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By Sunil Gavaskar
By the time you read this the ICC World Cup will be truly on its way and hopefully it will have started with a great game which has been decided in the last over of the match. India play Bangladesh in the opener and for both teams but India in particular this game will be the precursor of things to come.
India were taken by surprise by Bangladesh in the last world cup when not only the batting but the bowling and fielding was much above what had been Bangladesh’s standard till then. That India beat them comprehensively in the one day series in Bangladesh a month later and that too in Bangladesh is another matter altogether. Bangladesh may well have lapsed back to their losing ways but in the 2007 world cup they were a different side with an attacking positive attitude not seen before. The bowlers bowled a good line and the Indians looking to get as many as they can as quickly as they could went for the bowling from the word go and ended up losing wickets regularly and with no partnership of any sorts were dismissed for just over 200 runs. If India then thought that they could pressure Bangladesh with quick wickets they were wrong as Tamim Iqbal and company took the game away with a series of attacking shots that the Indian bowlers had no answer to. It was a famous win and Bangladesh who till then were the poor cousins of subcontinent cricket had taken a giant step to being taken seriously as a cricketing nation.
India went out of the tournament after losing to the eventual finalists Sri Lanka in their last game of the group stage and the backlash at home was pretty instantaneous. Mahendra Singh Dhoni the current skipper was building his house at the time and an angry mob went berserk and demolished the partly constructed house.
A couple of years later when India won the first ever T20 world cup under Dhoni’s captaincy the mob tried to get into his parents home to offer sweets and were quite rightly denied entry by them. Why should they? If their son’s house can be broken down when he wasn’t the only one to have failed then why should they now allow perhaps the very same people to enter their house and that too only with sweets? The point is that if the crowd doesn’t give valuables when the team does well then it has no business to throw stones and rubbish when the team does badly.
By all means boo the players when they haven’t done well since they applaud when they do well. But it cannot be that the crowd can throw rubbish and stones when the performance is bad and only clap when it’s the other way around. To this date there is no news if any of those miscreants were arrested or punished but unless India wakes up to the fact that such deeds are simply not on and people cannot get away with it, such incidents will keep happening. Hopefully nobody is constructing a house at this time for you never know with cricket what’s in store for the player.
The problem is that so much hype is built about the team by the advertisers and the media that people actually believe that all that the Indian team has to do is to turn up for the game and it will be theirs. If it were only so. There are so many variables in this game that nothing can be certain at all. Perhaps when the West Indies in the 70s were so strong and the Australians over the past decade that yes it was pretty much on the cards that they would win more than they would lose but as that glorious day in June 1983 showed even the dragon can be slain. Even Goliath found David a bit too much that day.
What that day did was to make the Indian cricketer believe the impossible was possible. It was only after that win and dare I say the world championship of cricket win in 1985 that Indian cricketers began to think that they could regularly win one day matches.
Yes 1971 had shown them that even test matches could be won overseas as they won two back to back series in West Indies and a couple of months later in England. It was a long time before they won a series overseas but they were not the pushovers they were earlier. The 1983 world cup win did show the Indians that they could compete and after that the team has won some wonderful games and so the belief among the followers that they can do it this time too.
The electronic media revolution has meant that for every one of the last three world cups the players who were part of that 1983 win are asked about their recollections and their tips if any to the Indian teams. Not all of us are articulate nor do we know our grammar well but we are not professors of English but plain and simple cricketers so if we speak or write wrong there is no need to make fun of us. We are not asking to be interviewed as we are quite happy with what we achieved that day. But if we are asked to recollect that proud day then please bear with us. It is hardly our fault that subsequent India teams have not won the world cup.
We (the players who are part of the 1983 win)
will be as happy as the rest of India if Mahi’s men do it this time. In fact we pray that it happens for at least then we won’t be chased when the next world cup comes around for quotes and such by those who have no idea of how important that day was Indian cricket and who think that only the present team can play cricket.