He made it easier: Robin Uthappa recalls MS Dhoni’s strategy during bowl-out against Pakistan in 2007 T20 World Cup
Robin Uthappa, who was part of India’s 2007 T20I World Cup-winning campaign, recalled the famous group-stage encounter against Pakistan that resulted in India’s win via a bowl-out. The young cricket fans in today’s era are used to seeing a Super-Over when a game is tied. But in 2007, at the inaugural T20 World Cup, a bowl-out method was used to decide a match, in which five players from both the teams had to bowl and hit the stumps, with no batsman present. The team with most hits would win the encounter.
Playing arch-rivals Pakistan in a group stage match, India posted 141/9 in 20 overs. Pakistan needed 12 to win off 6 balls, and India seamer Sreesanth managed to restrict Pakistan batsman Misbah-ul-Haq. Ajit Agarkar and Sreesanth combined to get Misbah run out on the final ball with the scores tied, and the match went to a bowl-out.
Speaking to New Zealand spinner Ish Sodhi on a Rajasthan Royals podcast, Uthappa said that the run-out shifted the momentum in India’s favour. “We had never lost to Pakistan in a World Cup match - but we came so close to losing in that game. The momentum shifted on the last ball when the run out happened,” he said.
Uthappa further recalled the, then, skipper MS Dhoni’s strategy behind the stumps that helped out the Indian bowlers in hitting the stumps. “By looking at Pakistan’s performance in the bowl-out, you can tell that they had not practiced it. One of the things MS did differently from Pakistan wicketkeeper (Kamran Akmal) was that the Pakistan keeper stood where normally a wicketkeeper would stand - alongside the stumps, and not behind the stumps.
“MS was right behind the stumps. It just made it easier because we felt we just need to bowl to MS, and we will give ourselves best chances of hitting the stumps. That’s what we did,” he said.
Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Uthappa hit the stumps for India, registering 3 hits in 3 attempts. For Pakistan, Yasir Arafat, Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi tried hitting the stumps, but all the three players missed.
Uthappa also recalled how the bowling coach at the time Venkatesh Prasad had ensured the team practices bowl out during training sessions. “We had actually practiced bowl out. We have to give credit to our bowling coach at that time, Venkatesh Prasad. He was very astute when it comes to these things. He always pays attention to all the rules of the games. He is very studious in that manner,” he said.
“When we had warm-ups, at the end, he would make us play a game of bowl-out. The batsmen played against the bowlers - and we would see who would win. We played 2-3 times, and most of the time, the batsmen won. Stumps were hit most by Viru bhai, Rohit and myself,” Uthappa added
“When the bowl out actually happen, I went straight to MS, and said, I gotta bowl, and he said, ‘sure, okay.’ That kind of reinforced my belief that I am going to hit the stumps.”
India, eventually, defeated Pakistan again in the final in another nail-biting contest to win the inaugural T20 World Cup trophy.