April 6, 2011
There has been an overdose of cricket in the media ever since India won the quarterfinals against Australia and the euphoria is understandable ever since the emphatic win in the finals against the mighty Lankans. After that victory against Australia in the quarterfinals, India’s hopes of regaining the cup were rekindled and finally India lifted the trophy in style. The reality is yet to sink in both among the players and among the fans in this cricket crazy country which is basking under the glory of that spectacular win. The lacklustre show by India in earlier matches losing to South Africa and a tie with England had disillusioned cricket fans to a great extent. The win against Australia undid that disenchantment.
After beating Australia there was only one hurdle in the way – the semi-final clash with traditional rivals Pakistan which was depicted almost like a war between the two countries by the media with the hype reaching unimaginable proportions. India crossed that hurdle too with élan, much to the relief of millions of cricket fans. A win against Pakistan was likened to winning the world cup finals. Though the match was not one of the best from team India, it was just the rehearsal that India needed to peak at the right time. The Mohali match did show that unlike the Indian team of yore, Dhoni’s men in blue did not cave in under pressure when playing against Pakistan even when wickets were falling intermittently.
An India-Pakistan match evokes strong sentiments and emotions run high and often go beyond mere cricket, so much so some fans even said the semi-final victory against Pakistan was almost like India winning the world cup. After that famous win, with India extending its unbeatable streak against Pakistan to five in world cup, the media went gaga discussing threadbare everything that came remotely near cricket and world cup, including individual players, the captains, their strategy, strengths and weaknesses. Luckily for India, Dhoni and his team sustained that momentum which finally culminated with India winning the coveted trophy.
While the joy of the players and the cricket fans is comprehensible, the media seems to be celebrating the win with gusto because fierce media competition ensures that they strike an upper hand. After India’s win there has been no stopping them from airing interviews with players, both present and past, their families, friends, coaches and cricket officials, terming every bite as ‘exclusive’, when actually it was not. Though viewers and readers are not complaining, now that India has won, it is pathetic to read and watch the media making news out of everything the players did or did not do either in the ground or in the dressing room.
The superstitious beliefs the players adhered to really makes surreal reading but it still makes news because a win and that too a cricket world cup triumph in a cricket crazy country is sure to mask any flaw or propel the silliest of the matter connected with cricket into big time news. Agreed! People don’t mind it till the winning feeling sinks in and it will take some more time to do that. The media blitzkrieg is sure to continue for another few days until it finds another topic to harp on. May be the election results of the 5 states going for polls this month will take the spotlight away from world cup win.
Nonetheless, some of the questions like whether Dhoni is greater than Kapil or whether he is the greatest captain ever, does not portend well for many reasons. At this stage I cannot but remember an old saying “victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan”. I am not a pessimist, nor am I trying to belittle India’s hard fought victory especially when the entire nation is rapturous having won the cup after a yawning gap of 28 long years. But I wonder whether Indians would have been decent if not magnanimous in their praise had the team failed at the last hurdle?
Indian captain Dhoni was candid when he said after the win, "May be I would have to answer many questions like why I chose Sreesanth (who proved to be costly) and not R Ashwin and why promote myself at number 5 instead of the in-form Yuvraj." If Dhoni and his team had fumbled at the last hurdles wouldn’t these same people who are now showering praises on Dhoni pilloried him? I think this fear did lurk in Dhoni’s mind even when he took these decisions but still he did what he felt was right. I think, even the fans would not have been fair to the men in blue, if the result was not in favour of India in the finals.
I think Indian fans can learn a lesson or two from the cricket fans of Sri Lanka and their President, who greeted their cricket stars at the airport with a hero’s welcome. The President presented them mementos and appreciated the efforts of the team in reaching the second consecutive finals. Sri Lankan cricket fans have taught us how to treat players whether they win or lose and I think, we Indians will do well to imbibe that kind of spirit in sports, win or lose. One of the fans of Sri Lanka said their players did give a good fight in the finals and the better team won. But we Indians lack that spirit of true sportsmanship. We are adept at showering praises and all sorts of appellations when the team wins and then boo or jeer them when they lose.
Can anyone forget the fact that Yuvaraj Singh was written off and he went through a rough patch, with the media stoking his woes linking him to every possible vice and women? Not even cricket god Sachin Tendulkar has been spared from some of the bizarre statements as “whenever Sachin hits a century India loses”. I really wonder how many cricket fans in India might have sighed with relief when Sachin was out for 85 against Pakistan and they must be now thanking the stars that he did not hit a century either in the finals. Suddenly, all his earlier knocks that brought victory to Indian team in a career spanning 22 years were belittled and forgotten once this theory began to do the rounds. And believe me it is the educated, highly qualified and well placed people and youngsters who believe it and even spread such canards. The same people, who are now doing a signature campaign, asking Sachin to continue playing in the next world cup, will not hesitate to tell him on his face or insinuate that it is time he hangs his boots if at all he might fail to deliver in one or two crucial matches.
All is well as of now and I do believe the team should be allowed to rest on its laurels at least for sometime rather than be bombarded with inane queries and silly questions just to fill in prime time slots.