More than a day has passed, and yet the pain is still lingering in the hearts of all Indians. Everyone was shell-shocked on Sunday night. None could comprehend how a team that played like a champion, won 10 consecutive matches on the trot, faltered at the final. There have been too many reactions on social, print and electronic media. Batter Shubman Gill wrote on X: “Been almost 16 hours but still hurts like it did last night. Sometimes giving your everything isn’t enough,. We fell short of our ultimate goal, but every step in this journey has been a testament to our team’s spirit and dedication….This isn’t the end, it’s not over until we win. Jai Hind.” Shreyas Iyer wrote: “We’re heartbroken, it still hasn’t sunk in and it won’t for a while.” For both Shubman and Shreyas, it was their first World Cup. Sachin Tendulkar wrote: “Hard luck Team India, just one bad day in an otherwise sterling tournament can be heartbreaking. I can imagine the agony of the players, fans and well-wishers and what they must be going through. Losses at a part of the sport, but let us remember that this unity gave their all for us throughout the tournament.”
Wins and losses are part of the game, but we must remember one fact: this team played its best throughout the tournament. In fact, till the last overs were being bowled, there was expectation among some that some last-minute miracle could happen. Nobody could believe, how a team which was the best in both batting and bowling, could lose the final. Nobody could dream that a stadium, filled up with 1,20,000 spectators shouting “India, India”, will fall silent. Since Modi was present inside the stadium, his opponents decided not to remain silent. Modi met the players inside the dressing room after the match. He tried to shore up their morale, but his rivals virtually trolled him on social media. They commented on each aspect of Modi’s presence inside the stadium. Some of them posted craftily edited videos, memes and what not. Most of the comments about Modi were below the belt. I will mention only two videos.
When the camera focused on the PM, with Amit Shah sitting beside him, Modi laughed on some issue, and there was chant of ‘Modi, Modi’ among the spectators. Modi waved his hand at the spectators. This video was posted on social media by Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate with the comment: “Our team is in tears, the nation is heartbroken – what is he smiling so widely about?” I think, such comments are unfair. At that time, the match was in progress, and Team India was trying its best to get Australia’s fourth wicket. The Australian batsmen were finding it difficult to make runs. How can anyone dream that Modi would laugh when Team India is losing? Modi had reached Ahmedabad on Sunday afternoon, after taking a break from Rajasthan electioneering. The entire nation was boosting the morale of our team, and the Prime Minister was present in the stadium to cheer the players. Home Minister Amit Shah and Gujarat Governor were sitting beside him in the box. The second video relates to the Cup presentation ceremony. Modi and the Australian deputy PM are seen walking on the dais to present the World Cup to Australian captain Pat Cummins. The edited video abruptly cuts off, showing Modi walking away after handing over the Cup to Cummins, and the latter standing with the Cup alone on the dais. Some people wrote about how Modi was unsportsmanlike and did not felicitate the Aussie captain properly.
Some wrote, this is not part of Indian culture, but the fact is: the video showed the half-truth. In the full video, Modi and the Australian deputy PM went to the dais, presented the World Cup to Cummins, both shook hands with the Aussie captain and congratulated him, and then Modi came away from the dais, and shook hands with each of the Australian players standing on the field. The mischief was done by editing the full video to present Modi in a poor light. The Prime Minister did what every Indian wanted. The entire nation today stands with Team India, which displayed its best performance so far. But there were politicians from Shiv Sena (UT) and Trinamool Congress who sniped at Modi, keeping sportsman spirit on the sidelines. These leaders wrote that Team India would not have lost, had Modi not come to the stadium. Snide political comments had begun, the moment news spread that Modi was going to visit the stadium to watch the final.
The Congress, fighting its electoral battle in Rajasthan, soon came out with two photographs of the then PM Indira Gandhi with Kapil Dev carrying the first ODI World Cup in 1983, and the then PM Dr Manmohan Singh with M S Dhoni carrying the ODI World Cup in 2011. The idea was to convey to the people that India won the World Cup only when the Congress was in power. These statisticians tried to give the credit of Indian players to the then prime ministers from Congress. Some others came out with comparisons how Team India could not win a single ICC trophy in the last nine years of Modi’s rule. These messages on social media were also being conveyed at election rallies. In Rajasthan, Congress leader Pramod Tiwari said, “electing Modi or BJP will be a bad omen (‘panauti’ in Hindi)”. Shiv Sena (UT) leader Sanjay Raut held Modi responsible for Team India’s defeat in World Cup final because the stadium has been named after him. Now, who is going to tell the politicians that it was at Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad that Team India had crushed Pakistan in the World Cup match? There are stadiums in India named after Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi. Did Team India never lose in those stadiums? I think, superstitious beliefs like describing some person as a bad omen (panauti), and linking victory or defeat to a name, is the lowest form of politics. India has successfully sent its ‘Chandrayaan’ spacecraft to the South Pole of the Moon, which no nation has achieved till now. We are a big nuclear power. At a time, when the entire world knows India is a modern nation which has excelled in the frontiers of science and technology, it is not a good thing to mix superstition with sports in order to score political brownie points. All of us must understand how the entire nation today stands with its team.
For the first time, the people of India stand steadfast with Team India despite the defeat in the final. People and fans are trying to boost the morale of our cricketers. When Rohit Sharma came to answer questions from the commentator after the match, spectators in the stadium clapped and chanted ‘Rohit, Rohit’. When Virat Kohli came to the stage to collect the Player of the Tournament award, he looked sad, but the entire stadium was reverberating with chants of ‘Kohli, Kohli’. For the first time I have seen a defeated team getting so much love and affection from its fans. This is our national spirit. All of us should be part of this national spirit. No matter we lost the Cup, but our team has won the hearts of a billion people. No matter we lost a crucial match, but out team won 10 previous matches consecutively. There are days when luck runs out, and howsoever one tries one’s best, success finally eludes. Very soon we will see the day when luck will smile on us and Team India will defeat all others to become world champions.
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