India drops the (cricket) ball!

By Bhushan Salunke
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Representational Photo by Pickled Stardust on Unsplash
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A pall of gloom hung over on India, on 19th November 2023, when the Indian cricket team was soundly beaten by the Australian cricket team in the 2023 ICC World Cup Cricket. An unofficial day of mourning was declared in India.

Cricket is a big deal in India, being its fastest growing religion. If the Melbourne Cup stops the nation in Australia, cricket stops wedding functions, arguments between spouses and baby deliveries in hospitals in India.

All the eight planets (sorry Pluto!) had aligned, on the day, for India to lift the Cup but alas the unthinkable happened. How could a team which had ten straight wins in the tournament lose on the day it mattered?

India was playing in home ground stadium, in front of 130,000 worshipping fans, donned in blue uniform, screaming their hearts out and creating the world’s highest noise pollution per capita while the rest of the 1.4 billion citizens had their eyes glued to the screens. Cricket fans, from far and wide, who had paid top rupees for the seats, were packed in the stadium like sardines.

Support for the Indian team, from political heads, spiritual gurus, Bollywood actors, ex-cricketers, and other celebrities, was in full display.

Narendra Modi, the PM of India was present in the stadium (named after himself), mentally preparing himself for the handing over of the World Cup to the Indian cricket team.

Sadhguru, the mystic and yogi was there, taking a break from his spiritual pitch to watching the game on the pitch. Sachin Tendulkar, the cricket God, was present too, to bless the Indian team.

Strong encouragement for the Indian team was demonstrated by Bollywood, represented by Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma,  Ranveer Singh etc.

Indian cricket and Bollywood have had a long & close symbiotic relationship. They are wedded together, literally. The latest example is Virat Kohli-Anushka Sharma and many more before them.

Cricket and Bollywood are the two main entertainment staples for the Indian masses. While Bollywood is about running around trees, cricket is about running between wickets.

But the biggest incentive for the Indian team came from Telugu actor Rekha Boj who promised to run naked on Visakhapatnam beach, Baywatch-style, if India won the Cricket World Cup. Even this prospect did not appear to motivate the Indian cricket team.

The Bollywood wives of Indian cricketers were in the stadium, watching their husbands play and blowing kisses to them from the stands. This prompted Harbhajan Singh, cricket commentator and ex- Indian cricketer to ask “Yahi main soch raha tha ke baat cricket ki ho rahi hogi ya films ki, kyunki cricket ke baare me to main jaanta nahi ki itni samajh hogi” (I was thinking whether the conversation between Anushka Sharma and Athiya Shetty is happening about cricket or films. Because I am not sure how much understanding they have about cricket). That’s not how to bowl a maiden over!

My astrologer friend, Mangal Singh, has an explanation for the Indian defeat. When the planets had lined up, Saturn (Shani) had thrust his long neck out slightly to watch the cricket game and had thus spoiled the alignment!

There was mixed reaction to the loss from the Indian fans. Disappointed and frustrated fans vented their feelings and called the Indian team “chokers”. A few were philosophical and were resigned to wearing the loss. The PM visited the Indian dressing room after the match, to console the crest fallen men in blue who were really feeling blue. Virat Kohli was off the hook when he received a tender hug from his wife Anushka. Domestic bliss maintained!

But there was an ugly show of sportsmanship. Spectators started emptying out of the stadium in the dying moments of the game. The post-match celebration was held with most Indian cricketers not hanging around to congratulate the Aussie team. It was an awkward presentation ceremony!

India has now to wait four years to try their luck again. Hoping Rekha Boj will also renew her vow then!


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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