Cricket World Cup 2023: Let’s give this Indian team the respect it deserves

Cricket World Cup 2023: Let’s give this Indian team the respect it deserves

For a country that is obsessed with records, for a society that treats coming second worse than coming last, for people who only love to stick around when the tide is high, it will come as no surprise that this Indian Cricket team, the subject of immense joy for over a billion people these past seven weeks, would become villains, only because they finished second when the only expectation was that they would finish on top.

Yes, everyone expected the team to do an encore of 2011. Especially in front of their home crowd. But instead, the scars of 2003 have opened up for another four years. They will stay. But that does not take away from the fact that no Indian team has come remotely close to being as perfect as these 15 were. Call it coincidence, misfortune, the law of averages, whatever, that they faltered at the step they shouldn’t have.

Only two days earlier, there was no greater opener of the modern game than Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli was the greatest ODI player ever, even greater than a certain Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar and the bowling unit was more fearsome than the West Indian pace quartet of the 70s and 80s.

The one adjective that sums up the Indian cricket fan is Armchair Critic. People who spent their childhood playing tennis ball cricket in their backyard and smashing window panes for fun will now have plenty of pearls of wisdom for every player of the squad.

From burning effigies of players to burning of stands to pelting stones at the houses of players, the Indian cricket fan has more often than not shown glimpses of their temperamental support to the national side. While these methods now are a thing of the past, they have found a new weapon in “X” to vent their frustration and anger if the team has a bad day at the office.

At the end of the day, the onus lies on the 11 players that step into the park. They delivered 9.5 times out of 10, won 10 games in a row, Virat Kohli scored the most number of runs anyone has ever scored in a World Cup edition, Mohammed Shami picked the most wickets, Kuldeep Yadav bowled the ball of the tournament, and Rohit Sharma defined Bazball better than the great Baz McCullum himself. This team has given us plenty of memories to cherish, to treasure for the next four years.

Over the past few years, speculation mills have been rife over the team being divided into factions, the two best players of the side not seeing eye-to-eye, but this World Cup has put all of that to rest. The team bonding was there to see, and it showed up in their performances on the field. Everybody cheered for each other’s success, there was belief, and there was hope. We may never get to see something like this ever again.

For people like us who saw the mauling in Johannesburg 20 years ago, the scars were still fresh and Sunday night has just rubbed some salt on those. There is a deathly silence in the neighbourhood as I write this. But this team does not deserve brickbats or trolling which is pretty much a possibility after the outcome. Instead, it deserves respect, it deserves appreciation, it deserves to be honoured, even after finishing second.

But for the fickle and hollow Indian cricket fan, this may come as a lesson in being a sport and not a spoilt sport. If we cannot back the team during the tough days, we have no right to cheer for them when the times are good either. This is something that we as fans of Indian cricket are unlikely to learn and the gentleman’s game will only remain so until the team keeps winning.

There will be better days, the sun will rise again, and we, as fans of Indian cricket, can only be thankful for the memories that these 15 players have given us over the last month and a half. It just did not come together when it mattered the most, but this Indian side, will possibly be, the best to have taken the park and this shall stand, whether the armchair critics agree or not.

Thank you, Rohit Sharma. Thank You, Virat Kohli. Thank You, Mohammed Shami. Thank You Jasprit Bumrah and to every member of the squad and the support staff. Respect cannot be demanded but commanded and you have done so in every way possible!

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