2007: India's Twenty20 leap year

Updated: 25 December 2007 13:28 IST

Indian cricket oscillated between beauty and banality in yet another rollercoaster year that saw as much drama on-field as much off it.

New Delhi:

From the dysphoria in the West Indies to the euphoria of the Twenty20 World Cup, Indian cricket oscillated between beauty and banality in yet another rollercoaster year that saw as much drama on-field as much off it.

The country that plunged into a mass depression after their heroes were hanged, drawn and quartered in the World Cup in the West Indies erupted in unbridled joy when its next generation cricketers returned home with the Holy Grail from the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa.

Off the field, it was equally, if not more, dramatic as the Board survived a coup headed by a media baron before hitting back with vengeance, fumbled while finding a new coach and got into numerous damage-control exercises to save its face even though debates rage how far it succeeded in its effort.

Individually, a never-say-die Sourav Ganguly staged and consolidated what can easily be the mother of all comebacks, Rahul Dravid abdicated the crown of thorn with Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Anil Kumble being the beneficiaries and Gary Kirsten emerged out of the blue to take over the coaching reins.

For record, India won three Test series in a row and while beating Bangladesh 1-0 was not totally unexpected, the victory against England was all the more sweet for it took them more than two decades to tame the Poms at their own backyard.

And though some felt Shoaib Malik led arguably the weakest Pakistani side ever to cross the border, beating them 1-0 after dominating the three-match series also ended a 28-year-old drought of a home series win against the traditional rivals.

On the one-day front, beating Sri Lanka and West Indies at home raised the hopes of a World Cup win before all hell broke loose and India's campaign was over as early as in the first round.

Comprehensive wins against the Netherlands and the Windies did not indicate what was in store when Rahul Dravid's men took on Bangladesh. It turned out to be the triumph of the minnow over the mighty and though a win against unheralded Bermuda kept alive their theoretical chances, eventual finalists Sri Lanka buried Indian hopes under the 22-yard strip of the Queen's Park Oval at Port of Spain.

Greg Chappell had volunteered his head on the chopping block insisting on "process before outcome" and the blunt Australian's rollercoaster two-year stint with Team India came to an unceremonious end, bolstering the theory that great cricketers don't necessarily make great coaches.

Alacrity is not a word in the BCCI dictionary and the Cricket Board dragged its heel over finding Chappell's successor. Ravi Shastri stuck to his more lucrative media assignments and was available only as a short-gap cricket manager for the Bangladesh tour while the venerable Chandu Borde was the makeshift arrangement for the UK trip.

Though India lost the ODI series against England and later the home series against Australia, they beat Bangladesh convincingly.

In the mean time, Dravid felt he had had enough of captaincy and it was high time he concentrated on his batting. The popular perception, however, was that he was not in the best of terms with chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar, who was getting more and more assertive.

Caught off guard, BCCI gift-wrapped Test captaincy to Sachin Tendulkar but having burnt his fingers in the past, the Little Master did not succumb to the lure and dark horse Anil Kumble landed the job.

By then, the country had seen Dhoni's spectacular rise from the cricketing backwaters of Jharkhand to Team India captaincy both in Twenty20 and ODIs.

Success followed soon and after 24 years, India were world champions again, even though it was Twenty20 this time.

A side with scant experience of the format and sans the Big Three of Ganguly, Tendulkar and Dravid went all the way to win the tournament, thumbing nose at the Aussies and cocking a snook at arch-rivals Pakistan in that high-voltage final.

After the abandoned opener against Scotland, India edged out Pakistan via 'Bowl Out' before New Zealand halted them in the third match. Yuvraj Singh brought India back on the track against England, hitting six sixes off a Stuart Broad over to immortalise himself.

South Africa was next to come under the Indian juggernaut as the Boys in Blue set up a semifinal clash with Australia.

But even the Aussies had no clue about how to stop Yuvraj, who blasted a 30-ball 70 to steer the side to the final.

That Twenty20 is not for those weak at heart was more than evident in the see-saw final where fortune fluctuated with every over. Misbah-ul-Haq, like he had done so many times in the tournament, pulled Pakistan out of the woods and almost snatched the match from India when a rush of blood and a moment of madness did him in.

Misbah played that ill-fated scoop shot off Joginder Sharma to find S Sreesanth at short fine leg as Dhoni's daredevils emulated Kapil's Devils.

BCCI also ended up with egg all over its face as it fumbled to find a new coach. A coach selection committee with usual faces was set up and applications were invited. The board did not bother to check the applications at its disposal and invited John Emburey and Graham Ford for interview.

Ford was hurriedly announced the chosen candidate but for some unknown reasons, the Kent coach did not return, leaving BCCI in a huge embarrassment.

With the team doing reasonably well under Lalchand Rajput (manager and now assistant coach), Venkatesh Prasad (bowling coach) and Robin Singh (fielding coach), the Board was in no hurry to appoint a new coach before it dawned on the office-bearers that a full-time successor to Chappell is needed before the Australia tour.

Again, applications were sought and again the system was ignored as Kirsten came hush-hush, met the men who mattered and returned with the job in his pocket.

Then emerged Vengsarkar as the main protagonist in the Board's yearend drama. BCCI's seven-point diktat, that barred him from writing columns, got his goat and the former captain demanded Rs 40 lakh as compensation, failing which he threatened to quit the post.

BCCI president Sharad Pawar soon got into troubleshooting and a truce was signed even though it's not clear who won the battle. By and large, an intrigue-ridden BCCI remains its incorrigible, chaotic self and there is no hope for an imminent change.

All in all, it was an engrossing year for Indian cricket when the senior players made their presence felt while the juniors hinted they are ready to step into their shoes. With a steady influx of new talents, Indian cricket looks in safe hands.

Topics : Cricket Sreesanth
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