We Won! WE WON! Well I guess repeating a pretty ‘old news’ all over again and being excited about it, doesn’t usually get you a lot of readership, but, then, I am stuck at this news and would probably be for some time. And lest, you might think otherwise, a lot of Indians are too! I have been waiting for it for literally all of my life. India won the Cricket World Cup for the second time and yes, we did it after 28 years. That too, in our first victory, we were by far the underdogs and West Indies, the hot favorites to win the tournament, who eventually lost to us in the finals, came to India later that year and thrashed us 5-0 in a five match series. Well the change in the plot happens to be the fact that we were one of the favorites this time around and I am confident that if Sri Lanka (the other finalist) were to come to India and play against us, we would definitely not be wiped out of the series.
But, to be honest, even during our first World Cup victory, nobody cared about being thrashed by West Indies, we had won the World Cup and that was enough for the Indian self-confidence. The rest is insignificant detail including the fact that we changed the captain of our team immediately after the World Cup and to be honest, I am still looking for a legitimate and reasonable answer to the question, “WHY!?” But, then again, that was 28 years ago.
This story should appropriately start 22 years ago, when I was 4 years old and the greatest batsman to ever play the game of cricket after Sir Don Bradman from Australia (“supposedly”, I am not sure, I haven’t seen him bat!), started representing India. Sachin Tendulkar made a mark for himself, when he as a 16 year old kid, stood undeterred and unfettered, as he gets hit on the nose by Waqar Younis, one of the better known great bowlers originating from Pakistan who was also in his first series. He falls down, gets up, and wipes away the gushing blood, declines medical assistance and scores a half-century of runs and since then, it’s been 22 years and he hasn’t looked back.
In all of these years that he played this game, he stood as an epitome of perfection, standing tall with his short-height, which affectionately has earned him the nick-name “Little Master”, as Indian team collapsed in defeats, showing occasional splinters of magnificence on the field, despite the variance in the performance of his team, his continued consistency has eventually led him into being the best batsman of current times that the game has seen. A ray of hope, God’s special child, probably God himself as he would walk on a Cricket field, who waited and waited to finally have a team and a captain that could achieve the pinnacle of cricketing success.
And there we all were, sitting in John Mullins, watching India beat Sri Lanka in the final of the World Cup, with Sachin playing a minimalist role in ultimately getting there. Though he did manage his massive proportion of runs that he always does, but, this World Cup was a team effort and yes, I enjoy the fact that Sachin didn’t have to carry his team on his shoulders as he has done time and again. Though, the question that I actually wondered about was how could a sport mean so much to literally everybody in a country whose population is exploding, being currently is 1.21 billion according to our latest Census in 2011. And then, it suddenly dawned upon me, I realized that Cricket in India is very much like our Bollywood films, it’s not a sport, it’s an extended soap opera with heroes like Sachin, villains like our dear old match-fixing gang of 2000, clowns like Harbhajan and Sreesanth with their famous slap episode and then, there are moments of utter delight and extreme disappointment and in the middle of all of this, we sit still, glued to our television, wasting a complete day to watch one match and at the end of which during the 1990s, there used to be a high probability of a chance that India would lose after fighting till the very end overs.
There was a time when India would do everything right, until the end moment, when we lost by 1 or 2 or 3 runs, which is by far, the most frustrating thing that can happen to a spectator. Imagine watching a complete soccer game where your country is winning by 1-0 till the 87th minute and then, losing the game by 2-1. Now, multiply this with 8 hours of spectatorship and getting the same result. You would probably understand how Indians used to feel in every other match that India played. I have seen many of those matches wondering how can we get so close and still be, yet so far, from what we wish to achieve.
Were we less confident? Were we chokers? Or was it just Cricket of indifference when it came to our team? But, that changed after India slowly reformed itself after being liberalized in 1991, such that the effects of what had actually happened could be seen in the beginning of the 21st century. Sometimes, I wonder if passion is a relatively capitalist idea and I think as the effects of liberalization started sinking in, we became more aggressive about our passions. Cricket definitely is a stunning example of this. Over the years, I have seen our team getting more aggressive about winning. It was no longer a team of great players that would give you a good spectacle. It became more about fighters that wanted to win.
And I have seen India getting more aggressive about foreign investment and development since 1991. In a country, that has a larger mobile network coverage as compared to landline coverage. I presume, 1983 was a win from the landline era, when a Government-owned landline service provider took seven years to give you a connection after your request had been registered. 2011 is a win in the mobile era, when you have a number as soon as you make a payment for a SIM card. Information verification happens after your number is activated.
So, we will celebrate this win, for as long as we don’t have anything to look forward to. Maybe Shahrukh Khan could change that by giving us a decent super-hero to cheer with his film, RA. One. And we will celebrate it with every ounce of excitement left in our bodies. Because, no matter how screwed up our lives might be, no matter how corrupt our bureaucrats might be, no matter the heartaches of broken promises and relationships, we celebrate the smile of Sachin Tendulkar’s face as much as we drown in sorrow when he gets bowled out on a Cricket field.