Expectations were meagre from the inaugural Twenty20 world championship. India’s demoralising exit from the first round of the 50 over World Cup earlier that year along with its excruciatingly long format kept the hype around its shorter cousin suitably low key. That in all probability contributed to the tournament’s ultimate success.
The then Indian skipper Rahul Dravid, along with fellow stalwarts Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly opted out of the Twenty20 competition as they felt the game’s shortest version was better suited to younger legs. That brought Mahendra Singh Dhoni to the fore, in what was his first tournament as captain.
Unlike what many expected, the competition did not spell immediate death for bowlers. In fact, it was India’s bowling and fielding that took them all the way. Conditions in South Africa assisted in making the games a true contest between bat and ball. Only one century was scored (yes, by Chris Gayle) and it was the bowlers that dictated terms in the two-week long tournament.
Several close matches in such a short span of time gave the event a fillip. The new concept of the bowl out as a tie breaker took the already high voltage India-Pakistan league phase encounter to a thrilling finish. And an upset by a low-ranked Zimbabwe over Australia in a close game helped end Aussie dominance in world championships. There were the six 6s in an over by Yuvraj Singh off Stuart Broad, a lethal spell that resulted in a hat trick by Brett Lee and many other such trappings that had the public glued to their seats.
What the first ICC World Twenty20 also managed to do was what had eluded all other international cricket competitions of recent times. That was to provide an electrifying end. The India vs Pakistan final had both the fans and the broadcasters licking their lips and a last-over goose bump inducing finish that saw India emerge as world champions, was the clincher in declaring the event a smash hit.
The tournament did signal the rise of MS Dhoni’s future team, but its biggest takeaway was that it helped cement the standing of the twenty over game. Till then it was a format that was sometimes looked at with suspicion and at other times with trepidation. The first ICC World T20 cast away any lingering doubts the game’s connoisseurs had about its potential. The audience, the media and the players gave the shortest version of the game their seal of approval. National boards soon followed suit with their own T20 tournaments like the Indian Premier League, the Big Bash League in Australia and several others. Twenty20 cricket was here to stay.