So we all know that the Tontee-Tontee format is a joke, and while the World T20 is yet the most credible tournament in the genre – the celebrations for winning it are mostly over the top by the team involved. But coincidentally there’s been a clear-cut reason for this each and every time.
1. India v Pakistan at Johannesburg, 2007 (India win by 5 runs)
For better or for worse, India comes across as one of those teams that takes its 50-over World Cups really seriously. It helps that they won it back in the summer of ’83, but dominant performances in the ’87, ’96 and ’03 editions only fueled the public’s belief that the trophy could be gotten again. Unfortunately, the 2007 edition in the Caribbean with an inaugural defeat to the Bangas didn’t help things at all. Most of the Indian populace couldn’t be bothered that they annihilated the same opposition in a tour shortly after the tournament, or that they went on to achieve a rare test series win in England in the summer that followed; they wanted the taste of some ICC silverware, and pronto.
Where better than in South Africa later that year? Of course, a grinning MS Dhoni (with his dreadlocks et al) holding aloft the trophy couldn’t quite replicate the thrills of a win in the more prestigious 50-over editions, but it would do for the time being. The usuals – politico sponsored bus rides through cities, garlands, bonuses, land, houses and whatnot – came flooding in and the perils of March 2007 were soon forgotten.
Also keep in mind that India won the tourney against the odds, if you like. Their limited over batting heavyweights over the past decade had been disposed of going into the games, and the BCCI weren’t necessarily supportive of the ICC hosting such a tournament in the first place. All of that changed as Misbah-ul-Haq played that ol’ ill-fated scoop to the Keralite positioned at short fine leg – arguably the most important shot in recent history; as that led to the IPL, Champion’s League and all of the bloated T20 leagues you see around the globe today.
2. Pakistan v Sri Lanka at Lord’s, 2009 (Pakistan won by 8 wickets)
Pakistan have won only two trophies in the sport’s history, and the template has remained the same on both occasions. They enter the tournament as a shambles with nobody giving them a chance, get humiliated in their first few encounters, aggravating the media and the fans back home, and then out of nowhere galvanize and come together to win match after match before a final knockdown of the opposition in the final, should they make it that far.
The 2009 edition was no different for the greens. Less than four months earlier, the Sri Lankan team bus were attacked in Lahore leading to a cricketing isolation of the nation by the rest of the world, and the team went into their opener with little or no match practice. After a particularly arduous loss to the Poms, out came captain Younis Khan with the most glib phrase that irritated the Pakistani journeys no end – “It doesn’t matter, T20 is all fun cricket”! A fortnight later, the same man retired after pocketing the trophy in the midst of a packed Lord’s stadium. That’s Pakistani cricket 101 for you.
I’m sure the Pakistani nation would have taken anything that came their way after the tragic events of March. A World T20? Sure.
3. Australia v England at Barbados, 2010 (England won by 7 wickets)
*As you might know, I’m heavily biased against the Poms, so it’s going to show*
If you’re such a rubbish sporting team like England, then you’d be jumping at the prospect of collecting any kind of trophy. Believe it or not, this is a side and country that deserves accolades for inventing the sport, but had to wait until 2010 A.D. to pick up their first meaningful ICC trophy, which eventually occurred in the form of a World T20 in the West Indies.
It wasn’t without extraneous help of course. Kevin Pietersen from South Africa bagged the man of the tournament award, and fellow South Africans Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb kept the runs flowing at the top of the order game after game. If anything went awry, Irishman Eoin Morgan was always at hand to patch things up at 2-down. The English captain Paul Collingwood and most of his English comrades were expectedly useless for the most part – and he achieved his top score in the tournament with a ‘brave’, ‘gutsy’ 16* in the final after the mercenaries had done all of the hard work whilst chasing the Australian total. Go figure.
4. Sri Lanka v West Indies at Colombo, 2012 (West Indies won by 36 runs)
I don’t know about you, but I was supporting the West Indies going into the 2012 edition from the outset. Having closely followed Sammy’s efforts at building his side over the past year, I knew that they had it in them to win the whole thing if they wanted to. I pose as a Kiwi troll in a popular Pakistani forum and I mentioned the same out there prior to the opening week. After all, this was a team with several T20 superstars – need I state any more names than Gayle, Pollard, Russell, Narine and Roach? (Although the last of those was injured for the most of it).
Props to Chris Gayle to turn it on in the semi against Australia, especially. It’s one thing blasting medium pacers in the Bangladeshi or Zimbabwean ‘premier’ leagues, but against an international side with proven performers in a knockout environment? That takes class.