India The Worthy World Champions
India stamped its authority on World Cup Cricket with a convincing display of its batting might which propelled it to win the prestigious event with convincing victories over former champions, West Indies, Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka on its way to glory.
Sachin Tendulkar, described the win as “the proudest moment of my life.” While for his teammates, it was dream come true. India’s defeat against South Africa and tied match with England had created serious doubts about their ability to cope with the home pressure but at the end the Indians showcased their wares in a majestic setting of the Wankhede Stadium to crown themselves kings of cricket. Apart from their strong batting it was their bowling and fielding that came to the fore in the knockout stages. Most of the Indians wanted this World Cup title for Sachin Tendulkar. “Tendulkar has carried the burden of nation for 21 years,” said Virat Kohli adding, “It was time we carried him.”
The team mates, carried Tendulkar on a victory lap around Stadium as the crowd went delirious. Though the master blaster could not get the full fairy-tale ending as he failed to get his 100th in all international cricket in the final.
“The way they played they deserved the title of favorites,” said Sri Lanka’s captain, Kumar Sangakkara. “Congratulations to India you were the better side.” For the Islanders this was second time unlucky as they had lost to Australia in the final of 2007 edition of the Cup in West Indies. But on the flip side it was a great achievement for that war-ravaged country to have been in the final of this event twice in a row.
The defeat was tough on the Lions as their champion bowler, Muttiah Muralitharan, playing in his last international match, failed to get a single wicket. However unlike Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi, who spew venom against India after his return to Karachi, Sangakkara was gracious in defeat saying, “Both Sri Lanka and India can be very proud.”
Sri Lanka is no doubt is the force to reckon with in the International Cricket but with Murali’s retirement and the main batsmen in their 30s, they will have to rebuild the team. However paceman Lasith Malinga and Angelo Mathews, opener Upul Tharanga and young spinner Ajantha Mendis will ensure stability in the team.
India became the first host nation to win the title, though in 1996 Sri Lanka being a co-host had won the cup at Lahore. And also became the first team to chase a huge target of 275 in the final. Billion words have been written on this victory and the match has been dissected too brutally that there is nothing left to write about it.
But some cricket watchers see the victory from other perspective, as New York Times wrote: “The triumph over Sri Lanka in Mumbai was very different from India’s previous victory in 1983. That was a bolt out of the blue, when India killed the giant that was the West Indies team, one that was among the greatest in the game’s history.
This, by contrast, caps off India’s climb to the top of cricket’s geopolitics. India has for some time been the game’s economic powerhouse. Now it sits atop the sport as the top-ranked team in five-day tests and as the holder of the Cup, which is played under the one-day format. It was a triumph richly deserved.”
This was not just India’s World Cup, but Asia’s. The continent did not just play host to the tournament, it dominated it, the paper wrote. Cricket may be, as the sociologist Ashis Nandy wrote in 1983, “an Indian game accidentally discovered by the English,” but India took a long time to take control of it. It played its first international match in 1932, but its all-time record in five-day test matches remains well below 500 and its all-time one-day record are not far above that.
Along With Victory In Cricket, A New Confidence Builds Up In Resurgent India
By Jully Acharya from Mumbai
As the Indian cricket team geared up to face the seasoned and confident Sri Lankan team at Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium on Saturday, a nervous and not-so-confident Mumbai sought divine intervention to enable India win this tournament at any cost.
Mumbai had already avenged the 26/11 terrorist attack at Pakistan’s humiliating defeat at Mohali, a few days ago. But it was waiting with bated breaths to see the Men in Blue at the top of the world again after a long gap of 28 years when India had last won the Cup in 1983. For this victory was inevitable. And the ICC World Cup final was turned into the battle between mythological Ram and Ravan, the former being the righteous India 11 and the latter the all-powerful and irrepressible Sri Lanka 11, ‘the demon’.
And this time Ram came from Jharkhand in the form of MS Dhoni to overpower, disarm and defeat Ravan who looked more powerful and resourced to win this battle. Dhoni in fact at a post-match press conference admitted that he was under tremendous pressure to win the Cup and for that he took utmost risk which ultimately paid off. No doubt all cricket lovers across the country and even abroad celebrated wherever they were, but Mumbai being the epicentre of the cricketing action, felt the maximum impact and literally partied hard to celebrate the victory. The country also discovered a different Sonia Gandhi who came out in the open to rejoice India’s victory over Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Cricket may be symbolic but the victories meant much more to keep the nation’s moral high amid trying times. Lakhs of revellers thronged Marine Drive, the Western and Eastern Express High Ways on their SUVs, cars and bikes along with the Indian tricolour amidst cries of joy to mark the occasion, who knows when the next time it would come.
Mumbai consumed 6,00,000 liters of alcoholic drinks that night to party all night even as our cricketing heroes partied till 7 in the morning. By the time country woke up, a new Dhoni was born. He had completely shaved off his head may be for thanks giving to God or (in lighter vein) towards penance for having killed Ravan the demon king of Lanka.
The third subcontinent team Pakistan put up a very good showing to restore credibility in the wake of the latest damaging match-fixing scandal. They belied all expectations by making it to the semis, on the way beating Sri Lanka and ending Australia’s long World Cup unbeaten run.
With a young and promising batting line up and a impressive bowling attack, Pakistan showed that they don’t need the fixers to be competitive in future. Bangladesh, the third co-host of the cup, disappointed. They started poorly, but survived because of the format, created bit of upset by beating England. They were thrashed by India in the opener and their capitulation for 58 against West Indies, sparking riotous scenes amongst their fans, was a low point of the tournament.
About India’s resurgence New York Times summed it well: “In spite of its massive population, for many years it suffered from a lack of effective pace bowling and a failure to develop talent outside the big cities. Tendulkar the teenage prodigy who not only exceeds expectation but plays on into middle age and handles ridiculous celebrity with ego-free equanimity has been the face of India’s transformation, but its truer symbols may well be the admirable left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan and the small-town boy Virender Sehwag. The rise of the one-day game after 1983 produced players who added aggression to the traditional technical strengths of Indian cricket, and in recent years coach Gary Kirsten, who now returns to South Africa, brought focus and consistency to the team.”
Tendulkar said of the coaches, “They worked on the mental side to deal with the expectations, and that really helped.” He added that self-belief had always been there, “but in the last year we have been consistent as well”. Australia, the four time champion, was another big let down.
After 34 games unbeaten in World Cup play stretching back to 1999, it took just two matches for Australia’s domination to crash. They were run over by Pakistan and India, forcing Ricky Ponting to quit as captain. These are uncertain times for the former champions.
TENDULKAR, GAMBHIR, TEAM INDIA RISE
World Cup winners Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir have moved up the ICC rankings, with India’s opener rising one place to ninth while Gambhir’s hard-fought 97 runs against Sri Lanka in the final has seen the 29-year-old rise four places to occupy 10th. South Africa’s duo of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers continue to occupy the top two positions. India have also closed the gap between itself and current ICC ODI championship table-toppers Australia. The world champions are now just seven points behind Australia, albeit Australia have the chance to increase its lead of over the 2011 champions as it has a three-match series against Bangladesh starting next week.
Runners-up Sri Lanka remain at third place but with an increase in ratings points of two, taking Kumar Sangakara’s side to 118 points, while South Africa is at fourth slot. Sri Lanka’s Tillekeratne Dilshan has risen to his career best ranking to date. The 34-year-old all-rounder is occupying third position on the rankings after scoring the most runs—550—in the World Cup. Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakara still occupies fourth place while Yuvraj Singh, the Player of the Tournament, remains in joint 17th place with Australian captain Ricky Ponting, the latter having risen six places.
Other batsmen moving up the ladder include England’s Jonathan Trott in fifth (up by four places), South Africa’s Jacques Kallis in 12th (up by three places), Ross Taylor in 19th (up by one place), Upul Tharanga in 26 (up three places), Mahela Jayawardena in 28th (up by three places), India’s Suresh Raina in 31st place (up by four places), Misbah-ul-Haq in 36th place (up by three places) and Jesse Ryder in 42nd (up by 13 places).
Among the bowlers, Sri Lanka’s Anjantha Mendis has risen to eighth place, a position he last occupied in 2009. Shahid Afridi has climbed five places to now sit in ninth, while Harbhajan Singh has risen two places to now sit 18th on the list. Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal has moved up to 20th place. Yuvraj has climbed 13 places to sit 40th and his team mate Ashish Nehra occupies 48th after a rise of 10 place. Sri Lanka’s Nuwan Kulasekara has slipped five places to now sit 10th while Australia’s Mitchell Johnson has also dropped down the rankings to now sit 13th alongside England’s Stuart Broad.
In the all-rounders rankings, South Africa’s Jacques Kallis has dropped to fifth position while Yuvraj has moved up to fourth place. Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan leads the field with Shane Watson of Australia in second, Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi in third. ICC ODI championship team rankings with points (as of April 4 at the conclusion of the World Cup 2011)
1 Australia (128)
2 India (121)
3 Sri Lanka (118)
4 South Africa (116)
5 England (105)
6 Pakistan (103)
7 New Zealand (94)
8 West Indies (68)
9 Bangladesh (68)
10 Ireland (42)
11 Zimbabwe (37)
12 Netherlands (13)
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD CUP
A pre-tournament favourite, India, after surviving some initial hiccups expectedly won the Cricket World Cup, but what was not expected was the mass hysteria generated by the media (both print and visual) after the hosts set up a semifinal clash with Pakistan and title summit with Sri Lanka.
The build-up to the semifinal was nothing but outright xenophobia, Kargil was revisited, people were reminded of the matches India has won against Pakistan, also players were told that winning the World Cup was part of the unfinished agenda.
And after the title win, all hell broke loose, It was like another but much bigger Diwali and the normally reticent Congress president Sonia Gandhi could not resist to play to galleries. Out of nowhere she appeared near ITO to celebrate the Indian win and her spin doctors described it as a spontaneous show of emotions by the leader of the masses. The media became the torch, bearer of these celebrations with newspapers carrying screaming headlines—We are masters of the world, World Beaters, Champions, World under our feet etc.
Here it will not be out of place to mention that though the world comprises of around 200 countries, cricket is played in only eight countries, and its massive popularity is confined to one of the most poor region of the globe—South Asia.
A cursory glance at the world press showed that over 70 per cent had no clue about this earth-shattering event, and those who published it did it so because of India-Pak- Bangladesh-Sri Lankan readership.
The talk about this cup having generated a huge worldwide TV viewership is bit misleading, because given the massive interest in the game in the subcontinent, the total number of people watching these matches in these four countries—India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka—on TV can be mind-boggling. But South Asia is not the world.
It is not to belittle the glory our cricketers brought to the nation. it was after 28 long years that India won any big world title in team event. It united the whole country and ignited the feeling of nationalism and patriotism. It was heartening to see the celebrations become a national festivities cutting across, the religious or regional bias.
However media’s role left much to be desired. Off the field, it tended to gloss over people’s concern which came in direct conflict with the World Cup. A classic case of miss-reporting took place couple of days before the semifinal clash at Mohali.
A demonstration by unemployed pharmacy students was lathi-charged by the police but the photographs published in the local media next day and some TV channels described it as these people were trying to get the tickets for the match and police was trying to disperse them.
Also after the win, the mad scramble by the state governments to announce awards to already superrich cricketers defy logic. Punjab government which talks of financial crisis in the state had no qualms about awarding Rs one crore each for Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh.
Delhi government has announced Rs six crore for five players—Dhoni (two crore), Sehgwag, Gambhir, Nehra, Kohli (one each). Karnataka has announced a plot each for the players this is besides the prize money and bonus announced by the BCCI which will fetch the players Rs two crore each.
Who has authorised these governments to splurge this tax payers money and on top of it Union Government waived off Rs 45 crore tax which ICC was to pay for the event which generated over 300 crore profit for it. And the government wants ordinary people to pay tax regularly and honestly. The other negative side of the cup was the massive bungling in the tickets sale. Following the uproar the ICC has been forced to institute a full investigation into the allegations of black marketing of tickets. ICC executive board took note of the allegations. “We do not condone such behaviour. We will investigate and if any action is needed, it will be done.”
According to reports, tickets for semifinal at Mohali and final at Mumbai were sold at almost 20 times their original price. It was indeed surprising to see that social climbers, film stars, politicians, business tycoons having easy access to tickets while the aam aadmi was getting thrashed outside the stadia.
Surprisingly, the semifinals and final were played in very small stadiums having capacity of just 30,000. While the iconic Eden Garden in Kolkata was lying idle. The BCCI might have some score to settle with Jagmohan Dalmiya but this prestigious event deserved better final ending. The internal bickering of the BCCI took its toll, otherwise over one lakh people would have watched and given ovation to the team (if final had been at the Eden Garden).
As all this was not enough, another controversy erupted two days after the final, was the trophy (cup) presented to India was real or fake? Some papers and TV channels went to town saying India has been insulted because a fake trophy was presented to the victorious team. Some organised effigy burning events attended by small crowds shown chanting slogans protesting the insult heaped by the ICC on the beloved country.
Finally the ICC stepped in assuring the nation that it has not been insulted and the trophy given to Dhoni and his men was genuine. It came out with a crisp but curious statement:
Contrary to some erroneous and mischievous media reports, the ICC can confirm that the trophy presented to India at Wankhede Stadium on Saturday was the original ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 trophy and the one that was always intended to be presented to the winner of the event.
There is no question that this was a replica. The trophy presented to India indeed carries the specific event logo of ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 and has always been the cup that the 14 teams were playing for.
The trophy seized by Mumbai customs is the promotional, perpetual trophy which remains in the keeping of ICC at its headquarters in Dubai. It carries the generic ICC corporate logo rather than the logo specific to the 2011 event. That trophy will be reclaimed today and will travel back to Dubai with ICC staff as was always intended.
The funniest part of this whole bizarre drama was that BCCI was not prepared to give Rs 22 lakh (refundable) to clear the trophy from the customs. The same BCCI paid Rs one crore to each player and the same government waived off Rs 45 crores tax on this event.
IT IS ‘GRAND’ PARTY
It is quite some time for monsoon to hit India, but, it seems, it has come prematurely, at least for the members of the Indian team that won Cricket World Cup 2011, as it’s raining crores for them. In fact, in this ‘heavy rain’ all the cricket players, their coach and other support staff are immersed with cash, prizes, gifts and what not. Don’t believe? Then have a glance:
■ Two crore for MS Dhoni and 1 crore each for four Delhi players–Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Ashish Nehra, announced Delhi CM.
■ Coach Gary Kristen and other support staff will get 50 lakh each, while selectors will be given 25 lakh each.
■ Punjab Deputy CM Sukhbir Sindh Badal said Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh will be given a cash award of 1 crore.
■ Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chauhan announced award of 1crore each for Sachin and Zaheer.
■ Victorious players to get a residential plot each from Banglore Development Authority.
■ A residential plot or a house in Mussoorie for Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar, who has been a regular visitor, announced Uttarakhand CM and added that a stadium would be built and named after Dhoni.
■ Gujarat’s highest sports honour Eklavya Award for Yusuf Pathan and Munaf Patel. The award carries 1 lakh and citation.
■ Jharkhand Government said it would give a plot of land to Dhoni to set up a cricket academy.
■ Haryana will honour Sehwag and Nehra with the States’s Best Sportsperson of the Year award.
■ Uttar Pradesh Government will falicitate Suresh Raina and Piyush Chawla with Kashiram Internation Sports award.
■ Railway Ministry to give first AC complimentary life time passes to all players.
■ Audi to award The Man of the Series Yuvraj Singh a car.
■ Hyundai Motors, the official car partner of the tournament, will present a car to each of the team members while Air India has decided to promote Dhoni, Yuvraj, Harbhajan and Suresh Raina who are its employees.
■ Kingfisher Airlines has offered life time free travel to 15 Indian cricketers, their spouses and minor children. They will be allowed to travel Kingfisher First class throughout the airline’s domestic and international network. Kingfisher’s owner Vijay Mallya is an ardent cricket lover and he is believed to have granted this special concession as a mark of respect for the Indian team.
■ More such offers and prizes must be on their way as the cricketing heroes having dedicated the trophy to living legend Sachin Tendulkar, have returned home after 45 days of their tryst with destiny. This time armed with more reputation and personal wealth.
TENDULKAR SHOWERS PRAISE ON DHONI
While this wrangling (regarding the cup) was going on, Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar lavished praised on his captain MS Dhoni. This praise is significant because Sachin himself is a former India captain and many years senior to Dhoni. Sachin said Dhoni was the best captain he had played under during his 22-year cricket career.
“He [Dhoni] is the best captain I have played under,” Tendulkar said in Mumbai. “He is very sharp and always alert. He reads the situation well and is open to sharing ideas. He always has discussions with bowlers, batsmen and senior players separately.”
Tendulkar, who has played under six captains, including Mohammad Azharuddin, Saurav Ganguly and Anil Kumble, hailed Mahi’s ability to maintain his composure. “He is always calm and never shows his frustration. These are some of the human qualities which have made him such a good captain. He is a fantastic captain.”
About the team’s performance Tendulkar said that India had “peaked” when it mattered the most. “In the knockout stage we peaked at the right time; it was most important. We knew either the batting was clicking, or bowling, or fielding but everything was not clicking together, but [apart from] in the last three games. Everybody contributed, right from seniors to the juniors in the team. No one can guarantee results but efforts can be [guaranteed].”
After India’s victory in the final, Dhoni had said the team had felt the pressure of expectations right through the tournament. Tendulkar said the key to handling that pressure lay in focussing on individual performances. “Pressure and expectation are always there, we were thinking that as individuals we should perform our best. We were not thinking that if a bowler fails, others will take wickets like that; we wanted to do our individual best and perform as a team.
“The responsibility is on all the team members equally. Like me, it was the dream of all the team members to get this World Cup.” Tendulkar said that while lifting the trophy was on the players’ minds, the focus was on restricting Sri Lanka to a gettable target and “go through the process and finish the game”. He said the pre-World Cup preparatory camp the team had in Bengaluru also played a key role in the team’s preparation. Tendulkar paid tribute to the efforts of outgoing coach Gary Kirsten, saying that while he would like Kirsten to continue, he respected his decision to leave, and that the team would “miss” him.
Normally one will not expect cricketers from the subcontinent to speak about the nature of political relations between the countries but skipper Shahid Afridi committed the ‘unpardonable’ sin asking his people not to hate India that too after the defeat. Expectedly he had to eat the humble pie.
Those who hailed that Shahid Afridi’s jumped the gun in sheer excitement should have waited for few days before celebrating because the captain made a dramatic u-turn in less than 48 hours leaving those peaceniks red faced.
It was not Afridi’s fault.What he spoke in Mohali after losing the World Cup semifinal was a outpouring of a genuine sportspersons. After his arrival in Karachi he made another touching speech asking his compatriot to eschew hatred, that earned him plaudits from section of liberal society but he was treading on a dangerous path and was made to fall in line. Then later, realising the angry Indian reaction, he said that he was quoted out of context.
His interview to a TV channel in which he spewed venom against India, showcases fragility of relations between the two countries. Here is what Afridi said in Mohali, later in Karachi and then on TV channel after losing the match: Pakistan skipper was gracious and magnanimous in defeat. He offered few excuses for his team’s defeat in the World Cup semifinal and said: “India deserved to win.” Afridi was candid in his views: “First, I want to congratulate Indian cricket team and the whole nation. They deserved to win.” and then admitted: “We made some big mistakes, in fielding, we dropped some crucial catches. You don’t drop Sachin four times as we did but he still could not make his hundred. Indians played well, really bowled well and deserved to win.” He defended his team saying he was proud of his players. “ I think I am proud of my team, the boys have done a great job in this World Cup. A few of the youngsters are very promising youngsters, we played as a unit. Winning and losing are something different but we played really good cricket and no one was expecting us to play cricket like this. But I’m very happy as a captain.”
Afridi said that though his team lost in the semifinals, he is going back home with some positives. He said: “We played as a unit. The youngsters really performed well, good to see Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, they played good. I hope they will do well in future, so that is positives.”
Afridi said: “India bowled very well, they bowled in good areas. 260 in 2nd innings wasn’t difficult but there is pressure in the chase and where wickets fall back to back there is more pressure there and bowler gets stronger.”
AFRIDI IN KARACHI
Afridi surprised everybody and rattled the establishment when on his arrival Karachi he made an emotional appeal to people of Pakistan to stop hating India, Indian crickets and people in all walks of life.
Afridi, an ethnic Pashtun living in Karachi, said that all Pakistanis watch Indian movies, television serials, music and follow their culture, so it is hypocritical of them to spread hate against Indians and Indian culture.
This was perhaps the boldest statement made by any well-known Pakistani personality that too in his own country in recent years and it was good to last-long the skipper had spoken the truth but that hit the soft belly of the establishment and the poor Pashtun was made to eat his own words as is evident from the interview he gave to a TV channel which was full of venom and hatred.
As the liberals in both the countries were savouring, Afridi’s bold statements came as the bombshells when they heard the same captain talking nothing but hatred against India in a TV interview, in which he started by saying that Indians are not as large-hearted as Pakistanis.
Afridi lashed out at the Indian media for its “very negative approach” and said the Pakistani media was a “hundred times better” than its Indian counterpart. “In my opinion, if I have to tell the truth, they (Indians) will never have hearts like Muslims and Pakistanis. I don’t think they have the large and clean hearts that Allah has given us,” Afridi said during a talk show on Samaa news channel when he was asked about relations between the two countries.
“It is a very difficult thing for us to live with them (Indians) or to have long-term relationship with them. Nothing will come out of talks. See how many times in the past 60 years we have had friendship and then how many times things have gone bad,” he said as the audience in the TV channel’s studio applauded him repeatedly.
“We don’t want to fight with each other but a third country—everyone knows which one it is—is trying to spoil our relations. This country is taking advantage of Pakistan and wants to take advantage of India. I don’t want to go into details but these people will not let us come together,” he added.
Asked about the Indian media’s coverage of the Pakistani team during the semifinal with India at Mohali on March 30, Afridi replied: “The Indian media has a very negative approach and very negative thoughts. The people may not be like that but I think the media had a very dirty role in spoiling relations between us and India.”
“Our media, which is criticised by people, is hundred times better than theirs,” he said. Afridi also hit out at Interior Minister Rehman Malik for warning the Pakistani team not to get involved in match-fixing and Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir, who vowed to dedicate victory in the World Cup final to victims of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
“I think they were both very stupid comments by Rehman Malik and Gautam Gambhir… I wasn’t expecting this from Gautam… This is all politics, what do you know about who carried out the Bombay attacks?” he said.
The Mumbai attacks, which left 166 people dead, were carried out by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. I think Afridi was forced to say what he said on TV but his dilemma shows the fragility of the relationship between the two countries.
AFRIDI CLARIFIES STAND ON INDIA COMMENT
However, the next day, Shahid Afridi again took a U-turn saying that he has been quoted out of context by the media which “sensationalises small issues.”
“All I said is that Pakistan had shown a large heart when India went there and so India should also show the same,” said Afridi in an interview to NDTV. He said it is a shame that things were blown out of proportion.
“I enjoyed my cricket in India always and most. Cricketers in India are valued more than in Pakistan. For me all are same. I never see Hindu or Muslim or religion,” he said, adding that he would want to listen once again what he said.
“I got a lot of love from India,” he said. “Media should play a positive role and not make big issue out of these small things. We are like brothers,” Afridi said, adding that he did not say anything under pressure.
He said they were not treated well by Indian media anyway when they came and it was not good for friendly relations.
“I think cricketers and actors of Bollywood can bring the two people together. It is not a big deal,” he said.
GAME OR WAR?
By Kulsum Mustafa
Born in independent India, educated in a convent school, secularism has been a part of my very existence since childhood. The inherited values are not so fragile as to be shaken up by a cricket match between India and Pakistan. Like all true patriotic Indian Muslims, my family rejoiced as the Boys in Blue thrashed hard the Boys in Green from across the border in the semifinals of 2011 Word Cup played in Mohali on March 30. The match was being played between my country and Pakistan, it was definitely not India versus Islam. The Indian Muslim therefore had no difficulty in identifying their sides.
Though a novice about cricket I watched the game ball-by-ball praying hard that India wins. As pressure built up both on and off the field my 17-year-old cricket player son Abbas just tried to calm us all down: “Remember mom this is just a game not war.” His words made a sense and were the sentiments of the majority of Indian Muslims.
But it hurts me that even 65 years after the two nations have severed ties. Indian Muslims’ loyalty is looked at with jaundiced eyes. They have to prove their loyalty everytime the word Pakistan comes up. It is unfair and is high time it stopped. After all neither the present generation of India or Pakistan had been there at the time of Partition. Therefore they cannot have either hate or love for each other’s country—just mutual respect.
Muslims of India are an integral part of India and neither they nor India can do without each other. The great contribution of bowlers Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel as of Sachin Tedulkar and Virendra Sehwag, who played a big role in India’s victory cannot be ignored and the saffron brigade which keeps spewing venom must undersatnd this for once and for all. We are in it together otherwise we sink.
Cricket diplomacy is a sure and steady way of heralding in truce. Both India and Pakistan governments must be congratulated for their efforts to bring together the two countries and their people. Watching the two Prime Ministers sitting together watching their nations battling it out at Mohali was a sight that was soothing to people from both the sides.
It made every Indian’s eyes moist at the thought of the joy of Indian prisoners locked up in Pakistani jails at India’s victory. As a goodwill gesture by Pakistani prison authorities prisoners in Maliu jail were provided a television set to watch the semifinals of World Cup. They were given Indian national colours to wear and cheer their country. One can from hundreds of miles away almost feel the hearts of these prisoners missing a beat everytime India missed a catch, or their sigh of relief when the Pakistani mis-fielded leading to hopes of India’s triumph.
Patriotism is born with a person or so it seemed when ace tennis player, Sania Mirza, told reporters before the match, “All my prayers are with the Indian team. Go India Go. Chak de India. We are the best.” She recently married to a Pakistani cricketer Shoab Mallik.
But Pakistani singer Adnan Sami who stays and sings in India made a reaction was more diplomatic. He said he “adored” Sachin and “admired Shoaib Akhtar” but as a true sports lover regardless of coiuntry, class or creed, he wished the best team win.
But Adnan at least in the game of national passion one cannot be so diplomatic. Your heart speaks out. Just as Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s. Regarded as the epitome of dignity and known to be a very private person, Ms Gandhi let herself go. She threw up her arms in the air, crossed the air-conditioned security zone and walked into the stands to feel the heat and excitement. In moments of sheer ectasy she threw up her arms and her beautiful face brightened with a mixture of joy and pride.
Of course, media did use all its power to hype this historic match and raised it to the level of war. The best dig however seems to have come from the pen of cartoonist Ajit Ninan in his masterpiece cartoon in TOI. It showed the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan seated in the air-conditioned security zone, watching the high voltage match.
“What more do you want ? We’ve given Sachin four lives. Now give us Kashmir,” said Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s Prime Minister to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh.
“How can you not love your country if you are a true Muslim, Hazrat Ali has said that every Muslim must love, work and respect his country, only then can he call himself a true Muslim,” said my friend Abbas as he clapped hard at India’s victory. A healthy sign for a healthy India.
All true patriotic Indians will be hoping that this great peace initiative through cricket will prove to be a big unifying factor for the two nations. Amen!
Shades of Cricket
As Indians across the globe were celebrating the World Cup victory, there were some who were not relishing it and one among them was former International Cricket Council (ICC)’s former chief executive Malcom Speed.
Speed, during his tenure as CEO was never at ease with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and most of the time was at loggerhead with the Indian, Sri Lankan and to some extent Pakistani establishments. He alleges that he had to leave the ICC job because BCCI did not like him and wants that time has come for other nations to stand up against Indian board’s hegemony. He timed the release of his book Sticky Wicket a day before the World Cup final and in it he has raved and ranted against the Indians.
Here it is interesting to note that it was during Speed’s tenure as ICC chief that India emerged as the game’s superpower and as expected he details the impact of that as well as corruption scandals, and other controversies.
Speed is candid in admitting that Indian television rights have changed the dynamics of international cricket with an Indian tour of Australia now generating five or six times that of the next biggest draw, England. According to him this has given “India huge clout when it comes to negotiations on the international stage, with other countries wary of falling out with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for fear of losing a tour”.
“Finding the right balance between India’s commercial power and the interests of the other countries is a big test for the game,” Speed was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying. “Most other sports would be happy to have the world’s second biggest country so passionate about cricket, so if it’s managed properly, I think it’s a positive” Speed said.
“It’s something where there will have to be an accommodation between India and the other countries, there’s not much point India playing itself, so it needs to keep the other countries strong. From time to time, they will need to stand up to India.”
Speed feels he did that while at the ICC and ultimately, it forced his early departure after he offended the BCCI over the issue of Zimbabwe Cricket’s finances. The 63-year-old’s clashes with Indian officials led to him being burned in effigy on the subcontinent and routinely branded a racist.
“The effigy burning was part of the job,” he recalled, “There was usually some sort of misunderstanding or exaggeration of the position and I think that’s a great example of the passion for the game in India.”
“It’s a traditional way of expressing dissatisfaction with people in positions of power and it was my turn a few times. I look back on those moments with a sense of amusement.”
He vehemently denied the charge of being racist. “I’m not a racist and I was never happy to be called a racist. Sometimes I had to make decisions that upset one country or another and it was an easy accusation to make.”
According to him the fight against corruption remains a “significant” challenge for cricket, particularly in India, and the recent Pakistan spot-fixing scandal was a timely reminder.
Whatever Speed’s views are, there are others who feel that emergence of India as number one team in the world is good for cricket.
Pakistan’s influential daily Dawn paid handsome tribute to Indian cricket team on its magnificent victory: “India have been crowned the new ODI champions after defeating Sri Lanka in the World Cup final. Ranked as a top team in the ODIs, in the T20 version and in Tests, India performed admirably in the World Cup. They were beaten once in a pool game by South Africa. On their way to the title, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men defeated Pakistan and the still-capable Aussies, and tied a game with England, a pre-tournament favourite. The defeat of the talented Sri Lankans in the finals signified the completeness of their campaign.
“The final was the triumph of substance over style and artistry. Mahela Jayawardene, an ambassador of the more settled and serene days, played a masterful hand. Maestro Sachin Tendulkar shone ever so briefly with his back-foot punches, but in the end it was left to the grit of pugnacious street-fighters such as Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir on one side and the sling of Lasith Malinga and the bend of an unfit Muttiah Muralitharan on the other to decide the issue.
“The workman-like course Dhoni and Gambhir took to victory was reflective of just how far the game has come since Aravinda De Silva so subtly took his side to World Cup glory against a matter-of-fact Australia in the 1996 final. Jayawardene’s was in no way a less attractive innings than De Silva’s, but he was rudely pushed into the ranks of the losers by the might of Dhoni. However, not all is lost for the conservative stylists; tempering his fare with a bit of pragmatism Yuvraj Singh has shown that it is still possible for a cricketer to emerge as the best World Cup player without compromising his leg-stump guard and his high back-lift. The enthusiasts are not entirely without choices as the game gains in intensity.”
However there has been voices against the hype and hysteria created by the media prior to the India-Pak match and a veteran Pakistan journalist Syed Talat Hussain commented which deserved to be read:
The ICC World Cup semifinal in Mohali offers us two important insights. The first is a wide-spectrum sample of public opinion trends in India about Pakistan. The second relates to our national attitude of complacency in the aftermath of defeat.
The run-up to the match showed the reality of the much-hyped Indian desire for peace with Pakistan. Here was a great opportunity for the Indian media to win the hearts and minds of friends from Pakistan by showing grace and courtesy. But what was served was nothing less than national-level sledging, lasting for days.
Large sections of the Indian media tore into the Pakistani team and its captain as if this was an invading army from another world. In the name of debate, targeted frenzy was worked up against the green-shirts.
The campaign was nothing short of a psychological warfare zeroing in on Pakistan. With the use of selective data and controversial instances, derision was freely heaped on the team. Kapil Dev talked about ‘how little Pakistanis have to cheer about’. Ravi Shastri, who loses his reason when the Indian team gets even a slight drubbing, compared the visitors with a rickety rickshaw, while the Indian squad, in his opinion, was a BMW.
We know media nationalism can hijack objectivity. It can lead to distortions. It can generate propaganda. This happens in Pakistan all the time. In that context, some of the content that was broadcast or written by the Indians about Pakistan could perhaps pass off as tolerable. But the scope of this campaign, which continued well after the match, was too large and the focus too specific to be ignored as a momentary loss of balance caused by the raging passion to win against arch rivals.
More worryingly, even some among the seemingly most liberal segments of society, who generally scoff at anti-Pakistan hysteria in their own country, had nothing but barely hidden contempt when it came to discussing issues related to their neighbour. No other country, or team, was subjected to this torment a point made by Shahid Afridi, the Pakistani captain, before the match.
It was almost as if the Mohali match had given the whole of India a season ticket to trash Pakistan. Cricket appeared to be an instrument to unleash collective contempt. The second insight that the Mohali event offers is just as important as it calls for a serious revision of the way we have chosen to respond to our defeat. A fake legend of heroism is being pushed out of our pathetic performance. The central message of this campaign is that we should ‘ask no question, hear no criticism, and make no complaint’ against our team because ‘we love them’.
But apart from this there is a disturbing national tendency to sweep failures under the carpet. So when Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, in whose province thousands of doctors have been on strike for weeks demanding higher wages offered cash to the players he was as much playing politics as he was endorsing this sorry trend.
Talat will be happy to know that Indians are no better, The state governments are lavishing money on players who are already rolling in it, while ordinary people are struggling for survival.
But as it is said people get the government they deserved, so why crib.
South Africa choked again. The team touted as the most balanced side in the tournament crashed out at quarter final stage. Since 1996 when they were readmitted to this event, they remain perpetual contender. This time they looked all set to win only to lose to Kiwis, who fared no better as they got thrashing by the Sri Lankans in the semifinals.
England came, played and withered away and West Indies made cricket fans cry with their dismal showing. What a fall from the days of Lloyd, Richards, Marshal and other legends. Other teams—Kenya, Netherlands, Canada, Ireland, Zimbabwe—made up the number and enabled the organisers to stretch the tournament to six weeks.
By Harpal Singh Bedi