Former manager Lalchand Rajput takes trip down memory lane

Rajput remembers the last time India won the T20 World Cup in 2007.
Former cricketer and ex-Indian team manager Lalchand Rajput
Former cricketer and ex-Indian team manager Lalchand RajputFILE | Express

CHENNAI: Pressure lena ka nahi, pressure dena ka. (To not take pressure, but exert it). Lalchand Rajput vividly remembers the tagline.

It was what the Indian team kept telling themselves during the 2007 World T20 in South Africa. The format was new, and so were most players on the team. It was unknown territory for not just the Indian team but for the sport in itself. MS Dhoni was leading the team that was without a head coach and Rajput was the manager of the side.

The young bunch of stars were a new breeze for Indian cricket and they went on to etch their name in the history books, beating Pakistan to win the trophy. "Nobody expected us and nobody knew what was happening," Rajput recalls.

"So what we did was that, irrespective of what the situation was, we gave them the license to play freely and express themselves. And that's what brought us the glory. If you look at the team, everybody had contributed: Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Sreesanth, Irfan and Yusuf Pathan, Rohit Sharma, RP Singh, so everybody, Dhoni coming at the end and then getting to that finishing line. The thing which we discussed also was that nobody should take any pressure and we had a tagline. Pressure lena ka nahi, pressure dena ka."

It worked wonders. India lived by the tagline as they beat Pakistan first in a bowl out and then in the final, records were broken against England. They also outperformed the mighty Australians and fought back from a crisis against South Africa. Not once did they look like they were down and out.

That title win, India's first since the 1983 World Cup in England, will go down as the moment that changed not just Indian cricket but world cricket.

Indian players celebrate after beating Pakistan in the final of the 2007 ICC T20 World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Indian players celebrate after beating Pakistan in the final of the 2007 ICC T20 World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa.FILE | Express

Seventeen years have passed and India are once again in a T20 World Cup final (they had advanced to the final in 2014 as well). Among the few similarities is Rohit. Then 19, now the leader of the pack. There is one other, and perhaps, the most important similarity as well. Tagline of the team or not, this Rohit-led side too have lived by the phrase: 'Pressure lena ka nahi, pressure dena ka.'

On the road to the final, India have not lost a single game and have completely dominated every opponent that came their way—Australia, England, Pakistan, the list goes on. And they have been able to do so because of their proactive approach, not just with the bat but also with the ball. India have one of the most all-round bowling attacks in the tournament, which compliments the batting depth they have stuck to.

Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel and Arshdeep Singh have all done their part. Bumrah, in particular, has been an outlier. That they have Jadeja at No. 8 with Hardik Pandya and Axar before him sums up the depth they have in the batting. It is this depth that allowed them to be constantly aggressive with the bat, irrespective of the conditions and opponents. The way they batted against Australia and England tells the story.

"I think they have got a template and it's been led from the front by the skipper. They have to play the positive game and they play in the same fashion. Even if you lose two wickets, there are other batters who will try to do it and take on the bowlers. The main thing is the batting depth. It also helps because India can bat till No 9. They are positive. They look to play the same brand of cricket, irrespective of whether they lose early wickets or not. If you're confident, you are positive, you will do positive things," he says.

Indian players celebrate with the world cup trophy after beating Pakistan in the final of the 2007 ICC T20 World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Indian players celebrate with the world cup trophy after beating Pakistan in the final of the 2007 ICC T20 World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa.FILE | Express

Rajput remembers the last time India won the T20 World Cup. He cannot hide his excitement when talking about it.

"We were just all on top of the moon because we never knew what to do, to be very honest. The whole night, I think we were enjoying the music, dancing and talking about how this thing will be when we go back (to India), the welcome and all those things. So we never expected the welcome we got. Oooh, that was one of the best I think. Even if I think today it today, I get goosebumps. Mumbai, as a city, is always on the move. That day Mumbai came to a standstill because everyone was on the road, on the terraces, on balconies. We were watching the crowd from the airport to Wankhede. It took almost 7-8 hours to reach. You can imagine the number of people who came out that day. So all those things really, we could not think of that," smiles Rajput. 

As India beat South Africa on Saturday in Barbados to win the 2024 T20 World Cup, expect nothing different. Whenever they land, whichever city they land, it will come to a standstill. After all, Rohit Sharma and his team has won India a World Cup for the first time in 13 years.

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