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For India to win a World Cup, treat Cricket as a Sport and not as a Religion

There was a time when Cricket was considered as just any other sport in India. Then came the 1983 World cup victory which revitalized the sport. This was followed by the 1985 World Championship and the rise of cricketing greats including Sachin Tendulkar. Cricket became more popular when the broadcasting improved, and many cricketers became household names. There was no looking back and Cricket was never just a sport in India anymore!

Cut to the present – ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 Finals: The Red-Hot Indian team was beaten by an Average Australian side (as compared to their previous World Cup teams). Since the 2013 Champions Trophy victory, India have not been able to win another ICC title despite entering the tournament as one of the favorites.  

The Burning Questions – The What Ifs?

An average Indian cricket team fan will have lots of questions. 

  • What if Ravichandran Ashwin played instead of Suryakumar Yadav?
  • What if Mohammed Shami came as usual as the first change bowler where he was more effective?
  • What if Virat Kohli – KL Rahul partnership showed more intent?
  • What if there was no dew in the second innings?
  • What if Rohit Sharma settled down after getting 10 runs of the Maxwell over?
  • What if India set more attacking fields when Australia were 3 down?
  • What if the pitch wasn’t as dry as it was?
  • What if India won the toss and chose to field?

The Ifs and Buts are not new to the Indian cricket team and these questions pop in on every ICC event. India had the perfect tournament leading into the finals. They were unscathed and the team to beat. Had there been a best of 3 finals, India would have even won it, But that’s another ‘What If’ scenario.

India Incredible

This World Cup has seen some incredible performances from team India.

  • Rohit Sharma’s excellent leadership and selfless aggressive batting at the top
  • Virat Kohli piling up runs for fun
  • Good middle order contributions from Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul with the latter’s excellent contribution behind the stumps
  • The pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj rattling opposition batters and
  • The spin twins Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav offering great support to the pacers.

The Fans – We have the power to make or break!

The Australian cricket team captain Pat Cummins said before the match that his aim was to silence the crowd. We know what followed. It’s now a known fact across the globe that the Indian cricket stadium turns mute when the opposition hits a boundary irrespective of whether India is dominating the game or not.

There was the same deathly silence in India’s game against Netherlands when the opposition scored some boundaries. This was in a game where India scored over 400 and it was just a formality before the obvious victory. A hush engulfs the stadium even when there is a tiny patch of play where the opposition is doing well against India. It was sad to see that traditionally knowledgeable cricket crowds in Chennai and Bangalore were also doing the same. Is it the lack of trust in our team or intimidating our opposition? In reality, it’s the host nation who feels the pressure knowing that in spite of doing exceedingly well, the expectations are never fulfilled. It’s only a matter of time before the opposition uses this extreme reaction of the fans against us or maybe they already might have with the finals in Ahmedabad.

While the support of fans in huge numbers encourage and motivates a player to perform even harder, there is a fine line between support and overdoing it. A victory is celebrated here unlike any other country, but a defeat can reach the point where players and their families are personally abused, their homes pelted with stones, their effigies burned for not keeping up with the expectation of the fans.

Let’s not glorify the players but see them as our favorite cricketers. We can give titles like ‘God of cricket’, ‘King’, ‘Hitman’, but understand that they are humans and cricket like any other sport is unpredictable. On a given day, anything can happen. The opposition is not there to give us a free meal, but to compete hard like our team. Be in the highs and lows of our team and support them when they need it the most.

India’s dominance in the Men’s Cricket World Cup: Stats from 2015 onwards

Out of the 4 failures, 2 were in the Semi-Finals and 1 in a final. A good team does not become a bad team overnight after consistently performing for a long time. Yes, there could be the rub of the green not going our way or maybe some tactical mistakes. But in the end, it boils down to the pressure of the knockouts and expectations. Pressure is something the team management can address, but expectation – That’s for us fans to manage.

We as fans need to ask ourselves whether we can we do something to help our team get over the line? There was a scene in the movie ‘Taare Zameen Par’ where the story of Solomon Islands was mentioned. The tribals on the Island does not cut trees, but they gather around the trees and curse the trees for several hours to bring it down. If we Indians call our team Chokers all the time, it may gradually get into the sub-conscious mind of the players, and they may end up being one.

We know about the great Australian sides- The Ponting and Waugh eras. Let’s imagine the Australian side as India and Ricky Ponting being referred to as ‘God of Cricket’ with over a billion people always expecting him to perform and win matches for his country. How many World cups would Australia have won under such a scenario?

Anyways, we should appreciate Australia for winning their 6th World Cup title thereby showing us that if we consider a sport as a sport, we would be courageous enough to beat the 10/10 winning team in the Finals.

Have you read my blog on whether the true essence of Cricket is getting lost? Read here!

Image Source: Forbes India, Business Standard, Amit Dave, Reuters, ESPN Cricinfo, Outlook India – AP/Mahesh Kumar A

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  • Joyson Johnson

    Couldn’t agree more. Given that we are a super power in Cricket. More emphasis should be given on Strategy and mental toughness to kerp calm and come on top in crunch situations. Be aggressive and fearless!!

    • Prakash Thampi

      True. Aggression and fearlessness will come once the nation treat it as a sport. Where countries like Aus plays freely, Ind gets in a shell as everyone is so desperate to contribute which affects the way they play. Our crowds need to be good – support good cricket in general and be in the highs and lows of our team. Criticize but don’t write off

      • Gayathri

        I guess you are right.We’ve always over rated cricket. Sometimes I wonder if other sports people would feel bad because there are not many fans to appreciate their efforts. It’s time that it changes…everyone should be treated equally..Anyway beautifully expressed your view points Prakash…keep writing

  • Pinchu Thomas

    Nice write up and for me the last para nails it with example of Solomon Island..the sub conscious factor matters it!. Let’s sports win!. India team of WC 2023 has won our 💕

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