Cricket World Cup 2023: A letter from fans for the Team India to end the 12-year drought.
Even though it’s been more than 12 years, the words of Ravi Shastri - “Dhoni finishes off in style. A magnificent strike into the crowd! India lift the World Cup after 28 years!” - the moment Mahendra Singh Dhoni tweaked his elbow just after swinging his willow to smash Nuwan Kulasekara over the long-on fence for a six, are still very much fresh in the memories of Indian fans.
One can still vividly remember how Dhoni held his pose as he watched the ball, Yuvraj Singh from the non-striker end stretching his arms even before the ball reached the distance while all the other Indian players made their way in the 22-yard, every scene is etched on the minds of Indian fans.
Fan culture and support for Indian cricket at the top level
Of late, the immense pressure from the fans has also been one of the reasons behind India’s defeat in the knockout stages of the ICC tournaments. But most of the times, the defining feature of Indian cricket- the vibrant and colorful display of support for the players gives them immense strength, no matter where they take the field.
With the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 being held in India, fans will adorn themselves in their team’s color, wear face paint, wave the flags or banners for each and every player to showcase their love and allegiance. Chants and songs create an electric atmosphere in the stadiums with supporters being part of fan groups for different players.
Cricket in India is unique; the connection between the game and fans are very strong. It is very rare to find an empty seat when a cricket match is going on in India. Even those who don’t make it to the ground, will most likely be checking the scorecard.
The journey to 2011 victory propelled India to new highs
Undoubtedly, there was huge pressure on the shoulders of the players, especially with the World Cup happening in India, and that was also going to be the last World Cup outing for Sachin Tendulkar. The Little Master had waited long to lift the trophy after giving his whole life to the game. In every hotel check-in, to traveling, the talk of the town was bringing the Cup home.
India began on a strong note, demolishing co-host Bangladesh by 87 runs with Virender Sehwag showing his aggressive brand of play with a 175-run knock in 140 balls. The game against England in Bangalore ended in a tie with India coming back from behind with the ball. Even though the MS Dhoni-led side struggled a little against Ireland, Yuvraj’s terrific all-round show ensured two comprehensive victories.
The first and only setback for the Men in Blue in the tournament came against South Africa in Nagpur, where except the top three led by Tendulkar (111-run knock), everyone struggled against the reverse swing of Dale Steyn. Yuvraj’s another fight with the bat, resulting in a century, against West Indies in the scorching heat of Chennai pushed them to the quarter-final against Australia.
Chasing 261 under pressure in a knockout stage wasn’t an easy task. However, both Gautam Gambhir and Tendulkar went back to the dug-out with respective half centuries as India found themselves at 187/5 before the unbeaten 74-run stand between Yuvraj and Suresh Raina carried them to the semi-final. Besides the impact of the game, there was the extra pressure of playing against Pakistan but India’s panoramic show put them into the final against Sri Lanka.
The streets in Mumbai were almost jammed with crowds. Screens were put up in other cities to enjoy the game collectively. There was silence in the ground when Thisara Perera’s last ball six put up a 275 target. The quiet atmosphere continued for another hour as Sehwag was trapped LBW on the second ball. When Tendulkar gave an edge fishing outside off-stump, the panic was such that no one in the stands clapped for Tendulkar - in what was his last World Cup innings.
However, Gambhir’s 97-run knock, besides partnering both Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni took India home as the whole nation celebrated the victory. A new generation was inspired to play the game as most satisfactorily, Tendulkar finally received the World Cup medal.
Back-to-back cricket world cup heart-breaks for India in 2015 & 2019 semis
Going into the 2015 World Cup in Australia & New Zealand, there was change in the squad with India rooting for a brand-new way of playing their game. There wasn’t much expectation from the side given how young the bowling line-up was.
From defeating Pakistan by 76 runs in Adelaide in their opening game, to getting their first ODI World Cup victory against South Africa by 130 runs, India had a very smooth journey to the quarter final with six wins in as many games.
They had another cake walk in the knockout stage - blowing away Bangladesh by 109 runs before they met Australia in the semifinal. Chasing 328, all eyes were on the new superstar of Indian batting, Virat Kohli. Millions of hearts broke the moment his pull shot resulted in the ball going up in the air before dropping in the hands of Micthell Johnson, which resulted in India getting knocked out of the competition with a 95-run loss.
The atmosphere in 2019 was different, there was much experience in the team under the leadership of Kohli and presence of Dhoni. The bowlers were mature besides reveling in the presence of their diamond, Jasprit Bumrah. India, starting as favorites to lift the trophy, finished as the top side in the league stage with seven wins and a solitary defeat to host England.
After restricting New Zealand to a comparatively low score of 239, India had a nightmare start of 92/6. Even though the stand between Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja kept them in the game, it wasn’t enough. But on every mention of the game, the heart stops pumping when one remembers that run-out of Dhoni. It’s still intact; the wound is yet to be healed.
Sky-high expectations and belief for the Cricket World Cup 2023 mission
With the ODI world cup coming back to India after 12 years, the expectation is again raising a mile a minute. All the 15 players selected for the tournament are capable, and have varied skills which can help bring the cup back to the country.
There will likely be a new record of viewership for this tournament - with the television being widely available and the influx of digital viewing. The crowd even only for the world cup trophy tour was enough to draw a picture of how noisy every stadium can get for all the games in the competition.
Just like the 1983 win inspired a young Tendulkar to take up cricket, or 2011 did the same for Shubman Gill or Mohammed Siraj, a victory in the 2023 World Cup will again do the same for many youngsters.
Every player in the squad of 2011 gave everything they had for winning that trophy for Tendulkar, who served Indian cricket for such a long time. It will be the same this time too if the likes of Ishan Kishan, Gill or Siraj give their all for Rohit or Kohli.
There is an unreal drought of ICC trophy in the last 10 years for India - especially with such a huge pool of talented players who can win games on their own on any given day. This year playing before the home crowd will be the best chance for them to end the long-lasting wait. There won’t be a better chance anytime soon to take the bull by the horns.
India will play their opening world cup game against Australia on October 08 at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.