With the first of the two group stage games washed out against Scotland, India played Pakistan in their first ever T20 World Cup fixture. Yes, the bowl out one. Only the second time it happened in T20I history.
There are plenty of moments that can be attributed with the game changing status from that evening in Durban. The one that stood out in cricket’s own version of penalty shootout was the keeper’s position.
To assist the bowler in pitching the delivery in the line of the stumps, Dhoni aligned himself by sitting down on his knees closer to the stumps. This, in contrast to all the other keepers who positioned themselves in a T20I bowlout (Brendon McCullum, Denesh Ramdin and Kamran Akmal) and stood in their usual keeping line, farther from the stumps.
Hindsight also makes India’s decision to go with slower bowlers, as opposed to Pakistan using pacers, look good. And while many may have referred to Virender Sehwag and Robin Uthappa as out of the box choices, the then India captain MS Dhoni believed otherwise.
“It was Venkatesh Prasad, our bowling coach and a smart cricketing brain, who first said that we should practice the bowl-outs,” Robin Uthappa, who would doff his hat and bow after hitting bullseye, recently told The Indian Express. “After most practice sessions, we would train for this as well. They had us split into batsmen vs bowlers. More often than not, it was the batsmen who won it. Viru pa, me, and Rohit (Sharma) were the three batters who hit the stumps the most. That night, once the bowl-out was going to be on, I ran to MS Dhoni and said, ‘I have to bowl, dude. You have to give me the ball’. Looking at my confidence and strong emotion, he said, ‘okay’. I was confident because I hit the stumps the most in the training.”
2007: Misbah’s only two T20I innings vs India
Compared to his ODI (2002-2015) and Test (2001-2017) careers, Misbah ul Haq’s association with T20Is was short lasting (2007-2012). But his impact on Pakistan’s campaign in the first World Cup was evident. The one who single-handedly almost didn’t let India lift the title in South Africa. Through what were his only two T20I innings vs the men in blue.
In both the games, the 33-year-old came in to bat four down and the task at hand almost an unlikely one. In both the games he targeted India’s only full time spinner to get the major chunk of his runs. And in both the games, he calculated the way out to take the match deep.
In the final, with India going three overs on a trot with Harbhajan from the same end, Misbah targeted the shorter mid-wicket boundary thrice in the off spinner’s third over.
“This guy has nerves of steel,” Ravi Shastri would say on-air before the final over. The play and a miss off the first legitimate delivery barely bothered Misbah. Perhaps the first wide from Joginder Sharma had given away his state of mind. Maybe Misbah knew he’d get his moment, just like against Harbhajan. Outside off was the territory Sharma was eyeing. And outside off was where he bowled a third straight delivery, this time missing the length and being dispatched for a baseball style home run.
The delivery that followed couldn’t take anything away from the two innings he played for Pakistan even if it did take away the cup from their proverbial grasp. And Misbah’s mistake probably helped usher in the IPL easily; with India victorious and the format a hit, who could stop Lalit Modi?
2012: Kohli takes matters into his hands
Virat Kohli the batter had already established his repertoire for notching up more than half the team’s batting totals, as he did in this particular contest. Pakistan had been at the receiving end of Kohli’s best ODI innings (183) six months ago during the Asia Cup. The 23-year-old with a stubble coming in to bowl from the Maligawatte End in a must win game was out of syllabus material for Mohammed Hafeez & co.
Hafeez himself, faced the full brunt of Kohli the bowler. With wickets tottering at the other end, the then Pakistan captain and opener had managed to stick in the middle till the 10th over. Dhoni had introduced Kohli as his sixth new bowler in the eighth over already.
The right arm-medium, who had thudded one onto Hafeez’s pad earlier, got him trying to steer the ball through the off by going outside the leg and eventually play the ball onto his leg stump.
Half of Pakistan’s team was back in the hut with just 60 runs on the board. Kohli’s figures? Two overs, six runs conceded, and a wicket. The only recorded interview of Ravichandran Ashwin saying he thought ‘Virat bowled beautifully’ followed after the innings.
His third over would cost 15 more but there was no point revisiting it post match as Kohli the batter made up for his bowling counterpart. 78* off 61 to orchestrate an eight wicket win.
Kohli has followed that innings with three more unbeaten ones that include two fifties against Pakistan in the 2014, 2016 and 2021 World Cups. Words from the Indian captain in 2012 sound alien after a decade, “Good to see Virat taking the responsibility.”