Less than a decade and a half may have passed, but when we look back at September 2007, we see a different, an almost unrecognisable cricketing world.
The first T20 World Cup was to be held in South Africa. The BCCI was sending a team, but didn’t think much of the format, and had not even conceived the IPL. Tendulkar, Gangly and Dravid had all declined to play this newfangled format after they had failed to take India into the business end of the 50-over World Cup.
Young MS Dhoni had been appointed the captain of an inexperienced team. To guide him and the young side was Lalchand Rajput. It was an inspired choice, for Rajput had led several young Indian sides to victories around the world including a ‘Test’ series win for the U-19 squad in England and the U-19 World Cup.
The three seniors in the team were on a comeback trail – Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh. But it was Dhoni and his young guns – Irfan Pathan, Rohit Sharma, Sreesanth – all of whom had played under Rajput’s coaching over the past few years – who, against all odds, emerged victorious.
India were world champions in a format in which they had played just one match prior to the tournament. The unassuming, unheralded Lalchand Rajput had quietly done what he did best – marshalled his available resources and returned with a victorious team.
BCCI smelt commercial success. The IPL was born. The world of cricket had changed forever. Rajput went on to be head coach of the BCCI’s batting academy where he would stay for five years, helping build the technical skills of a generation of Indian batsmen who would become the stars of today.
These years “changed the whole system in India” and led to the “fearless” cricket we see today Rajput tells Anindya Dutta in the second part of his three-part interview with him here:
Tomorrow: how I revived Virat Kohli’s career after 2014 low point