A stunning upset | Daily News

A stunning upset

Cricket mad India was plunged into mourning on Wednesday as its team bowed out of the ICC World Cup stunned by the largely unfancied New Zealand bringing into full play the glorious uncertainties of cricket.

Until the fatal blow came, Virat Kohli and his men were the toast of their 1.3 billion countrymen sweeping everything before them to reach the top of the tables in the tournament. The team had everything going for them, with the Indian media going into overdrive with their hype about the chances of the boys at the 10th edition of Cricket’s showpiece event.

There was nothing but bouquets for the team by politicians, film stars and other notables that flooded Indian television channels and online portals. Even the recent election victory of the Premier Narendra Modi did not raise as much euphoria as when Kohli and his men were notching up victory after victory to reach the top of the ladder. This, naturally, let the adrenaline flow among the multitudes expecting nothing but a place in the Final and going beyond to lift the Cup for the third time.

Conversely, this hope and high expectation certainly imposed a massive pressure on the team which was demonstrated when the mighty Indian run machine failed to chase down a modest target of 240 runs set by the Kiwis. What must be galling for Kohli is that his much vaunted batting machine failed to click when it really mattered bringing to naught all the team’s and personally his own achievements in the run up to the semi finals, as his side was edged out when the Cup was well within their grasp.

There was a unique parallel in this stunning upset with the 1991 edition of the World Cup. On that occasion, the eventual winners Pakistan, like the Kiwis in 2019, were on the brink of elimination and entered the semis from the back door, so to speak, based on mathematical permutations. Similarly in 1996 Sri Lanka too, graduated to the semi-finals on the back of forfeiture of their points by Australia and the West Indies by not visiting Sri Lanka to play their scheduled games, citing security reasons.

What is more, Indian fans were forced to endure a similar heartburn, as on Wednesday, when their side was beaten in the semi-finals by Sri Lanka, the match having to be conceded to Arjuna Ranatunga’s team due to crowd rioting. Will history repeat itself, with underdog New Zealand going onto lift the trophy at the finals at Lord’s on Sunday?

Most analysts attribute the sudden resurgence of hitherto weak sides to the Indian IPL franchise which recruits players from other countries. This has led to these foreign stars closely studying the Indian game and the strong and weak points of the Indian players and adopting methods to sort out the Indians when it comes to bilateral encounters with their own countries. Hence the Indian cricket administration, while eyeing the commercial gains the IPL brings, at the same time may be doing the Indian team a disservice, unwittingly though, by permitting the foreign recruits to get their measure of the Indian players which would redound to the disadvantage of Indian sides in the long run.

No doubt, it would take Kohli and his men a long time to come to terms with Wednesday’s semi-final defeat and India’s exit from the World Cup. No less the Indian fans who treat their cricketers like gods but are equally unforgiving when they fail to live up to expectations. This inability to stomach defeat had resulted in acts of retaliation in the past. Hopefully, there will be no acts of violence directed at the players out of sheer frustration this time around.

Like captain Kohli stated, at the post match media conference, it was just one bad day for the team, which, otherwise, was on a roller coaster ride since the start of the tournament. It certainly is not the end of the road for Indian cricket as the Indian fans, who are besides themselves with grief, as seen in their reactions on television following the defeat, ought to realize. After all, India has won two editions of the World Cup which is an achievement which has eluded even England, the founders of the game.

At the time of writing, England is set to take on Australia in the second semi-final in what is going to be a mouthwatering prospect for connoisseurs of the game. Five times winners Australia will be eager to extend this record while the Poms will go all out to lay their hands on the trophy for the first time. In the Round Robin stage the Kangaroos got the better of their arch rival but in a pressure game the tables could be turned. An England-New Zealand final would, no doubt, be a blockbuster with both sides looking to down the other for a go at the World Cup silverware for the very first time. It certainly is going to be grand Bastille Day Sunday of cricket luverly cricket.


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