something. And by winning the World Cup, we created history."
India won the T20 World Cup despite having played only a solitary T20I before the tournament; it was a brand-new format, after all. On top of that, many of the senior pros, like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, had opted out. It wasn't a rag-tag team, with the likes of Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan, Ajit agarkar and Gautam Gambhir in the mix, but no one gave them a chance. They still won.
And the impact: the birth of the IPL.
"It was the first T20 World Cup, so no one knew what it was about. No one had any experience," Rajput said. "Before the World Cup, the Indian team had played only one T20I. Since IPL started in 2008, the players have evolved in the format. Many players have had a lot of game time. There are a lot of X-Factor players in the Indian World Cup squad [for 2022]. At that time, we had Yuvraj and Sehwag. Now there are Hardik Pandya, [Rishabh] Pant and Suryakumar [Yadav]."
For India, Hardik Pandya returning to being an impact allrounder of the highest T20 class has been a big plus in the lead-up to the World Cup; it has allowed the team to get the right balance.
"India should play with five bowlers and go with Pandya as the sixth bowler," Rajput said. "Because if a bowler is having a bad day then you should have an option. I would go with the combination of three medium pacers and two spinners because when we won in 2007, we went with three fast bowlers, while Bhajji [Harbhajan] and Yuvi [Yuvraj] used to bowl spin.
"The [current] team combination is good, but it depends on how you play that day. Because in this format, one bowler or one batsman can change the match. So we have to be at the top of our game at all times."