This was so meant to be. Wasn’t it? The current Indian team was destined to win this World Cup and end the 10 year long drought of an ICC trophy. Yet, after one and a half months of hope, here we are, yet again, with our hands empty.
The build up to the final was unmatched. There was no way we were going to lose this. We had all imagined our captain Rohit Sharma receiving the World Cup trophy at the end of it all, filling our hearts with the utmost joy. It was the perfect script. But it doesn’t work like this in sports, does it?
Team India was the best side in the tournament by a fair distance. They are, in fact, ranked No.1 across formats. But being the best isn’t enough sometimes. There is a difference between being the best and being the champions. Yes, we were the best, we just couldn’t be the champions. Just like life, sport isn’t fair. That’s the harsh reality.
Why did we lose? There is a cricket expert within all of us and we have all already found dozens of reasons. Should we have batted more aggressively after the first powerplay? Should we have gone in with Ravichandran Ashwin given the slow nature of the pitch? Should we have used more short balls against Travis Head early on? Should we have given the new ball to Mohammad Siraj instead of Mohammed Shami?
Who is to blame for all this? Hindsight is a beautiful thing in any sport. Go back in time and all these reasons would fit in perfectly to alter the result. Surely, that’s not how it works in the real world. Looking at these aspects in the hindsight is the easiest thing to do. However, the truth is that the best team doesn’t win each game it plays. There are bound to be an odd bad day every now and then in every sport. Unfortunately, for India, that bad day happened when it mattered the most.
The fans have been faithful right through, supporting the Indian team at each step. But after all the hype and expectations, we fell short once again. We have experienced this before, several times in the recent years. Yet this one hurt the most. This loss felt more personal than ever.
In the last half an hour of the final match, it seemed obvious that India would lose. When Glenn Maxwell hit the winning runs, it didn’t actually strike me that we had lost. There was ecstasy in the Australian camp as they ran to the middle to celebrate their sixth World Cup title. But after a few seconds, when I saw Mohammad Siraj cry, I could not hold back. When KL Rahul sank to the ground, a part of my heart broke at that very moment. When Rohit Sharma, with a teary eye, climbed up the stairs to the dressing room, it felt as if the train was leaving the platform and my legs were frozen. When Virat Kohli hid his face behind the cap, it wasn’t just a loss anymore. At that very moment, the realisation struck that another chance to be the champions had gone begging.
Why did this defeat hurt the most? It was purely because of the sheer joy this team gave in the last one and a half months. Before the Asia Cup, none of us really believed so much in this team as it was in disarray. There were a few players returning from injuries. This group hadn’t played together in a while. But since we went on to win the Asia Cup in such a commanding manner, our hopes started to rise again. We became so attached to the team once more.
Come the World Cup, India dominated each and every team in the group stage. Their skills were unmatched as they remained unbeaten. Domination is the perfect word to describe India’s campaign in the group stage. When we outclassed New Zealand in the semi final, the wounds of the 2019 World Cup semi-final were also healed.
After each game, we waited so patiently to watch the best fielder’s medal ceremony. Watching the team bond over it made us feel as if we were right there in that dressing room. This was the team that would go on to achieve the ultimate glory.
We were so engrossed in India’s campaign that we forgot that the ultimate opponents were Australia, the five-time champions (now six). They might not have been the best team in the competition but they are a champion side. Over the years, they have mastered the art of winning the pressure situations, something India has failed to do so of late.
The loss in the final has left many questions unanswered. What does the future hold for Rohit Sharma? Would be ever see him again in a World Cup? Would Virat Kohli ever get justice for being the best player of the tournament? Would Rahul Dravid continue as the head coach? Would we ever be able to put together such a fearsome bowling unit again in a World Cup?
Right now, it feels devastating having narrowly missed out on being called the World Champions again. There have been thoughts of getting over the obsession with the game and not following it as closely anymore. However, when the dust settles down, we, the fans, will be back. The obsession will be back. When India enters the ICC T20 World Cup 2024, the hopes will be back, perhaps to be heartbroken again. But be assured Team India, we are with you, in victory or defeat. We will bleed blue. Again.