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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

ICC World Cup 2019: Another WC win will transform Indian sport

Kohli’s boys are the emotional favourites and on them rest the hopes of every Indian. But as the tournament starts, questions remain: Will Kohli become the third Indian captain to win?

cricket Updated: May 29, 2019 11:32 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
New Delhi
Cricket - ICC Cricket World Cup warm-up match - Bangladesh v India - Cardiff Wales Stadium, Cardiff, Britain - May 28, 2019 India's Virat Kohli reacts
Cricket - ICC Cricket World Cup warm-up match - Bangladesh v India - Cardiff Wales Stadium, Cardiff, Britain - May 28, 2019 India's Virat Kohli reacts(Action Images via Reuters)
         

The defining memories of the World Cup are about two captains, Kapil Dev and MS Dhoni. 1983 is owned by Kapil Dev for his scintillating 175 not out against Zimbabwe, the stunning catch to dismiss Viv Richards, and his bright smile while holding the trophy at Lord’s. 2011 was Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell made memorable by the steely look in Dhoni’s eyes as he launched a match-winning six out of the Wankhede.

Memories of previous World Cups play on loop everywhere with every moment revisited fondly. Kohli’s boys are the emotional favourites and on them rest the hopes of every Indian. But as the tournament starts, questions remain: Will Kohli become the third Indian captain to win? Will India sort out the No 4 puzzle? Will Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav spin a web to baffle batsman? Is Vijay Shankar good enough?

Check Out: News, Schedule, Updates: Full Coverage of ICC World Cup 2019

There is another blip, though not alarming, that needs to be addressed. Given the CoA’s strident reaction and political posturing post Pulwama, will India show up at Manchester on June 16 to play Pakistan? The CoA went ballistic calling for Pakistan’s boycott for supporting terror, but that didn’t happen because ICC wasn’t interested.

The CoA might have acted in the heat of the moment but its stance hurt India’s standing in international cricket. It would have been better had CoA shouldered arms instead of taking a waft outside off-stump.

Anyway, that is past, and despite MP Gautam Gambhir’s hardline, it should be normal business now. Time to move on and focus on cricket, with officials/players using the convenient line that Pakistan is like any other game. Hopefully, Kohli and Sarfaraz will shake hands at the toss and India will maintain its record of never losing to Pakistan in the World Cup.

Cricketers talk about winning the World Cup and Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid still rue their missed chance in 2003. At stake each time is professional pride because unlike bilateral battles that lack context, this is a best versus best contest to decide who rules the cricket world.

Also Read: India’s No. 4 debate settled, Kohli identifies batsman for the job

The 1983 win shaped Indian cricket, inspiring a generation of young kids including Tendulkar (a ball boy in Mumbai during the 1987 tournament) to pick up a bat. It also changed Indian sport as it gave hope to every athlete that scaling Mt Everest was possible.

One more win would take Indian cricket to another level, raising its profile and popularity. After the Test triumph in Australia, it will prove we play well overseas and remove persisting doubts about Kohli’s captaincy after an underwhelming season with RCB.

Nor can the repercussion on India and Indian sport be underestimated. The last few years, sport has gained prominence, moving from extra-curricular to central, gaining social/parental acceptance and acquiring economic muscle. In a rapidly changing ecosystem, sport is front page news, on prime time television, and star players are youth icons. Boxers, athletes, hockey and badminton players are subjects of biopics, brand ambassadors of commercial products and national initiatives like Swachh. With increased respect, recognition and rewards, top athletes are used for messaging on social issues and elections. They are also elected to parliament.

The ripple effect of a cricket World Cup win will open more doors, create new opportunities and grab the country’s attention. It will boost morale and mood and strengthen India’s ‘soft power’. The World Cup is not only about the Indian cricket team, but about Indian sport and India.

First Published: May 29, 2019 10:34 IST

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