21 Nov 2023  |   04:54am IST

Respect the game, don’t banish our heroes

When a team succeeds, supporting the team is no big deal. Everyone wants to ride the success crest of others. To be with the team when the chips are down is actually displaying the spirit of oneness and greatness.
Respect the game, don’t banish our heroes

Robin Roy

Que Sera Sera… whatever will be… will be. The best team on the particular day won. That doesn’t mean we roast and troll our guys left, right and centre.

Please resist doing that. Rohit Sharma and Team India have done exceedingly well to reach the final of the ICC World Cup final, 2023.

Why I am insisting on being with our heroes is because we have seen some traumatic scenes in the past when fan fanaticism has not even spared the family members and minor children of these players and have, in a flash, called them names and labelled them as traitors whenever they slipped.

Players are humans and are emotional too and after all this team, or for that matter every team that reaches a summit, is good enough notwithstanding the fact that in this current team we have a bunch of world class players.

Sadly, our frenzy has no limits. And shamefully people who call themselves fans have displayed pathetic antics.

In 2003, when Team India led by Sourav Ganguly lost the first league match against Australia in the then ICC World Cup, there was a pan India backlash and the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had to step in to request restraint. The ruffled team, thankfully gathered itself and went on to win the next eight matches before they were crushed by the mighty Aussies by a margin of 125 runs in the final.

In 2021, Mohammed Shami was at the receiving end of a deluge of online hate after India lost to Pakistan during the Twenty20 World Cup.

The hatred against Shami got so bad that former captain Virat Kohli and other sporting legends had to step in to defend the ace bowler.

It is sad moreso… because those who mainly troll or roast know little or perhaps nothing about cricket. If they had some sense, they would have known about Shami’s bowling prowess.

“Attacking someone over religion is the most pathetic thing a human being can do,” Kohli told reporters at the time, in a news conference that made headlines across the country. “We stand by Shami completely.”

Cut to 2023, a huge number of netizens took to social media route after Shami’s performance in this edition of the ICC World Cup to point out the irony that a man once singled out for hateful comments has led the country to the final. What an irony!

Indian cricket fans (not in general) can, at times, be an erratic bunch. Their kabhi naram and kabhi garam attitude has many times affected even the greatest of greats such as Dhoni.

Whenever India would win a match and MS Dhoni, the world’s best finisher struck the winning runs he was likened to God and whenever India lost, the spectators and the moral guardians of the game used to crash on him harshly asking whether he should retire or was he losing his Midas touch.

When a team succeeds, supporting the team is no big deal. Everyone wants to ride the success crest of others. To be with the team when the chips are down is actually displaying the spirit of oneness and greatness.

And this trend of supporting the team in defeat was excellently displayed by the Bollywood bandwagon on Sunday.

After an incredible winning spree at the ICC World Cup 2023, Team India lost the final against Australia, as the mighty Aussies chased 240 in 43 overs at Narendra Modi stadium, leaving billions heartbroken. Indians were bleeding blue.

Among those who backed our heroes were Anushka Sharma, Kareena Kapoor, Vicky Kaushal, Kajol and Ajay Devgan and many more.

Kajol shared a picture of Team India from the National Anthem ceremony on her Instagram stories and wrote, “Haarkar jeetne waale ko baazigar kehte hai. Well played Team India. Congratulations Australia on another World Cup. #WorldCupFinal”

Kareena Kapoor Khan shared the picture of Team India along with a short note. She wrote on Instagram, “Only love and respect. Team India tuff battle but well played.” While Vicky wrote, “Still the best team out there. The skill and the character, grit and grace shown by Team India in this CWC has been phenomenal. Forever proud of you guys!”

Ajay Devgan shared a picture of Team India as well and posted a note cheering their efforts. He wrote, “India your relentless spirit throughout the championship was a victory in itself. Heads high.”

India has been playing against Australia in World Cup matches since 1983 and so far both the teams have clashed in 13 matches.

India’s dream run-up to the final: Both the (cricket) giants currently occupy the top two spots in the ODI rankings. India defeated Australia by six wickets in Chennai in their first game of this edition and stretched their winning spree to 10 victories in a row before they were crushed in the final.

Australia, on the other hand, had lost two opening games in this edition but went on to win nine consecutive matches (including the final) to display their prowess and finally came from behind to lift the trophy.

It may be recalled that in the 2003 edition of the World Cup, India had first lost to Australia by nine wickets and then went on to win eight consecutive matches… but lost the final against Australia massively by a margin of 125 runs!

India and Australia first clashed in the Prudential World Cup way back in the 1983 edition where Kapil Dev’s side suffered a massive 162-run defeat. However, ‘Kapil’s Devils’ took revenge with a 118-run win in their last group-stage match of the tournament. Since then, both teams have faced each other 14 times in ODI World Cup history (till Sunday night) with Australia dominating the head-to-head record by 9 wins and 5 defeats!

Since 1983, India has reached the final four times in 1983, 2003, 2011 and 2023. Till date India has bagged the coveted trophy twice in 1983 and 2011. And both in 2003 and 2023 India was defeated handsomely by the Aussies.

Australia reached the final in 1975, 1987, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2015 and 2023 and won the trophy six times in 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2015 and 2023.

It is time we grew up as mature fans and got rid of this hate-mongering and realised that the players themselves are under so much pressure to perform. We should instead use our energies positively and not utilise the same to mincemeat those who often make us proud.

(The writer is a senior journalist and former Senior Associate Editor, O Heraldo, Goa)


Idhar Udhar