Time has an interesting way to make us understand things in perspective. Two weeks ago, in our room in Salzburg, I saw India beat Pakistan. It was a great start to the tournament. Working in the sports industry and more so with cricket, one thing I have learned is to live the moment and just savior it. You know the age-old adage, this too shall pass.
Fast forward, two weeks later, the same two teams met and this time it was the finals. India were firm favourites and even the opposition knew it, and most of their countrymen on the media were marginally optimistic if not certain.
The finals happened to be among the best two teams in the tournament, sorry England, you were good, but I am sure you are on right track to winning your first ODI World Cup, which will take place on your home turf in 2019.
Before the day of the finals, I was asked what I felt about tomorrow’s match. To me, the memories of 1996 World Cup semi-finals and the 2003 World Cup finals came to my mind instantly. Don’t ask me why?
I had said, “India should stick to their strategy of batting first and score runs. In any case, the opposition would have done the same thing. I fear if they might opt to field first since Pakistan had chased down targets at ease in the lead-up to the finals.”
Hindsight is a great teacher and minutes into the game, one got a feeling, it will be a tough task for India. And the next few hours runs piled on and wickets came now and then. The Pakistan score should have been much higher if not for some inspired bowling by India in the final five overs.
Indians would have had to bat close to 50 overs to have a chance. It didn’t matter what the score was for the first ten overs. If you are in the game with wickets in hand, anything is possible. I believe that is today’s mantra in limited overs cricket.
A group of friends had gathered in a Zurich pub which is known to show cricket matches whenever it on live. The place was filled with Indian fans, optimistic at the start of the second innings. After all, we have seen the same team chase down targets at will in the past.
Though professionals, cricket is a game that is played by humans. In cricket, like any sport, there is always room for the opposition to play better than you. And, so it happened. Rohit Sharma got out, Kohli got a life and seconds later he perished. Then Dhawan, Yuvraj, Dhoni, and Jadhav. It was inspired bowling performance than poor batting.
There were no tears of 1996 nor the irritation of 2003. It didn’t matter how the opposition was, for I saw the Indian team overshadowed by a better prepared Pakistan team.
And, then I heard arguments like, India played poorly. Two weeks ago, Pakistan’s performance resembled India’s defeat in the finals. Wish there were trophies awarded for every match, would that have settled the argument?
It was heartening to see Kohli giving credit to the better team – it felt like you are having one of those bad days in life and it boils down to owning it up or blaming it on someone else. I am glad, the Indian captain chose the ‘right’ words on the occasion.
One of the ways to understand the meaning of ‘sport’ is to look beyond the team we support. Try working in the sports industry, live through the struggles, the pain, the agony and the successes that come with it. I promise you will cease to be a mere fan, in fact, I am still struggling to identify the right word for what I have become.
After the match, the cricket discussion spread to other fans who had come to watch the finals. Disappointed, yes, we all were. But we all agreed on one thing – the better team surely won, and it wasn’t our Indian team.
It took me a week to get over the shock of India’s 1996 loss, a couple of days after the 2003 defeat and yesterday, the disappointment was for mere moments.
The result didn’t cloud my judgment to appreciate the sport I love very much nor ignore to give credit where it was due. In fact, it gave me the clarity as to why I chose ‘sports’.