Aynone who compares Mahendra Singh Dhoni's and his team's Twenty20 World Cup win with Kapil's Devils' original achievement must be in their early teens or completely off their rocker. No one should belittle the effort of 1983 — it came at a time when India were not a force in world cricket, when they were not the power centre of the cricket universe, at a time when success was counted in runs and wickets and not rupees and dollars. And it did change the way cricket was played and watched in the country. It was the moment that gave a nation belief.
But the T20 win did something strange — some would say terrible — to Indian cricket, that would have a lasting impact on the cricket world at large. When England, where the shortest version of the game was invented, were leading calls for its universal acceptance, the BCCI stayed aloof. In fact, they only conducted a domestic Twenty20 competition because they needed to have one in place with the World Cup coming up.
The domestic T20, played in Mumbai and Ahmedabad, was shambolic. There were no audiences, despite all the stars playing, there was no television coverage, the board had not even attempted to sell sponsorship. It was everything a T20 event should not have been. What Dhoni and his boys managed was to open the eyes of the BCCI to the tremendous possibilities of T20 cricket.
All of a sudden, a format that had been dismissed as surplus to requirement, and not suitable for the subcontinental economy, was the best thing that ever happened to the game. The BCCI, and critically Lalit Modi, embraced the format in a tearing hurry. Who can forget the open-top (and over the top) bus parade that Dhoni's boys got from the airport to the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai? Who does not remember the sorry sight of officials and politicians cramming themselves into front-row seats at felicitation functions while cricketers took a back seat, literally and figuratively?
If the BCCI had not jumped on the Twenty20 bandwagon, there would have been no Indian Premier League, the fattest cash cow cricket has given rise to — you can be sure of that. What the IPL did was redefine the way cricketers earned money. Previously, the ones who attracted the top sponsors were icons, men who had cut it at the highest level for the best part of a decade. Earlier, it was years of high-pressure matches at far flung stadia that picked up talented boys and made them men who could handle the pressure at the highest level.
Now, it was sink or swim, against the best in the world, in a format so tight it left no margin for error, and of course, you had to smile and look good while you're were beating the world, because, in this format more than any other, image was important. Twenty20 ushered in an era where a player could be an instant star, irrespective of his pedigree or class. Some hail it as the best thing that could have happened, the arrival of free-market forces, where each player's real financial worth was achieved. Others moaned that it was going to destroy cricket. Any which way you look at it, the arrival of T20 cricket – and no single event gave that more momentum than India's win on this day last year – has changed the way the game is played forever.