INDIA 2023

By K.R. Nayar
From Narendra Modi Stadium

Ahmedabad.  Writing about a nation in joy is effortless, but the challenge arises when an entire nation is engulfed in sorrow. Witnessing nearly 100,000 fans, who had anticipated celebrating yet another World Cup victory for India, exit the stadium wrapped in the India flag they did not get to wave for a long time, was emotional. There was a funeral like silence all around. Every hopeful spectator left with heads bowed down to a match-winning performance by a man named Travis Head.

It is difficult to blame Indian fans for this. Team India had instilled immense hope in by winning all their league matches before reaching the final. They were enamored with Team India, overlooking the unpredictable nature of cricket, which can turn heroes into zeroes for both teams and players alike. The prevailing question among Indian fans is whether it is fair to determine a world champion based on a single day’s performance.

Few remembered the 2019 World Cup, where New Zealand won hearts, but England claimed victory based on the number of boundaries they had scored. A final’s script can be a tragedy, much like the classic movies; but they are still appreciated despite the tragic ending. This Indian team, too, should be remembered in that light.

Australian skipper Pat Cummins, the day before the final, had remarked that nothing in sports is more satisfying than silencing a big crowd. The Australians demonstrated that giving their all on a single day could bring even the Himalayas down. They performed at their best in front of a mountainous crowd screaming for their defeat.

Postmortems are inevitable after every match. Questions may arise about why India let so many overs pass without a single boundary. The Australians kept their eyes on the ball, sprinting and diving repeatedly, throwing their bodies and minds with the sole aim of winning. Just like age is just a number, they believed that the number of partisan fans in the stadium was just that— a number.

I have reported India being swept out of the World Cup in the 1987 semifinal by Graham Gooch after being the defending champions following their 1983 win. I’ve also reported the 2003 final in South Africa when Australia beat India by 125 runs. The disappointment of the fans then was not so much like it is in this final.

A leading newspaper gave the headline: “Perfect 10 to a big zero,” while another stated, “Head breaks hearts.” The final emphasized that winning a World Cup requires luck. Past performance is merely statistics; actions on that day creates a champion. Although the Australians may not have been the best team or performed at their peak throughout the tournament, they are now six-time World Champions.

The fireworks display after the final lacked the enthusiasm and joy as most had left the ground unable to bear the grief. Many did not want to watch the sadness on the faces of their heroes who had given them immense joy for over a month. So intense is the search for the reason for this defeat that people could come up and say that a final should not be held in a city whose name ends in ‘bad’ as in Ahmeda’bad’.  They may recommend changing Ahmedabad’s name to ‘Ahmedagood’ as nothing bad like this should ever happen again.

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