For the Nation, not individuals
It was one of the most joyful Saturdays of my life. India after all became world champions for the second time in a sport, which is more than a religion in this country. It was a victory achieved against many odds but it was not totally unexpected as was the case during the 1983 win of Kapil’s devils. However, there was something, which united the country particularly at a time when all kinds of divisive forces are at work.
There were many jokes that did the rounds. One was an open letter to Raj and Uddhav Thackeray on how a Chandigarh lad, a Ranchi captain and a Delhi boy won the cup and dedicated it to the Marathi legend (he is a national hero). This joke was obviously a dig at the Shiv Sena and its breakaway group for advocating the politics of Marathi Manas when the need of the hour is to present ourselves as Indians first and than members of any community.
Another joke doing the rounds pertained to Manmohan Singh and Gilani’s meeting at Mohali during the India Pakistan match wherein the Indian Prime Minister told his counter part that “ladko se kahiye ball phenkne ki bhi practice kare, bomb phekne se trophy nahi aati.”
The glorious victory had many parallels with the 1983 world cup squad. Both were captained by selfless sportspersons for whom the team spirit was the greatest virtue. The two teams had four boys each from Delhi. While the 1983 team had the greatest batsman of that era (to my mind the best Indian batsman ever) Sunil Gavaskar, the present team had the best batsman from this era—Sachin Tendulkar. There was a Modernite (Kirti Azad) in the 83 team and there was a modernite in the 2011 team (Gautam Gambhir), There was one Sikh (Balwinder Sandhu) earlier and of course Harbhajan Singh was there this time. But what is most important is that both the teams won the cup for India and Indians and there was greater clarity about it with the senior team as the present one kept on parroting that it was for Sachin. No doubt Sachin added this to his illustrious CV but it is the country, which should always be above individuals.
Now there is a clamour amongst various states to honour our cricketers and many states have already announced huge awards. The cricketers deserve it but so do sportsmen of other disciplines. Even amongst our cricketers, many have gone unsung. Zaheer Khan for instance, was the unsung hero of this cup according to Gavaskar. The man took 21 wickets and proved to be the most destructive bowler in this tournament along with Shahid Afridi. Hats off to him. Every player played his role and I do feel sorry for Gambhir for missing out on a World Cup final century by just three runs. He and Virat Kohli seem to have a bright future waiting for them.
The salient feature of this victory was that the country as a whole celebrated it. After all it was after a long time there was something to cheer about. In the past there have been misgivings about a section of people not fully participating in any celebration or backing the opposing side. I do remember that much was made out of the crackers going off in the walled city after Javed Miandad had blasted a six of Chetan Sharma’s last ball at Sharjah in the eighties. But the atmosphere was totally different and biggest celebrations were in the walled city and the Muslim dominated areas after our win against Pakistan. It was a matter of national pride and Cricket is one religion/ faith, which binds the whole nation together. Shahid Afridi by his flip-flops has lowered his image. His remarks to Pakistani TV channels were uncalled for and he had been profusely complimented for his statesman type comments after the Mohali match. During these joyous moments, we should not forget Parveen Kumar who was selected ahead of Sreesnath but had to be replaced due to some technical reason or knee injury. Destiny has robbed him of glory but he too should be the beneficiary of the bounties being doled out to the winners by various organizations and states. He is an outstanding bowler and was Dhoni and the selector’s first choice.
There have been moments of anxiety as well. The scare that the trophy presented to the winning team was a replica and not the original one is something, which should be tackled upfront. If a mistake has happened, heads should roll and if it was not so, a TV channel propagating this should be severely reprimanded.
In the end, it was richly deserved win. This was also perhaps the last world cup for many great guys of the game like Ricky Ponting, Graeme Smith Jacque Kallis, Vettori, Muralitharan, and maybe even Tendulkar.
We should not rest on our laurels but improve our standards so that we can sustain our position as the number one cricketing nation in the same manner as the West Indies did in the seventies and eighties and Australia followed them with total domination. Best of luck to Dhoni and his boys.