THE nation’s heartbreak was obvious when the Indian team could not rise to its own standard that it demonstrated during the first ten games in the ICC 2023 Cricket World Cup -- so much so that countless lakhs of people wondered if it was the very same team that played splendid cricket earlier in the tournament. It did demonstrate flashes of brilliance, all right. Yet, those were not good enough to win the final match with the evidently superior Australian team.
Undoubtedly, the final match belonged to the Australians. They excelled in all departments of the game, as the term goes, and made the Indians look like lame and tame shadows of their original selves. But the final encounter on which hinged the nation’s dreams of cricketing excellence was nearly a one-sided affair, if we may say so most reluctantly. The Australians were in command and kept the grip on the game throughout.
There is no need at all to be uncharitable to the Indian team and players. It must be said that on paper, both teams were equally well-balanced. Yet, as the match evolved, it became obvious that the Australian team played to its own plan ... and the Indian team also seemed to play to the Australian plan, not to its own plan. As per that plan, the Australians gave the Indians the chance to bat first, and restricted the innings to just 240.
Then they left the Indian bowlers with a terribly limited choice to defend the total.
That was a smart way to deal with rivals as good as the Indians. Right from the word ‘go’, the Australians knew how to conduct the match. They, too, faced some anxious moments, all right, but soon overcame those and established a clear control over the proceedings -- only to win a well-deserved sixth World Cup.
The disappointing outcome of the final match has left in its wake several issues that the nation’s cricketing community will have to deal with -- like the strange disconnect (or lack of intra-team coordination out in the middle) among the Indian players when the match entered crucial phase, like the strange collapse of the middle-order batting, like the strange slowness with which K.L. Rahul batted to notch up 66 runs, like the strange lapses in fielding by Indians (which gave the rivals at least 25 runs that could have been otherwise saved) ...!
It was well-said during the early stages of the tournament that if India could not win this time, it might have to wait for another 12 years to get the next chance. Those fears unfortunately came true. Now begins the long wait before India restores its pride and makes another dash for the glory in the next edition of the World Cup. But then, the team will have to contend with the reality of the exit of a few players thanks to their advancing ages.
Of course, there is no dearth of cricketing talent in India.
But the final match proved that the Indian talent lost and the Australian teamwork plus talent won the show. And the Australians deserve every bit of that. By any and every standard, they are a very good team and had the grit and gumption to dare the Indians who truly are a good team -- that did not deliver on time.
We agree with Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi that the whole nation stands by the Indian team. That is how the large Indian family is like -- together in all situations. Yet, there is a lot of answering of questions and tackling of issues to be done about how things went wrong in the final match at the majestic Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. For, upon the answers to those questions and issues will depend the future success of the Indian cricket. But as that process happens, we say to our cricket darlings Cheers! We love you!