by Niraj Prabhu
Winning and losing are part and parcel of any sporting duel but the manner in which a team goes down, defines the mentality of the second-best side. Saying that India surrendered to Australia in the ICC Men’s World Cup 2023 final today in front of 1.30 lakh fans at the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Gujarat, will not sound like an exaggeration for sure!
The Men in Blue suffered a humiliation today primarily due to a sudden change in their philosophy of aggressive brand of cricket where a particular player drops an anchor and other express themselves around the anchorman.
The moment the five-time champions Australia edged past South Africa and booked their place in the final, the hard-core cricket fans knew that the form-book would go out of the window and that the unbeaten hosts would have to be courageous against the serial final-winners.
Having scored one-sided victories in all their 10 matches before the final, did not guarantee ultimate glory. We knew this and to continue with the winning run, it was paramount that India played with same attitude that had given tremendous results and infinite joy to add to the Diwali festival, for the innumerable fans of Indian cricket. Many of them had travelled thousands of kilometres to Ahmedabad from different parts of the world, in anticipation of a special night at the Narendra Modi stadium.
Apart from skipper Rohit Sharma, who had declared that he would have also opted to bat first had he won the toss today, the others, however, were apparently looking to survive and not express themselves. The fans were perplexed with the proceedings with the Aussies calling the shots following the departure of Rohit. The situation got worse with the passage of time. It was a very shocking display by Virat Kohli, who has been pre-maturely labelled as ‘King’ in the recent times; and KL Rahul in particular as the experienced duo failed to break the shackles from the 11th to 26th over, when there was no boundary scored even though the part-time bowlers were operating.
Can the team management specify as to who was the anchor and who was expressing himself in this case? Whatever the reason may be for their meek approach of not going for the big shots, the pair also did not show any intent to run hard or take the singles by finding the wide open spaces on the field.
Ravindra Jadeja and Surya Kumar Yadav (SKY) looked totally lost and probably not ready mentally to deal with the challenge at hand. Both have sensational array of shots in their arsenal, but neither player was able to read the situation properly. Could the batting order have been rejigged a bit by promoting one of the big-hitters after the cheap fall of Shreyas Iyer? one may wonder.
Those calling injury-enforced absence of Hardik Pandya a blessing in disguise sparking Md Shami’s success, might have had to eat their words today as the talented all-rounder was sorely missed in today’s rut of a situation especially for his brave shot-making. Had he been fit, Pandya with a killer instinct in his DNA, would have been a part of the team for sure in place of SKY, who has failed to make an impression in the ODI format despite gaining reputation of being 360 degree batter in T20s.
It was embarrassing to see these stars not having clarity of mind or was it a case of lack of application due to the pressure of the expectations against the team that has over different eras mastered the art of winning the finals?
We, Indians get carried away by the frenzy of centuries scored and records broken, Bollywood starlets flying kisses, emotionally-charged speeches and marketing gimmicks. When are we going to understand that the true ‘larger than life’ status is acquired by performing and rising to the occasion? That is the question that will haunt us, as India suffer another big loss to Australia, who had hammered us in 2003 final as well.