On this day a decade ago, Yuvraj Singh smashed six sixes off Stuart Broad at Durban during the ICC World T20 2007. India weren’t serious contenders for the tournament up until then when that feat by Yuvraj made a country believe. Nishad Pai Vaidya reminisces on the moment India’s triumphant campaign well and truly began.
When did India believe they could win the ICC World T20 2007? Coming into the tournament, they had the lone T20 International and a solitary season of the format in domestic cricket behind them. The young MS Dhoni took over the team in the absence of stalwarts like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, who made way for youth. The memories of the 2007 World Cup debacle in the Caribbean were still fresh and India needed glory to soothe those wounds. And it gets trickier: Half the squad landed in South Africa post the long tour to England and the other half travelled from India – coming together days before their first game. Unlike other teams, they did not have a warm-up game. A blunt observer may have asked if they were even serious about the tournament!
However, that is where the unpredictability of the T20 format came to the fore as the world took notice of the young game. India played sans expectations and in hindsight, it was a welcome change in the aftermath of the heartbreak in the Caribbean. What it did was that it allowed Dhoni’s men to express themselves and play fearless cricket. In fact, as Ian Chappell put it on commentary during one of the games, that India were playing in their captain’s personality of fearlessness. In a way that campaign personified India’s majority – the youth that is unafraid to express itself and not bound by the shackles of the past. And, Yuvraj Singh’s six sixes against England was one moment that best summed up the campaign and the Indian challenge.
For years, Yuvraj’s talent was obvious and he started to find consistency in limited-overs cricket around 2005-06 and in the absence of those big names, it was obvious that he held the key. India’s first game against Scotland was washed out and was followed by the dramatic bowl-out win against arch-rivals Pakistan. In the Super-Eights, India came close in a big run-chase. Now, they had to beat England and South Africa to make it to the semi-finals. On a good-batting track at Durban, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag gave India a solid start. Needing impetus at the end, Yuvraj walked in and got off to a quick start with 14 off six balls when Andrew Flintoff needled him ahead of the 19th over. The rest as we know, is history.
Yuvraj’s six sixes were unlike those of Gary Sobers, Ravi Shastri and Herschelle Gibbs – men who achieved the distinction in representative cricket before the southpaw. It was the first in a T20 game, and it was against a fast-bowler. The others had achieved the feat while facing spin. While the likes of Tendulkar and Dravid responded to sledges with the bat, Yuvraj took a leaf out of their book and went a mile further. Back home, India watched the game devoid of expectations but one six after the other fuelled belief and the fan said, “Hang on! Are we onto something here!”
When the sixth six flew over cow corner, one felt a sense of victory, although England were yet to challenge the total. The Haley’s Comet of cricket can only have a demoralising effect on the opposition. Although England gave a tough fight, India were on their way. Yuvraj’s feat had injected the energy and belief in the country that this young side could do something special. That confidence and self-belief carried forward against the hosts South Africa and then the dominant Aussies in the semis. Yuvraj then played his part against the Aussies, smashing 70 off 30 balls, a quality knock but eclipsed by those six sixes.
A decade down the line, when Indian fans look back at that victory, there are two moments that stand out for them – Misbah-ul-Haq’s fateful scoop and Yuvraj’s six sixes. While the former marked crowning glory, the latter was the one that set it all up for the team and the fans. That is where India’s campaign for glory well and truly began.