India cricketer Robin Uthappa said that it was one small tactic enforced by MS Dhoni in the famous bowl-out win against Pakistan in the 2007 World T20 that made a significant impact in his side’s win against the arch rivals.
In the inaugural World T20, India and Pakistan (the eventual finalists) met at Kingsmead, Durban in the group stage encounter that resulted in a famous tie after Misbah ul Haq was run out by Sreesanth on the final ball of the 20th over. With tied matches heading to bowl outs at that time (not Super Overs), the two sides were pitted against each other in a football-style shootout. Pakistan bowlers ended up missing all three of their efforts while Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Uthappa were on target for India who won the bowl-out 3-0.
Speaking in the Rajasthan Royals podcast with New Zealand spinner Ish Sodhi, Uthappa recalled how India won the bowl-out that night.
“One of the things that MS [Dhoni] did really well, and that he did different from what the Pakistan ‘keeper did was, where he stood behind the stumps,” Uthappa recalled.
“The Pakistan ‘keeper (Kamran Akmal) was standing where a WK usually stands. A few feet back and besides the stump — just alongside the stump. But MS was (sitting) right behind the stumps and that made it so much easier for us. We just had to bowl at MS and it gave us the best chance to hit the wickets. That’s all we did.”
The Karnataka-born batsman said the Indian team had actually practised for the bowl outs in the early stages of the tournament.
“Venkatesh Prasad (India’s bowling coach) was the studious type in our team back then. He was very astute and he had us preparing for this scenario. In the warm ups, we had the bowlers pitted against the batsmen and we won the bowl-outs every time,” Uthappa recalled, on how he came to bowl one of the deliveries, adding that he could see Pakistan bowlers were barely prepared for that scenario.
Uthappa, who top-scored for India in that match with 50, said that his innings in Durban was his personal favourite knock of all time.
Uthappa also spoke about how special the World T20 triumph in 2007 was for him and India:
“I did not sleep for three days straight, couldn’t really comprehend the feeling of world champions. We were just extremely ecstatic that we beat Pakistan in the final of a World Cup but the feeling of being world champion hit home when we landed in India.
“Mumbai does not stop for anyone brother. Anyone. But that day, the city came to a standstill and the whole city just moved in the direction that our team bus was moving in. We experience all different types of weather and it took us five and a half hours to reach Wankhede Stadium.”— Robin Uthappa on India's 2007 World T20 win
Talking about his own career Uthappa said that tinkering with his batting technique at the age of 25 to realise ambitions of playing Test cricket became his undoing.
Uthappa, who is 34 now, last played for India in 2015 in Zimbabwe. He is best known for his explosive batting during a run-chase against England at the Oval and his contributions during the historic inaugural World T20 triumph in 2007.
“My biggest goal was to play Test cricket for India. Had I pursued that at 20-21, I probably by this time would’ve played Test cricket. I wanted to have no regrets at the end of my career and wanted to be sure that I brought the best out of me,” Uthappa said.
He hired Pravin Amre and tweaked his technique that resulted in heaps of runs in domestic cricket but it eventually led to a loss of his natural flair.
“At 25, I decided to overhaul my batting technique under Pravin Amre, an amazing coach and my go-to mentor and became a more technically better batsman who could be there for long and bat for long hours and be more consistent, which made me let go of some of my batting aggression in the process.”
Uthappa, who played 46 ODIs and 13 T20Is for India, did what he believed would have taken him to play Test cricket. He said he persisted with this goal from 25 to till about he was 32, but then he came to terms with the fact that he was probably not getting selected for India in Test cricket. Uthappa added that it has taken him a year and a bit more to revert to his original, aggressive self and reiterated that he wants to represent India in a World Cup again.
The former KKR batsman said he is paying a lot more attention to his body’s recovery these days and the way he is training makes him feel like he is 20 years old.
Uthappa, who was picked up by Royals in the previous auction, earmarked youngsters in the franchise like Yashasvi Jaiswal, Kartik Tyagi and Akash Singh to be stalwarts of Indian cricket going forward while reserving special praise for Assam youngster Riyan Parag.