A heartbreaking defeat

Nov 19 ended with over a billion broken hearts in India, with the ODI World Cup 23 eluding our cricket team. How do you reconcile with the Indian team comfortably winning 10 matches till the final, and then faltering in the final, and failing to bring home the trophy that has eluded India after 2011? Who can forget a crestfallen Virat Kohli who batted so brilliantly through the entire series, Rohit Sharma trying unsuccessfully to hide his tears or Mohammed Siraj sobbing so openly and being comforted by Jasprit Bumrah?

The pundits have shed gyan on what should have been done/not done; but what was refreshingly different this time was the support, respect and love that was showered on our men in blue. It began right at the top; Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Dear Team India, your talent and determination through the World Cup was noteworthy. You’ve played with great spirit and brought immense pride to the nation. We stand with you today and always.” Bollywood stars did the same, with Shah Rukh Khan posting: “The way the Indian team played this whole tournament is a matter of honour and they showed great spirit and tenacity. It’s a sport and there’s always a bad day or two. Unfortunately, it happened today. But thank u Team India for making us so proud of our sporting legacy in cricket… Love and respect.” The next morning, an HSBC ad in Times of India had this heartwarming message for the Indian team: “Thank you for winning. Our hearts. Our love and all our respect. Thank you for showing grace in defeat. And for your indominable spirit that we know will come back stronger.”

This spontaneous response is a positive indication that as an audience we have come a long way from booing, harassing and even throwing stones — remember the pelting of stones on M S Dhoni’s home — after they lose big matches. If our cricket team can accept defeat gracefully, then so can their fans.

The manner in which the Indian head coach Rahul Dravid, who had quietly kept in the background as the Indian team won match after match in this tournament, came to the front on that sad Sunday to answer the media’s questions as Rohit and his boys retreated to the dressing room to deal with their disappointment, was commendable too. As he said, “the sun will come up tomorrow”; the team would reflect, learn from this defeat and move on.

But while patting ourselves on the back, let’s also examine the two core components of Rotary’s Four-Way Test… on truth and fairness and look at what the international media — both mainstream and social — said about the entire tournament and the audience. The international spirit was missing, it said. Barring the Indian flag, hardly any other flags were waved from the stands, which were barely filled when India wasn’t playing, and supporters of opposing teams were barely visible. There was thundering silence when non-Indian batsmen sent the ball across or over the boundary.

Let’s turn the spotlight inward and examine this criticism too. The Indian cricket team was the best of the best, but did we, as an audience, fall short in exhibiting the spirit of the game? Traditional and colourful welcome ceremonies apart, did we really make other players feel welcome in the true spirit of Athithi Devo Bhava? Let’s search our hearts and come out with an honest reply!


Rasheeda Bhagat


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