Finally, the splendid run that India had over Pakistan in senior Men’s World Cups has come to an end.
It had to happen at some point or the other and unfortunately for India and its legions of fans, the end came during the T20 World Cup that they were hosting.
Pakistan deserves all the kudos for expertly planning their first win over India in a World Cup since 1992. The effort put in by their three best players at the moment including captain Babar Azam, wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan, and impressive young fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi was commendable.
India on the other hand have to go back to the drawing board because they have plenty to worry and think about, especially with regards to their team combination.
Unfortunately, no immediate answers are coming India’s way. The reasons for the loss are multitude, but this is not about the personnel issues that India faces, it is about the kind of reaction that we have witnessed since the demoralising 10-wicket loss on Sunday night.
The last thing India’s players need is a vote of no-confidence. Suddenly this bunch of cricketers, who have gone from being no-hopers to being a favoured side world over, are the most hated lot in the country.
That's simply not done.
The kind of reactions that we have seen on social media. The kind of vile comments and memes that have been directed from some who claim to be well-wishers is just not done.
The most unfortunate aspect has been the way India’s premier fast bowler Mohammed Shami has been targeted on Instagram over his religion and it has been absolutely despicable. Shami has been India’s premier fast bowler for close to a decade now in all formats. He has been a consistent performer who can run through batting line-ups at will. It was unfortunate that on Sunday he just could not get going. The vagaries of the T20 format are such that bowlers can have off days. It so happened that it was Shami’s bad day, but the unforgiving ‘fans’ just do not want to see it that way. They went right after Shami immediately after India lost and posted the most vile comments questioning his integrity and love for the nation.
Just who gives people the right to hand certificates of patriotism just because someone does not belong to a religion that you practise?
Everyone has all the right in the world to criticise individuals, the team and the entire BCCI. That democratic right is vested in all and sundry. But this freedom of expression has just stretched too far in the way the premier fast bowler that this country currently possesses has been hounded virtually by keyboard warriors.
If you do want to question Shami, just look at his recent record. The last time he played Pakistan in any format was during the 2015 50-over World Cup when he ended with figures of four for 35. Don’t try and justify your bigotry just because India lost a cricket match.
The day ended, Pakistan celebrated and we woke up the next morning, just like any other day. The world has not ended, no one was killed. It was just a game after all.
There is also this theory that India’s cricketers are overpaid, pampered set of boys who just do not care about the results not going their way. Let everyone be reminded that a loss hurts no one more than the cricketers who are chosen to represent India.
Only they know the kind of pressure they live under and the sacrifices they make to reach the top.
The fitness levels of India’s cricketers are amongst the best in the world. Captain Virat Kohli has set new benchmarks in reaching those fitness levels with his relentless pursuit for excellence as an athlete. If he does not hurt post that loss, no one will.
No one needs to remind Kohli that he has now led India to two defeats in the last three games the team has played against Pakistan. He did not captain in the 2018 Asia Cup when Rohit Sharma led India to two wins in Dubai.
Kohli is very well aware of his record.
But this is the same Kohli who has created a fitness culture, created an atmosphere for India’s fast bowlers to come into their own and has led India to the number one position in Test cricket.
Just a few months back he led India into the final of the World Test Championship against New Zealand. India may have lost the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy or the 50-over World Cup semi-final in 2019, but Kohli was very much the leader. India were dominant in all those competitions.
India now boasts of a pace attack primarily because it was Kohli who put a premium on building a bowling line-up that can take 20 wickets in Test cricket. India’s bowling is now one of the most feared in the world of cricket in Test match cricket.
In One-Day Internationals, India has made rapid strides. The ICC title may be missing for the last eight years, but that is no reflection on the kind of set-up and system that has been incorporated under Kohli.
He deserves the credit, just as he deserves all the criticisms. But not for once should anyone be doubting the fact that it was just one match.
There are four more league matches for India in the ongoing T20 World Cup. Two of them are tough assignments against New Zealand and Afghanistan. The lesser mortals of Scotland and Namibia may not stretch India, but it will be a test of the mind.
India’s journey to the semi-finals has got tougher but it is something they must willingly undertake.
What they need now is not the kind of vile comments and barbs that they have been receiving from bigots, but the support. We are not saying it needs to be unconditional, but remember that this Indian line-up has given all of us lot of joy in the last few years. They deserve at least some support, just for being the world’s most followed and biggest brand ambassadors for the sport.
Come on we can surely do that, can’t we?