November 22, 2023
The world cup loss to Australia by six wickets has sent the entire cricket loving public into state of mourning. The Indian team had displayed exemplary form during the entire tournament demolishing every opponent and finishing unbeaten with 10 straight victories to the finals at Ahmedabad. The game ended on a one-sided affair, with handful of drooling moments for the Indians and the Cup to the Kangaroos. Days before the big finals Indian TV, social media and former cricketers were buzz with hype and hubris about team India’s chances of beating the underdog Aussies. Several Tarot Card readers, Quacks and Astrologers were called onto the News shows for their predictions, overhelmingly favouring the home team. Although, India had been going through a decade long drought in ICC tournaments, with nine consecutive losses since 2013, the stats were hurled into the wind. After such a prolific run and big-fat talks of indomitability, opposite teams fearing to face the wrath of Indian pacemen and marauding top order, what really went wrong to these goliaths in the ultimate decider? Was it fear of failure, overconfidence and arrogance? or was there something fishier?
Yes, in Sports a loss has to be taken to the chin, there should be no harm in digging the dirt behind such a humiliation. Well, during the World cup, several publications in the western press and few youtubers had questioned the character of the playing surfaces. The Ahmedabad pitch which was used during the India-Pakistan encounter in which Pakistan collapsed under 200 marks, later came under the ICC’s radar earning an average rating and demerit points. The Chennai surface used against the Aussies in the first match of India’s world cup campaign was also a dry surface made specifically to target the opposition and trick their batsmen upfront. The tactic worked perfectly in capsizing every opposition. While playing against weaker teams, the Indian team management preferred flat dead surfaces (used in IPL) to surmount mammoth totals and help some of their out of form batsmen to find some form. The Questions didn’t just stop with surfaces, but there were dubious questions on the pattern of toss as well.
The pitch (playing surface) during the India New Zealand Semis at Bombay was changed from fresh to a used surface just hours before the match. This was purely against ICC laws. But this report was brushed under the carpet by former Indian cricketers like the influential Sunil Gavaskar labelling it as just another foreign jealousy and conspiracy to tarnish India’s image. The ICC later dodged the bullet and settled the matter. After this, the former English cricketer and Wisden writer Mark Butcher labelled the ICC as the executive arm of BCCI. The Australian captain Pat Cummins was witty and wise enough to inspect the surface in advance and take some pictures to retain some proof before the game day. The pitch report during the finals showed it as a very dry surface largely enabling plenty of turn and slowness. Pat Cummins won the toss and put India in, thus trapping Rohit and co. in their own web. Indians had realised that Cummins had decoded their ploy, and thus were under tremendous pressure to put a huge total in order to compensate for the dew later in the night. Akin to breeding snakes in one’s own backyard hoping only to bite your neighbours, Indians were now at the receiving end of a substandard playing surface. Which begs the question, did India dig its own grave?
Yes, the loss hurts, but the behaviour of Indian crowd and some ex-cricketers had been deplorable throughout the tournament. The booing of Pakistan Captain Babar Azam during the toss, the targeted hackling of their wicket Keeper Mohd Rizwan on his way to the pavilion and the booing of the umpires during the closing presentation ceremony has exposed the inhospitable nature and contemptuous characteristics of Indian crowds. Far worse, were the comments and cheap mannerisms displayed by some former cricketers. Virendra Sehwag commented ‘Zindabhaag’ taunting the Pakistan cricket teams exit from the world cup, flouting all principles of treating a guest and Irfan Pathan, while on official commentating duties openly celebrated the victory of Afghanistan over Pakistan by stepping few moves with joy with Afghan player Rashid Khan. Throughout the tournament, the broadcaster Star sports shunned any kind of objectivity and professionalism in their presentation, and were busy involved in cake cutting, rejoicing Indian victories and Virat Kohli’s individual milestones; while also ridiculing and mocking the opposite teams. They also fed the impression of the Indian team as an invincible force with all the ammunitions throwing comparisons to the windies of the eighties and the Aussies of the 2000’s. The Star Sports channel, which is off late a wholly owned entity of Star India (Fully India Owned) played a vital role in transforming the Cricket broadcast into a Roman Circus.
The BCCI’s organising credentials of the World cup had come to a beating as the fixtures and schedules were announced just couple of months before the World Cup, thereby curtailing the chances of international fans making to the event. The complete mismanagement of a world event like the world cup had resulted in low turnouts and shambolic cricket stadiums. The buzz to the build up to this mega event was completely non-existent; thanks to the initiative from men who run Indian cricket and their friends in the government for not having an opening ceremony or for that matter any kind of public promotion. Yes, Jay Shah the BCCI secretary is the son of India’s Home minister and the second most powerful man in the country - Amit Shah. However, this kind of partly amiable and partly acrimonious liaison between the BCCI and the Indian Government hasn’t resulted in a wreck free event management. The Cricket World cup, supposedly a global event, yet the powerful BCCI made this an absolute Indian event, with Indian public, Indian pitches and Indian music at the arena. Although, these Machiavellian measures turned out be successful in petrifying the decimating opposition in the league games, the same ruse came biting back in the all-important finals.