A turning point for Indian cricket and another chapter in a brilliant rivalry
“In the air, Sreesanth takes it! India win. Unbelievable scenes here at the Bullring. What a match for a Twenty20 Final. India, the World Champions.”
On 24 September 2007, everything changed in Indian cricket.
Taking on archrivals Pakistan in the Final of the first ever T20 World Cup, then known as the World Twenty20, India held their nerves to win by five runs.
The victory was the first feather in the cap of young skipper MS Dhoni, who would lead India to three ICC trophies in his time as captain. It was a successful campaign few had expected, with a host of India’s biggest names not involved – Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid all missed the tournament.
Further, it came off the back of one of the country’s poorest outings at a Cricket World Cup. Runners up in 2003 and eventual winners in 2011, the Indians had crashed out in the Group Stage in 2007, suffering defeats to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The 2007 Cricket World Cup also saw Pakistan fail to get out of their group after defeats to hosts West Indies and underdogs Ireland.
Six months later, the two Asian outfits flipped the script by marching to the final.
“It was a tumulous year for us,” Dinesh Karthik, a member of both India squads in 2007, said on the ICC Digital Show to announce the 2021 tournament fixture. “We came to West Indies for the 50-over World Cup, we didn’t have a great one at that. Then things started going up once the 2007 T20 World Cup happened.
“It was a fabulous point in international cricket for India. The whole world was watching. It was such a fabulous time. It was a gala time during the 2007 World Cup.
“We beat Pakistan in the league stages, ended up playing them again in the final. When you play an India-Pakistan final it is always special.
"It was a terrific team to be part of, a terrific event to be part of. That is one of the main catalysts for where Indian cricket is today – the 2007 T20 World Cup.”
Indeed, less than a year later the Indian Premier League would commence, giving the country’s booming stock of exciting young stars the chance to shine on the big stage before breaking into the national team.
While they suffered heartache that day in Johannesburg, two years later Pakistan would get their hands on the trophy, beating Sri Lanka at Lord’s. Though neither team has won it since, they have both been among the T20 World Cup’s better performers, with India runners up in 2014 and semi-finalists in 2016, and Pakistan semi-finalists in 2010 and 2012.
Fourteen years on from that thrilling encounter in 2007, the two teams will meet again to kick off their 2021 campaigns on 25 October.
It is a clash steeped in history and one that has been must-watching viewing for not just supporters of the two teams, but cricket fans everywhere.
“Every time India has played Pakistan, anywhere, be it a bilateral, be it a multi-nation tournament, that is the most watched match,” Karthik reflected before pointing to the winning record India enjoys over Pakistan in World Cup clashes. “Interestingly, just like how New Zealand have got the better of India consistently since 2003 in World Cups, India 'til today in every World Cup that we’ve played we’ve managed to beat Pakistan every time.
“That is a record we’d love to hold onto, there’s a lot of history there, there’s a lot of passion and pride."
Of course, with that history comes a mountain of expectations for players from both teams.
“There’s unbelievable pressure for team India every time they walk on the field for a World Cup game against Pakistan.
“I remember there was a T20 World Cup that happened in England and we played a practice game against Pakistan, it was sold out at the Oval – some of the World Cup games weren’t sold out but an India-Pakistan practice game was sold out. That’s the level of competitiveness that both teams show.
“Pakistan have been playing some real good T20 cricket, they had a tough series against England, they have gone to West Indies now. They are going to come all guns blazing but I would still back India.
“They are probably by a distance the most well-rounded side going around in the tournament. They just need – they have very little areas for them to tinker with, just polish a little bit, they’ll be well and shining and ready to go.”