Mar 18, 2007 was a day when cricket as a sport took an ugly turn. Pakistan’s elimination from ICC World Cup 2007 after a humiliating defeat at the hands of greenhorn like Ireland, sent shock ripples across the world.
More flabbergasting was the end, the coach of the Pakistan team, Bob Woolmer met, in just a few hours after the calamitous defeat. The whole world sniped at the unfortunate turn of events, the murder in Pegasus Hotel, Jamaica gave a morbid and cold start to the most important and prestigious event in cricket calendar.
Investigations by a jury, vindications, insufficient evidence to draw conclusion if death of Woolmer was due to criminal act or natural causes marred the professionalism, dignity and camaraderie expected in any sport. I barely followed 2007 ICC WC and virtually lost interest in the sport after this episode.
There were times when my comatose state was awakened – 2007 ICC World T20 cup, Monkey gate scandal of Border Gavaskar trophy 2008, IPL, the Ashes, India topping ICC test rankings, Suraj Randiv-Sehwag’s no ball gate. The multitude of verbal spat between Greg Chappell and Saurav Ganguly, Greg's public, acrimonious remarks on the overall conduct of Indian team increased my doubts if there were any positive attributes left in the way the game was played or managed.
It is difficult, however, to stay away from cricket for long, call it a part of Indian inherited trait or upbringing in a household where people are die hard cricket fans. With dauntless Dhoni leading team India from the front, his astonishing aplomb in dealing with cricket affairs both on and off field and a sensible, grounded and sincere coach in Gary Kirsten, interest revived and became profound as days passed with the pinnacle hitting at 2011 ICC world cup.
Many reasons made 2011 WC special from the start – it was happening in the Indian sub continent and no part of the world can parallel the cricket frenzy here. Sachin had to bag the gift which had long been eluding him. He served the nation against all odds for over two decades, a world cup victory was the only delectable garnish to his palate of zillion individual records. Dhoni definitely weaved magic in all formats of the game and taught all and sundry the importance of being careful with words, being diplomatic, shrewd, clever, composed and most importantly fearless – come what may. And yes, I was only 8 months old when India last lifted the world cup.
We are basking in the glory we earned the hard way for team India’s efforts culminated in the picture perfect victory on April 2nd 2011. India rode majestically as a team, unified in overcoming many a hurdle from league matched to the likes of Aussies, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans. The semi final against Pakistan in Mohali on 30/03/2011 was one such hurdle. Gautam Gambhir’s loose comments on a social networking site that India’s win in semis was for all 26/11 victims made no sense. Such a shoddy, insensitive remark was completely uncalled for and Afridi’s response calling Indians "not large hearted" gave the familiar ugly tinge to the game again. Gambhir has nobody to blame but himself – not just for missing his century by a wisp on the grand finale as quoted by Dhoni in the presentation ceremony but also for his insensible remark on mixing politics with sports. Common man in India would be glad to see this vigor and ire in ministers who lead the nation, to get clear answers for 26/11. They readily shun it all and invited their counterparts from across the borders for diplomatic talks over a cricket match. May be nations’ leaders started it all and Gambhir only followed suit.
Gambhir does not need to look too far to learn his lessons – he has responsible fellows like Dhoni, Tendulkar to look up to, even better - Virat Kohli who stumped the whole nation with his single sentence remark on what Sachin means to India. For now, all I ask for is, there be not too many ugly moments that spoil the fun and agility that this sport brings to its fans. Hope the nation does not wake up to another round of verbal brawls of the Ganguly-Greg Chappell likes through Gambhir-Warne (if Warne were to become the Indian coach as per speculations dated April 6, 2011)