Why I wasn't so morose after India lost to Pakistan in Champions Trophy final
Most Indian fans thought Virat Kohli, the de facto successor to Sachin Tendulkar’s demigod status, could do no wrong.
- Total Shares
My earliest memories of cricket date back to the 1996 World Cup played in India. Some of the images of the thrilling quarterfinal between India and Pakistan, a teary-eyed Vinod Kambli leaving the field after the India-Sri Lanka semi-final got disrupted by an unruly crowd in Calcutta et al are still fresh in my mind. It seems, Indian cricket fans have only grown more fanatic over the years.
The build-up to the Champions Trophy final between India and Pakistan on June 18 reached almost feverish levels and it seemed none of the Indian fans could foresee their team's loss, especially after the thrashing handed out to the same opposition in the league stages of the tournament.
Logic often goes for a toss when it comes to Indian cricket fans and every supporter and his cousin in India has an opinion when it comes to the tactics. It seemed a billion people had left everything else to tune into the match as the Sunday progressed.
On Twitter, political trendwatchers suddenly put on their cricketing caps and assumed the roles of experts even as the expert commentators in the TV studios sounded bland and repetitive, despite the enormity of the occasion.
Of course, there were clichéd observations about Pakistan’s unpredictability as a team in general and the contest being between Pakistan’s bowlers and India’s batsmen.
After Virat Kohli won the toss and opted to field at the Kia Oval in South London, many fans and experts alike wondered if Pakistan would actually last the whole 50 overs and present the mighty Indian batting line-up a formidable challenge.
The past head-to-head between India and Pakistan in ICC cricket tournaments stacked in favour of India, and Virat Kohli, the de facto successor to Sachin Tendulkar’s demigod status, could do no wrong.
There was also some banter on social media that got very ugly between Virender Sehwag and former Pakistan skipper Rashid Latif owing to the former’s oft-repeated and distasteful “baap-beta-pota” comments and Latif’s 15-minute response on Facebook that would shame even some of the most pugnacious Punjabi-speaking mohalla-dwellers of Delhi.
Even the normally cool Rishi Kapoor got drawn in and couldn’t resist taking potshots at the expense of the Pakistan team and their linguistically-challenged captain, Sarfraz Ahmed. To top it off, there was the spectacle of certain propaganda channels that were confused whether to boycott the match or not, in solidarity with the government’s seasonal stand on Pakistan.
Even after Pakistan put up a score of 338 in their innings, most fans reckoned that it was a stroll in the park for the strong Indian line-up who batted all the way down to Bhuvneshwar Kumar at number 10. Moreover, the pitch was not assisting the bowlers and was more of a batting paradise.
Soon, the reality sunk in.
Rohit Sharma, who has been in tremendous form with the bat in the tournament along with fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan and captain Kohli, played all around an accurate ball from Mohammad Amir. The procession had only begun.
Shortly, captain Kohli nicked one to Azhar Ali at slip but Ali dropped the catch. Indian fans who might have heaved a sigh of relief and would have mumbled, “Azhar, you just dropped the Champions trophy” wouldn’t have been able to hold on to the thought more than a few seconds as Kohli perished the very next ball off a leading edge, safely pouched by Shadab Khan at point.
Just as it seemed Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh might stitch up a much-needed partnership, Dhawan got dismissed - yet again by Amir, who magically conjured up some assistance from the pitch. Yuvraj was next to fall after playing a few attractive shots followed by crisis man Dhoni. At 55/5, only the most optimistic fans would have fancied a miracle.
After the dismissal of Kedar Jadhav, all-rounder Hardik Pandya played like a man possessed and briefly offered some hope till he was run out by his partner Ravindra Jadeja. The match was all but over.
Indian fans smashing television sets in Ahmedabad.
At the post-match presentation, Virat Kohli was a sport and made all the right noices even as pictures of Indian fans smashing television sets in Ahmedabad went viral on Twitter. (Somehow, all the TVs on view were the old CRT models and it seemed some of them were utilising the opportunity to upgrade to a brand new LED TV.)
The beleaguered Pakistani fans had a go at some of the Indian celebrities who had predicted a “Fathers’ Day special” on Twitter. Some of them also observed that Allah had sided with them on the holy day of “Laylat al-Qadr” of Ramzan. One can only recall a comment made by a former Aussie cricketer - “Why would God take sides”- after he was witness to the bemusing spectacle of Indian and Pakistani fans offering spontaneous prayers on the ground, back in the day.
As for what went wrong for India, almost everything did. Pakistan peaking at the right time, the law of averages, lack of middle-order and lower-order exposure, getting the team combination wrong, poor lines and lengths, Jasprit Bhumrah’s no-ball dismissing Fakhar Zaman and on and on and on...
Strangely, despite rooting for India, I wasn’t morose after India’s loss yesterday as I was prone to on earlier occasions. I wonder if that makes me an “anti-national”.