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“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster. And treat both impostors the same.”
The ethos of the epochal Gita-sque lines from Rudyard Kipling’s If might be great life advice but it’s almost impossible to live by, particularly for tribalistic sports fans. Both Triumph and Disaster stay etched for all eternity in the mind.
Ask any millennial who bleeds blue, and they will tell you exactly where they watched the match when India lost the 2003 World Cup final to Australia, and now Gen Z – who don’t have a history of generational sporting trauma – finally have their own demon from Down Under to exorcise.
The 1983 triumph was a shock. The 2011 one was the fulfilment of a promise and 2023 was supposed to be inevitable, until it wasn’t.
So, while we stumble through the boulevard of broken dreams, and try to treat both impostors the same, the fact remains that this was a remarkable tournament that captivated the nation for 45 days.
Relive the best of the 2023 World Cup with Hindustan Times’ top-drawer coverage, including scribblings from some of the best cricket writers around (even if we say so ourselves).
Yes, it was heart-breaking, and India failed at the final hurdle, but the team played a brand of cricket that captivated hundreds of millions throughout the tournament, with Rohit Sharma’s top-order pyrotechnics and Kohli returning to his vintage best. There were numerous other reasons to cheer, particularly our bowling.
As Vivek Krishnan wrote: “…the way the bowlers went about their task made for thrilling theatre. These were surfaces not meant to assist India’s pacers, but Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj enthralled with their sublime blend of swing, seam, and slower deliveries.” Read more.
Before the match, Pat Cummins had argued there’s “nothing more satisfying than hearing a big crowd go silent”. It was a promise the Australians lived up to, thanks in part to keeping their head and heart in the game.
Describing the scenes after the final, Rahul Bhattacharya wrote: “They began to file away in their replica jerseys. The stadium began to bleed blue, leaving in its wake, as if in a time-lapse display, a matrix of orange. As the World Cup had started so it would finish, with empty seats at the Narendra Modi Stadium. As I type the lights are going out. Australia had, as they had wanted, silenced the crowds all the way to fade to black.” Read more.
Virat Kohli was in imperious form with the bat in this World Cup, racking up 765 runs at an average of 95.62, becoming the first person to score 700 runs in a single edition of the World Cup.
Running the rule over Kohli’s huge numbers, Somshuvra Laha explains: “In the twilight of his career, Kohli still manages to surprise with his consistency and sense of occasion. A hundred on his birthday? Check. A hundred to go past Tendulkar’s all-time record of 49 ODI hundreds, with the great man looking on from the stands at the ground he grew up and later owned? Check.” Read more.
The term “chokers” is often associated with South Africans but if there ever was a term to describe the opposite – “anti-chokers” doesn’t sound very right – then it would be used to describe the Aussies: the kings of “tournament play”.
As Rutvick Mehta pointed out: “The five-time ODI world champions began this World Cup with two timid defeats to India (6 wickets) and South Africa (134 runs), lying 10th in the points table at one point with no signs of an upswing. There were certainly none when Sri Lanka were 125 for no loss in Australia’s third league game. Until something flipped. David Warner took a spectacular outfield catch for the first Sri Lankan wicket, and off went Australia. On an eight-match winning run when another defeat or two could’ve well pulled them out of the knockouts race.” Read more.
Cricket fans come in all forms, and we saw a few unattractive ones during the World Cup, none more so than the Indian fans who felt the needed to show off their machismo by mutilating a stuffed tiger.
Describing the horrendous scene, Rahul Bhattacharya wrote: “As India began to assert their supremacy on the field, the Indian fans began crowding Shoaib (Bangladeshi superfan Shoaib Ali). They jostled him with the “Nagin” dance (which, as a provocation device, deserves an oral history). They shouted “Jai Shri Ram” in his face. At the end of the game, where the only suspense was a will-he-won’t-he around Virat Kohli’s century, some Indian fans asked Shoaib for his tiger. Uncertain about their motives, he handed it to them. This next part you may have seen too, because it went viral on social media. They tossed it around among themselves, beat it about, literally knocked the stuffing out of it. Then they threw the mutilated toy back at Shoaib.” Read more.
Was Glen Maxwell’s 201 the greatest ODI innings of all time? Or was it Kapil Dev’s 175 against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup that kept India’s hopes alive.
In his HT column, veteran cricket writer Ayaz Memon argues that it’s a “dead heat”. He wrote: “Both are ‘innings of a lifetime’ Kapil’s 175 defined more by virtuosity of skill; Maxwell’s 201 highlighted by monumental valor. In their own ways, both expressions of true-blue genius. I’ve made up my mind about the greatest ODI century ever. It’s a dead heat!” Read more.
Few could believe what they were witnessing when Glen Maxwell – belaboured by cramps – took apart the Afghanistan bowling, an innings that prompted many to wonder if this was real life or fantasy.
In his piece on the scenes of magic realism that gripped the Wankhede, Rahul Bhattacharya describes the mass hysteria that we’ve now come to label Maxwellitis. He writes: “An outbreak of overactive imagination was recorded in Mumbai in the early hours yesterday. The sufferers, about 20,000, reported strikingly similar – indeed, in many cases, identical – symptoms.” Read more.
East and Ooest (if one were to pronounce it the way it’s meant to be pronounced, since W doesn’t roll off a Bengali’s tongue) Bengal have a lot in common. From football to Tagore to Hilsa love, it’s a bond that runs deep which makes the fact that Bangladesh has played such few matches in Eden extremely strange.
Dhiman Sarkar wrote: “Bangladesh not playing an ODI in Kolkata since the game against Sri Lanka in the 1990-91 Asia Cup feels as much an aberration as slow-moving vehicles being banned on a road leading to the Eden Gardens in a city not famous for traffic moving at Glenn Maxwell speed. The pink ball Test in 2019 remains the only international contest between India and Bangladesh at Eden.” Read more.
They won the first two editions of the World Cup and were on course to complete a hat-trick before Kapil’s Devils came in the way, so West Indies’ absence from the World Cup feels particularly strange.
This Sharda Ugra explains, is a reminder of the harsh new realities of cricket. She wrote for HT: “The absence of the West Indies in this World Cup is not a reason for nostalgia or reminiscence. It should in fact become a worldwide alert for the shrinking of a sport that nurses grandiose dreams of going global.” Read more.
In 1963, the speaker of the New Zealand Parliament deemed a remark unparliamentary when one member described another as having “the energy of a snail returning home from a funeral”. Slowness might be an insult in parliamentary democracy, but on the cricket field, the slower ball is almost always one of the fast bowler’s greatest tricks.
As Ashish Magotra explained in his piece: “The faster the game got, the harder the batters tried to hit and the more easily they got suckered into playing the false shot. The trick, though, was always in the set-up. And that is an art Jasprit Bumrah seems to have mastered. From the slower ball that got Shaun Marsh out at the MCG to set up India’s first-ever Test series win in Australia in 2018 to the off-cutter that foxed Mohammad Rizwan in Ahmedabad on Saturday, the India pacer just has the knack of landing the sucker punch.” Read more.
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