Monday, April 4, 2011

Welcoming our World Champions!

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011
As you many have heard before, cricket is not merely a sport in is a religion! We take our cricket very seriously. Probably every little boy in India acquires a plastic bat and ball by the age of three. Drive through any Indian city on a weekend and you will most likely see groups of kids and adults of all ages playing cricket in empty fields, streets, backyards and narrow gullys. It is the only sport we care passionately about and in front of which all other sports take a backseat. Sure, we have an International football and hockey team, tennis greats like Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati, chess grandmaster and world champion Vishwanathan Anand, Olympic medal holding athletes, promising badminton players and our own Formula One racing team....still, when it comes to popularity, all the other sports pale in comparison to cricket. It does seem a tad unfair since the domination of one sport takes away credit from all the other sporting heroes who have time and again brought pride to our country. Cricketers in India enjoy the same level, if not greater popularity than celebrities do. They are always in the news, be it their on-field performance or off-field antics. Having said that, being a cricketer in India is not an easy job for as much praise and honor they are lavished with after winning a tournament, the same intensity of anger and disappointment comes their way after experiencing defeat. They can be worshiped and placed on a pedestal and the very next minute dropped unceremoniously to the ground. Major cricket tournaments always generate much hype and excitement in India. Friends and family get together to watch the match, the streets are devoid of traffic and usually empty, special prayers are performed to seek blessings for the team, the release dates of new movies are postponed and you don't anticipate any power cuts on those days. It goes to such an extent that any knock-out match featuring India in a tournament such as the World Cup which takes place once in four years can have most educational educations and offices declaring half day off!

Two days ago, i.e. 2nd April 2011, the Indian cricket team won the World Cup. It is the second win for India coming after a long gap of 28 years. The first win happened in England in 1983 during the captaincy of Kapil Dev. Although I was living in England at the time, I was blissfully unaware of it being only a year old!  This time however, I was there to savor every moment of it along with a group of friends. When the victory came, it was truly an unforgettable moment of national pride and joy. From the outset, the Indian team were always the favorites to win especially considering India was one of the host countries. It wasn't exactly smooth sailing though, there were a few hiccups in the match against England followed by a major disappointment in the match against South Africa. But defeating the defending champions Australia and bitter rivals Pakistan restored the team's morale and boosted their confidence to greater heights. By the time the final was around the corner, there were unanimous predictions that India would win the World Cup this time round. I was not too sure as I knew better than to underestimate the very talented and capable Sri Lankan team who were the opposition in the finals. It was a nail biting finale full of of heart stopping moments but in the end, the men in blue led by captain Dhoni prevailed by playing an excellent game under pressure. Gautam Gambhir, MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh were the stars of the day having won over a billion hearts with their stellar performance. The 'Man of the Series', Yuvraj in particular must have felt vindicated after constantly having had people cast aspersions on his ability as well as his passion for the game. He redeemed himself and how! It was heart warming to see the young players carry Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest batsman and cricketing legend of all time on their shoulders during the victory lap. It was the deepest desire of not only Sachin but every single Indian that India should win the World Cup before he retires from the game. Having played in six world cups spanning over two decades, cricket owed it to him!

The strange thing about cricket is that it brings out both the good and bad in people. The good is when people of all ages, races, religions and social standing come together to celebrate victory, when patriotism shines through and when people open their hearts to share their happiness and joy. The bad is often exclusively associated with defeat and is manifested by judgmental behavior, providing endless excuses and justifications thereby discrediting the talent/hard work of other teams and being a sore loser in general. It is a good thing to root for your team and wish that they do well but harboring ill-feelings and resentment towards other teams for no apparent reason just reflects bad attitude. People shouldn't get carried away and unnecessarily attach untoward connotations to what is basically just a game. We all need to appreciate the effort that everyone has put in and take things in the right spirit. After all, that's how life win some, you lose some! Having said that, I also believe that a true sportsman not only knows how to accept defeat gracefully but is also a gracious winner. Acknowledging the opposition, being humble and sharing healthy rivalry with other teams are traits that we would like to see in a champion.  

As I sign off, I'm uploading this video that will give u a fleeting glimpse of the hysteria that surrounds India and cricket!  

With that, I'd like to congratulate team India on a magnificent achievement. I hope there will be many more such victories to come in the future! Jai ho! 

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