It's time for the ICC World T20 Championship.
As the sixth edition of cricket's shortest format's World Cup begins with the qualifying stage kicking off on Tuesday, it's the perfect time to relive the brief but interesting history of the ICC World T20.
From initial hesitation over the format to near-complete acceptance of the tournament, the World Twenty20 has gone on to become one of the most-watched cricket tournaments, and rightly so. It is perhaps fair to say the tournament has managed to earn a respectability similar to the 50-over World Cup, despite happening twice as regularly
Some purists might disagree, but the World T20 is one important piece of silverware; the tournament that made Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the ICC trophy that England managed to win, the triumph that heralded a revival of sorts in Caribbean cricket, and the trophy that Sri Lanka ended their 'bridesmaid' run with.
2007 or the year Mahendra Singh Dhoni became a cult figure
The inaugural World Twenty20 Championships will be remembered for a lot of reasons -- the emergence of a brand new format of the game, the validation of the slam-bang style of cricket, a precursor to the IPL but the biggest will be the emergence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The year was 2007; Indian cricket was going through a tough phase with an early exit at the 50-over World Cup in West Indies. India's top three players, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, opted out of the Twenty20 World Championship, a format that the team had barely been exposed to. Subsequently, a long-haired Dhoni, with barely two years experience in international cricket, was given command of a rookie team. Nobody, not even the captain himself, had much expectations from the event held on the bouncy pitches of South Africa.
But the rest, as they say, is history.
India went on to become the first ever T20 Champions beating rivals Pakistan to win the thrilling final by five runs in a moment every Indian fan will remember - Misbah-ul-Haq playing the scoop off Joginder Sharma’s last over and finding Sreesanth at short fine-leg. Of course, Ravi Shastri was on hand in the commentary box to describe the big-moment.
There were several other moments to remember as well -- Chris Gayle blasting 117 off 57 balls against hosts South Africa, Brett Lee's hat-trick, India-Pakistan match in the group stage ending in a tie and resulting in a nail-biting bowl-out, Yuvraj Singh clobbering a hapless Stuart Broad for six sixes, the list goes on. Other major performers included Player of the Series Shahid Afridi’s all-round show, Matthew Hayden being the highest run-getter with 265 runs and Umar Gul being the highest wicket-taker with 13 wickets.
The first is indeed the most memorable.
2009 or the year Shahid Afridi was actually a match-winner with the bat
After finishing runners-up in the inaugural edition, Pakistan managed to erase the disappointment two years later when they beat sub-continent neighbours Sri Lanka in an one-sided final at Lord's to secure their second ICC world title, largely thanks to Shahid Afridi's consistent (okay, almost consistent) performances.
Lead by Younis Khan, the Pakistan team put up a spirited performance to reach the semis where Afridi almost single-handedly knocked out South Africa. He was the man of the match in the final as well.
Other noteable moments included 'minnows' Netherlands upsetting England in the first match in a last-ball thriller, Australia's unexpected defeats and India (and Dhoni's) poor run supposedly due to a rift. Who else remembers Dhoni bringing in the entire team for a press conference in a 'show of unity' following media reports of a rift between senior players?
Player of the series and highest run-getter Tillakaratne 'Dilscoop' Dilshan was in phenomenal form with 317 runs while Umar Gul was the star bowler once again, taking 13 wickets, including a stunning 5/6 vs New Zealand.
2010 or the year when England finally won a major trophy
This was still back in the old days, when the England dressing room wasn't mired in talks of 'reintegration', Paul Collingwood was a performing captain and Kevin Pietersen was not a pariah, but their star performer. In fact, it was his heroics that earned England their first-ever ICC trophy in the perfect fashion, by defeating arch-rivals Australia in the finals.
Hosted by West Indies, the third edition of the World T20 was held less than a year after the second edition, thanks in part to the increased interest in T20 cricket and also citing restructuring of the Champions Trophy.
The highlight of the tournament was Paul Collingwood-led England, who weren't very fond of the shortest format of the game, beating favourites Australia in what many called a truncated version of Ashes. As it turned out, this is still the only major silverware that England have in their trophy cabinet.
The player of the series, unsurprisingly, was Kevin Pietersen while Mahela Jayawardene was the highest run-getter with 302 runs and Dirk Nannes, playing back then for Australia, was the highest wicket-taker with 14 scalps.
2012 Champions or the time Gangnam Style was done to death
The 2012 World T20 showed what happens when some of the best freelance T20 players in the world, aka the West Indies team, come together. The result was there for all to see. The fun-loving West Indies stunned Australia in the semi-finals and then beat hosts Sri Lanka in a low-scoring final. Despite scoring a modest 137, the West Indies restricted Sri Lanka to 101 in reply before Chris Gayle led his team-mates in a celebratory 'Gangnam Style' dance, the choreography that was the lasting image from the tourney.
Many heralded this triumph as the resurgence of Caribbean cricket, as they won their first World title since 1979. The fact that the once-tainted Marlon Samuels was the Man of the Match in the finals seemed like the proof of this revival. However now, merely four years later, pay dispute and contract issues means it might have been a false dawn after all.
Statistically, Player of the Series Shane Watson was the best batsman with 249 runs in six games as well as the second highest with 11 wickets. The only consolation for hosts and runner up Sri Lanka were second highest run-getter Mahela Jayawardene, who quit captaincy after this debacle, and spinner Ajantha Mendis who was top wicket taker with 15 wickets.
2014 or when the perpetual runners up actually won
It took Sri Lanka seven years and four finals (2007, 2011 Cricket World Cups, 2009, 2012 World Twenty20) to finally shed their near-perpetual runner-up tag and claim their second world trophy.
Powered by a solid half-century from the retiring Kumar Sangakkara, which overshadowed Payer of the Series Virat Kohli's 77, the Lasith Malinga-led side defeated India by six wickets at Mirpur in Bangladesh. The win not only soothed the sting of regularly losing in finals, but was also the perfect T20 international farewell for Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
This was also the first World T20 to have 16 members, with associate nations competing in qualifiers. The participation of these teams received further impetus when Hong Kong and Nepal beat Bangladesh and Afghanistan in the preliminary round and Netherlands upset England in the main round. However, the format has been reverted to to 12 teams for 2016, with the top eight teams getting direct entry.
Imran Tahir and Netherlands' Ahsan Malik were the highest wicket-takers with 12 wickets while Virat Kohli was the highest run-getter and by far the best performer with 319 runs in 6 games. (For perspective, the second highest was Dutch Tom Cooper with 231 runs in seven games.)
2016 or the year we will see another World T20 in the subcontinent
This will be the third consecutive World T20 to be held in the sub-continent where India will host the tournament after Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. While it remains to be seen what this ICC World T20 will throw up, the colourful history of the championship in the shortest format of the game proves that it won't fail to entertain, despite the myriad problems in the build-up to the tournament.
So, who will it be?