Cricket World Cup 2007: The Indian Saga Ends
Technically, maybe not. The billion Indian fans can pray and hope that the Bermuda team still has some tricks up its sleeve that will result in the thrashing of Bangladesh. That, of course, would open up the second round gates for a team which supposedly has the best batting line-up in the world, but one that fails to deliver every time it is called upon to do so.
Take a look at the score card for the Indian innings of the India-Sri Lanka match:
AR Uthappa - 18
S Ganguly - 7
Sehwag - 48
S Tendulkar - 0
Rahul Dravid - 60
Yuvraj Singh - 6
Dhoni - 0
There you have it - four single digits in the top seven and amongst them an average of just 19 runs. When required, yet again, the top order failed to raise its game. I am not a cricket freak, and hence didn't really watch the game. But I am married to one, and hence get caught in the whole rigmarole more often than I would like. As hubby dear sat watching the match, I got a glimpse of what was happening - to be honest, earlier in the day, on the field Indians seemed to have the Lankans on a tight leash. Runs didn't come easily, and the Lankan batsmen seemed to struggle. Yet, they didn't cave in; they seized every opportunity for a single, and made do with an occasional boundary. Importantly, they kept themselves together and didn't throw away their wickets. I didn't watch the Indian innings (no, not even a glimpse) and from the looks of it, this is exactly what the Indians didn't do.
I am not truly disappointed with the loss; I understand it is a game and on any given day the team that plays better wins. What often irks me about an Indian loss is the lack of even semblance of a fight from the Indian team. Every time they lose - be it to Bangladesh or Sri Lanka - they just seem to cave in. You begin to wonder if the team management really has a game plan. Dravid was absolutely right, this team didn't deserve to get into the second round.
Yet, I am sure there will be a national mourning, houses will be ransacked and effigies burnt. This will be discussed threadbare in the Parliament, with more minutes and hours dedicated to the game loss than the loss of lives in, say, Vidarbha, and of course, heads will roll. All of this and more will happen because we Indians have begun to look at cricket as a lot more than a game. The reactions post Bangladesh match and post Bermuda match are a study in contrasts. We beat Bermuda, for god's sake? Does that warrant celebrations on such a scale?
In a way, I am glad we lost, that we didn't make it to the next round. This was required to serve as a wake-up call in a country that glorifies every victory and rips the team apart for every loss. Every time the men in blue step onto the field, miracles are expected of them; when they do deliver they are put on a pedestal and treated as gods; but god forbid they fail, they invite the ire of everybody and nobody. The Indian team isn't even one of the top five teams of the world; it is one thing to hope that the team does well, and yet another to assume that the cup is ours to take. And if you had been following the frenzy built in the media - print and electronic - in the start up to the event, you will realize that we deluded ourselves to believing that we were good enough to win the World Cup. Hence our reactions after the loss to Bangladesh and win against Bermuda seem totally justified.
I believe the fans of the game in this country have actually killed the game. And when the game takes away the life of a man as it did in this edition, it isn't cricket anymore. I know this will not go down well with the game managers or the fans, but to reshape cricket such that it truly regains its status as a gentleman's game, I do believe drastic steps are required:
- Cut down on the number of games played in a year.
- Focus on learning, improving rather than just winning alone.
- A loss isn't the end of the world; what is important is what one takes away from such a loss. If required do a post-mortem after every lost match to take lessons away from it.
- Separate money from the game; stop telecasting matches so frequently; stop over-exposure of the players so that instead of public adulation they would focus more on the game, such that they are not burdened by the expectations to deliver always.
- Offer performance based incentives to the players. I am a computer professional, working in a software organization. We have a performance appraisal every six month where in you are evaluated on your performance and that is directly linked to your incentives and bonus. The system may not be fool proof but it works, and to some it is a motivating factor to perform. If our cricketers are professionals of the game, shouldn't their performance be evaluated as well?
What is important is to give all that back to the game. For once, let us attempt to love and enjoy the game and not the players.