NRI Pulse


Perspective

T20 World Cup triumph a reminder of how cricket & emotions are a great unifying force

When Anrich Nortje’s heave off Arshdeep Singh on the last ball of South Africa’s innings went to the mid-wicket fielder for a single, Rohit Sharma fell flat, with his face towards the ground and punching the grass with his hand. Hardik Pandya went down on his knees and began to tear up once the inevitable -– of India winning the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup — was confirmed a little after 2 pm at the Kensington Oval.

Soon after, the entire Indian team, and support staff running in from the dugout began the jumping and hugging of lifting a major trophy after 11 years. A full 13 years after the magical night of April 2, 2011, at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai to lift the ODI World Cup and 17 years since the unprecedented evening of winning the T20 World Cup in 2007, India got to experience that feeling all over again on June 29, 2024.

The skies, which were supposed to rain during the final amidst a hurricane warning, opened and made one feel as if the weather Gods were waiting for a billion dreams and prayers to be fulfilled. Cheeks welled down the eyes of adults like Rohit, Pandya, and Virat Kohli, who broke down, as years of heartbreaks when it mattered the most finally on previous occasions made way for ultimate glory.

The theme song of this T20 World Cup was all about experiencing a moment their souls had been waiting for. It was very fitting that India got to revel in the ‘out of this world’ feeling at the end of the competition. Back home, the party began on the streets of every city and town.

India Gate in New Delhi – the hometown of Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant – was choc-a-bloc, with thousands of people coming out and unfurling flags as well as smoke guns -– some even stood atop the police van to dance and sing over the T20 World Cup coming home. The chants ranged from, ‘India, India, India’, to ‘Jeet Gaya bhai Jeet Gaya, India World Cup jeet gaya’, ‘Humara captain kaisa ho, Rohit bhai jaisa ho’, ‘Surya, Surya, Surya’.

There were some grateful people who thanked God by saying, ‘Zor se bolo jai mata di’. In Mumbai, the residences of Rohit, Pandya, and Suryakumar Yadav — it was a sea of utter jubilation filled with fans coming out in large numbers to celebrate the triumph.

In Mumbai’s local trains, people glued to their mobiles clapped in unison, while a sangeeth ceremony turned into a World Cup win celebration party. Similar scenes of ecstatic frenzy came from the streets of Ahmedabad, Nadiad, and Hyderabad – hometowns of Jasprit Bumrah, Axar Patel, and Mohammed Siraj respectively.

“Everybody was elated and they just started jumping and shouting that ‘at last, we have got the World Cup back. The celebrations from the 2007 World Cup triumph in Johannesburg after Joginder Sharma’s last over was done were just going on through my mind when Hardik Pandya bowled the final over,” says Lalchand Rajput, the manager in India’s 2007 T20 World Cup triumph, to IANS from Mumbai.

You couldn’t fault the Indian fans for getting that sinking feeling in their mind and heart when 30 runs were needed for South Africa to win off 30 deliveries. An on-song Heinrich Klaasen took 24 runs off the last over off Axar Patel. The win predictors gave India just a 3% chance to win the final, making a South African victory a foregone conclusion.

The Indian fans, mainly Gen Z fans, had their heart rate racing with the feeling that the trophy may be missed again. A tiny part of them had the belief of the side conjuring up a miracle outta nowhere – remember how on a shining afternoon in New York, they defended 119 against Pakistan on a tough pitch?

Once Pandya took out Heinrich Klaasen, Bumrah took out Marco Jansen and Suryakumar Yadav took a ‘hang-it-in-the-louvre’ catch for ages of David Miller, it began to hit home that a World Cup win for India wasn’t far after years and years of heartbreaks and that emotion of winning a big final is something they will carry for the rest of their lives.

Seeing adults –- highly-revered professional cricketers — cry and roar in ecstasy on realising the pure joy of winning the World Cup and becoming champions, it was a pure feeling and emotion which had the entire country tear up and be happy in the happiness of their idols.

“Somewhere down the line, I had this feeling that ‘Yeah, it is ours’. So, I was very assured that India is going to win. I knew it. There was no tension. Firecrackers were burst, and people were going crazy, driving rickshaws around the colony, and blaring music. My aged father-in-law and my wife were discussing cricket till 4 a.m., and they didn’t let me sleep,” recalled Biju George, the Delhi Capitals’ fielding coach, to IANS from Thiruvananthapuram.

For many years, despite the riches and vastness of domestic structure, a major trophy eluded Indian cricket, raising questions over its ability to cross the final hurdle. Off the field, toxic fan wars, and trolling of certain players based on their religion made things horrible.

It became worse when Pandya’s incessant trolling in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 didn’t have a full stop. On social media, when cricket, IPL, and T20 World Cup action dominated headlines in posts and reels, other issues related to the common man in India also grabbed headlines. But June 29, 2024, united the entire India with an electric and genuine feeling of nothing in the country bringing people together like cricket does.

“At least cricket is one unifying force in India where we are not divided. You don’t say things like you are a Muslim or a Hindu or a Christian. We are cricketers basically, and at least that is one thing which politics has been kept away from,” adds George.

It’s already two days since the triumph was achieved at Barbados and people in the country haven’t stopped talking about the win, the runs from Kohli, Axar, and Shivam Dube. They don’t feel tired of talking about how Bumrah, Pandya, and Arshdeep Singh kept their calm in the last five overs. They can’t get over how Suryakumar unleashed the Superman and Ballerina in him to take a catch for ages.

Every time they open social media, pictures captioned with ‘woke up as world champions’, and ‘this feels so good’ gladden their feed. Algorithms are buzzing with reels of Rohit doing Ric Flair strut to lift the title, players walking with trophy aloft, Virat and Arshdeep doing bhangra while sharing this special moment with their families in person or virtually come up, reminding fans of the feeling they forgot to cherish in these 13 years.

For the next few days, months, and years, the glory moment and on-field celebrations thereafter will be played on a loop on television sets in India and social media plus YouTube screens.

Whenever it pops up, everything else will be forgotten as fans get their minds, hearts, and souls drawn to that winning emotion, serving as a sweet reminder that cricket and emotions are a great unifying force in India, which anything else can’t ever come close to replicating it in this part of the world.

–IANS

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