Here's how you get over the World Cup heartbreak | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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Here's how you get over the World Cup heartbreak

BySharda Ugra
Nov 24, 2023 06:46 PM IST

How, after six weeks of riding the wave and then suddenly being pitched forward face down with sand in your mouth, are you expected to well, care again?

So, boys and girls, wondering how four days after the World Cup final ended in a heap of ashes you should be asked to summon your attention to a five-match T20International series against the same blokes who stomped all over your dreams?

Ahmedabad: India's head coach Rahul Dravid with skipper Rohit Sharma after the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 finals, at the Narendra Modi Stadium(PTI)
Ahmedabad: India's head coach Rahul Dravid with skipper Rohit Sharma after the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 finals, at the Narendra Modi Stadium(PTI)

How, after six weeks of riding the wave and then suddenly being pitched forward face down with sand in your mouth, are you expected to well, care again?

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While the Indian team’s CWC voyage was not exactly kings of the world to keystone cops – the lads were unprecedently fabulous and disorientingly consistent – it’s not unreasonable for Gen Z fans to be flailing against a powerful sense of ‘we wuz robbed’. Without quite identifying who did the robbing.

In order to restore a sense of sense and perspective in your hurting world, do I dare quote from the Bible? To paraphrase Ecclesiastes 1:9, “what has been will be again.” The only other time India made a men’s Cricket World Cup final and lost – to Australia, none other - was twenty years ago. In South Africa 2003. That India come off a run of eight victories, won the toss in the final and bowled. And got chomped.

As for what that felt like, imagine being sandbagged and walking into a hotel resembling a ghost town. The morning after Johannesburg’s Sandton Sun was emptied out of all human beings other than journalists. The words ‘bad/ hard luck’ were not to be uttered to anyone on the team, we were told because heads were being bitten off. “What’s it got to do with beeping luck? When are we going to get the chance again?” The enormity of what had slipped away – a chance to win a World Cup in South Africa where in over decade, India had won three matches (all ODIs) out of the 25 they had played[1] - was crushing.

We handled one of two feelings. Either stomping heaviness – the large stone at the bottom of your stomach – leading to feet being dragged everywhere. Or the emptiness of having feeling drained out of the system, walking about in an emotionless, zombie state. This even though we were hard-bitten 90s fans for whom defeat had always been a friendly neighbourhood companion.

For those who have grown up watching an Indian team with a pack of fast bowlers - imagine, a whole pack - Test series victories in Australia not once but twice, dazzling pyrotechnic batting talents and razor-sharp fielding, not to mention the social media surround sound which drummed on about the inevitability of an Indian victory, defeat can only be tougher.

But I assure you, the blow can be softened. The first thing is to instantly erase the final from memory. Like it was some blur that doesn’t need to be revisited because it causes involuntary nausea. The body will soon find a way to shut the memory down. Then create a recollection album of your personal So Beautiful, So Elegant, Just Looking Like A Wow moments (SBSEJLLAW). It could be an all-Virat/Rohit/ Shami/ Bumrah collection or an assortment from the entire team’s SBSEJLLAW chocolate box.

From 2003, we’ve lived off Ashish Nehra’s spell vs England and Zaheer Khan top order Kiwi dissection, Tendulkar’s uppercut of Shoaib, traffic-scattering Durban six and Javagal Srinath’s swing scimitar vs Lanka. Twenty years on, it’s still going strong. So, start building your 2023 snapbook and go back to it often – you’ll be surprised how the final recedes.

After 2003, we did get our World Cup in 2011 which was nothing like 2023’s clockwork performance. 2011 was harum-scarum, a victory followed by a tie, followed by victories and a defeat until we ran into Australia again. In the quarter-final. In Ahmedabad. Where once again emerged Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina and the lion-roar of success.

What also happened in between 2003 and 2022, in an inexorably changed cricket world was utter magic. Test victories in Australia, a Test & ODI series in Pakistan, the 2007 World T20 title, Test wins in New Zealand and South Africa. And off a long run up, then came Gabba 2021.

So, know this, the clouds will clear. One last suggestion, look up from gloom-scrolling and consider glancing through a book called The Great Indian Cricket Circus (by Abhishek Mukherjee & Joy Bhattacharjya). It is as if the book was published not only for racing pre-CWC bestseller charts (not sure how that went), but fundamentally as a just-in-case balm for CWC23 afterlife. It’s about Indian cricket’s eccentricities, oddities and improbable quiz-show possibilities and can have you fall in love with our uproarious, gut-busting, infuriating game all over again. Wins and losses be damned.

To understand that this team you adored and cheered and followed through the World Cup is part of an ageless continuum. Who knows what is to come? There’s a chapter called the Butterfly Effect – Off-Field Events that Changed Indian Cricket which features a mango tree, shoes and fishingfolk. Remember, CWC2023’s butterfly has already flapped its wings.

About fifteen years from now, when caught up in the foreboding crunch and entanglements of middle-age, you’ll be told a story. About what happened to an Indian boy or a girl in 2023 which led them to best the best in 2038. That ‘what has been will be there again’ is not just about the bad stuff. Imagine how good the good stuff around Indian cricket is going be. Hang in there.

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