Sorry end to India's World Cup.
India's world cup run all but ended today after the convincing victory by Sri Lanka. Barring a highly unlikely victory of Bermuda over Bangladesh two days from now, India are out.
Before the match Rahul Dravid was asked what would happen to India if they lost. He answered that they were not even thinking of the possibility. Now he needs to think about it. Many others will also need to look for some answers.
From the time colored clothes made their debut in world cup in 1992, this is probably India's worst world cup, though the seventh place finish in 1992 would be a close contender. I say this is the worst considering the expectations and the supposed caliber of this team. A look at India's performances in last the four world cups reveals a very interesting picture.
In many ways, 1992 world cup was transformational. Soon after 1992 many long and successful careers ended and a significant regrouping took place within the Indian team with Sachin Tendulkar becoming the batting backbone and Azharuddin consolidating his captaincy. In 1996 though we reached Semi-Final, it was considered a disappointment given that India was a big favorite playing at home. This also resulted in some changes, most significant being the emergence of Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, and Tendulkar's captaincy. 1999 world cup was largely dull though we managed to reach the Super 6 phase. Major changes resulted after that with a foreign coach (John Wright) taking charge for the first time and Sourav Ganguly becoming the captain. This brought about a fresh dynamism in the Indian team and one-day team with Rahul Dravid as the wicket keeper looked solid. As a consequence, 2003 was clearly the best world cup we had after 1983 and India was only second to a flawless Australia.
What now for the Indian players? I suspect this debacle will usher in some important changes. Senior players will need to introspect. This is especially true for Sachin Tendulkar. It pains me to write this, but he is fast becoming a liability to the team. May be there is still time for a graceful exit. Dravid and Ganguly have surely some cricket left in them, though I doubt Dravid will continue as captain. May be it's a good time for Yuvraj. I surely think that a change of guard has to take place with management and administration handed to the next generation. Greg Chappell will almost certainly go. It's probably time for an Indian coach.
Painful as this early exit is, there is a part of me which senses some good coming out of it. In the last two or three years Indian cricket is being successfully and rapidly morphed by various vested interests into a sort of sensational marketing machine. BCCI has become a lucrative body with high profile politicians throwing in all their might to control it. Media, with its constant look out for sensationalist talking points, also played a big role by coining terms like "Team India" and "Men in Blue". As a result a realistic connection between team's performances and fans' expectations was destroyed.
Ground realities being disregarded, desires, passions, and emotions were exploited. It looked as if people were cashing in while the going was still good. Widely covered stories in the media of people shaving their heads, offering prayers for the team, naturally led to the ridiculous reactions to the loss. Now a national calamity will be declared and a multitude of theories will be offered as explanations. Much has been written about the financial disaster that will befall if India fails to reach Super 8. I see that as one bright spot in this gloom. It might bring in some much needed balance to cricket following in India.
The fact of course is it's not a calamity. Indian cricket team just failed to do well in a world cup. Surely a very disappointing experience, but by no stretch of imagination a calamity. Obsession with cricket team's fortunes to the exclusion of all sensible thought is a dangerous national malaise. May be this disaster will remedy it.