Following his final-over success in the 2007 ICC World Twenty20 final against Pakistan, Joginder Sharma had become Indian cricket’s most unlikely hero.
We all know how it panned out: Pakistan, chasing 157 at The Wanderers, needed 13 from the final over of the match with an ice-cool Misbah-ul-Haq – who had hit Harbhajan Singh for three sixes in the 17th over – at the crease. Despite an over left for the experienced Harbhajan, MS Dhoni decided to give the ball to Joginder who had impressed by bowling a two-wicket final over against Australia in the semi-final.
A wrong call by the captain could have cost India the trophy. Joginder started with a wide delivery, then a dot. Misbah then hit a full toss for six. Six runs off four balls was a simple situation for Pakistan, but Joginder’s magic worked for Dhoni. On the very next ball, Misbah went for a scoop which landed safely in Sreesanth's hands at short fine leg to crown India Twenty20 champions. Despite his heroics, Joginder never played for India again,
India's unlikely hero of the 2007 World Twenty20 final reminisces about the emotions he felt bowling to Misbah-ul-Haq.
Recalling those anxious moments in Johannesburg five years ago, the Haryana medium-pacer spoke to Cricketnext about how eager he was for Dhoni to give him the ball.
How would you describe the 2007 experience?
I still get goose bumps when I recall those moments. It was an incredible feat for the Indian cricket team. We all performed in a group. We outplayed Pakistan in that match. Though the match was seemed going from our hands, we didn’t lack confidence. We were confident that we will win. The entire credit goes to Dhoni’s captaincy.
Despite Harbhajan having an over left, Dhoni handed over the ball to you. Were you nervous?
Honestly speaking, I was exited rather than nervous. I wanted to bowl the last over. I was just praying that the captain give me the last over. I wanted to do something different. I got the chance, and I did what I wanted to do. It was a far-fetched feeling which can’t be described.
Thirteen runs were required off the last over, which is quite an easy task in the T20 format. What was the strategy in your mind?
It was my first World Cup. I had no idea how I would perform. I was clear on one thing though - I have to concentrate on the basics. I was confident of giving it my best shot, the way I had done for my Ranji Trophy side. That was the first edition of the World Twenty20 and there was no IPL. Players were not aware or very experienced with the Twenty20 format. I think 13 runs were challenging for both the sides. I just wanted to do it for my country. I took the ball, calmed my self and focused on what I promised to myself. Though Misbah hit me for a six, I didn’t give up and I did it for my team.
How do you feel when your fans and friends call you a death-over specialist?
(Laughs) I am really obliged to have a tag like that. The 2007 victory has really changed my life. I am happy to have contributed in the team's triumph. People started recognizing me. I have my own identity now. I bowled last overs twice. I did it against Australia in the semi-finals. I enjoy playing in pressure situations and coming out with a good show too. The 2007 World Twenty20 will remain the biggest tournament of my life. The last over is clearly etched in my memory. I still feel the crowd going berserk after so many years.
How did you find the Twenty20 squad of 2007? Do you see any difference with the current squad?
I didn’t know weather I would be selected for South Africa, but finally got included in the squad. We all were excited for the maiden Twenty20 challenge. We didn’t take much time to get acclimatized with the Twenty20 format of the game. We did commit mistakes but corrected them at the right time.
Now the time has changed, a lot of Twenty20 games are taking place. The IPL and the Champions League are the major part of it. Players know how this format works. So, the squad will not have any problem in Sri Lanka. Spinners will get benefit on Sri Lankan pitches. An experienced Harbhajan and an in-form R Ashwin will have a good time in this tournament.
What about Dhoni’s captaincy? Do you see any difference in Dhoni from then and now?
MS Dhoni is a talented batsman and a great finisher. He stays cool whatever the situation is. He is always positive, and that reflects in his decision-making. I would say Indian cricket is lucky to have a skipper like him. He is a person with the Midas touch. Due to him, India have got two World Cup titles (World Twenty20 and World Cup). I am sure he will do it again for India.
Do India have a chance this time?
Undoubtedly, India will win this time. India are aware of the conditions in Sri Lanka. India’s performance in the subcontinent is excellent. With the likes of Harbhajan, Ashwin and Zaheer Khan the bowling department is well placed. Bhajji and Ashwin will play the key role. Sehwag, Gambhir, Dhoni, Kohli, Raina, and Rohit will be dominating with the bat.
What are your future plans?
I suffered a knee injury late in 2007, followed by a painful ankle and shoulder surgery in 2008. Last year I met with an accident in Delhi and suffered serious head injuries. Due to that I had to take break. I am hoping of a comeback this time. If I get selected for the Ranji Trophy then will give my best. I want to play for India again.