Twenty years since the great Sachin Tendulkar received the best player accolade on South African soil as Ricky Poting’s men from down under-celebrated the grandest prize in world cricket under the shining light.
The team rosters changed, the location shifted, the technology in place updated and the format of the tournament revised. But, the result on paper seems to have remained the same.
Gold and green-clad Australia hoisting the ICC ODI World Cup trophy aloft while an Indian poses with the player of the tournament award with a wry mile.
Sounds eerily similar to 2003, doesn’t it?
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Just that this time Virat Kohli, the spiritual heir to Tendulkar’s throne emerged as the best payer in the ICC showpiece, while Pat Cummins-led Australia rejoiced in Indian territory.
Kohli, who went on a record-breaking spree, managed to surpass Tendulkar’s record for the most runs in a single edition of the World Cup, smashing 765 runs in 11 games including four half-tons and three centuries.
He also brought up his 50th ODI ton to move past Tendulka’s tally of triple-digit finishes in the 50-over format.
And to make things more agonisingly, excruciatingly sour, this time the golden ball for the tournament’s highest wicket-taker ended up in the hands of yet another Indian. Mohammed Shami.
Shami, who topped the wicket-takers table with an astonishing 24 wickets in 7 games, got the individual prize, which was rightfully his.
However, even the combined efforts of the top scorer and the top wicket-taker in the campaign couldn’t earn the right to sport the winner’s medal around the neck at the end of the day.
Probably it was the law of averages that took its toll on the men in blue, at the most inopportune time for the cricket-mad sub-continental nation. Or perhaps, it was the intergenerational swagger of Australia that the men from down under seem to have inherited from generations prior.
Like some feel, if intergenerational trauma is a legitimate thing, the antithesis of it needs to be acknowledged as existent too.
The aura around the men draped in yellow seems to be growing larger and brighter with each passing edition of the World Cup and the Australians seem to have good value on it.
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The 2023 loss to Australia in the summit clash might hurt the nation’s psyche a bit more, not just because of recency bias, but also how the trophy slipped.
Coming into the finals, invincible till then, having won ten games on the trot and on the back of a massively successful Asian Cup outing where the men in blue crushed the spirits of a hapless Sri Lanka to take home the continental trophy, Rohit Sharma and Co. were rubbing their hands together with a glimmer in their eye at the chance to convert continental success into something bigger.
What fed into the narrative of the Indian dream further was the victory over the very same Australian side in the tournament opener as the men in blue thumped the Aussies by 5 wickets at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.
A rematch in the final in front of over 100,000 Indians on home turf at the biggest cricket stadium in the world, the script seemed to be re-written. What could go wrong?
But, so in life as in sport, you do not always get what you want.
Sport has a way of clipping your wings when you feel invincible, and yet it can spur you on when you feel down and distraught.
In a nation such as India, where emotions are held in high value and run high, and cricket is more of a religion than a sport, losses do not go unnoticed as high-profile defeats tend to trifle the national psyche.
As hard as the loss to the most successful team to have ever played 50-over cricket is, Indians across the nation and around the world can take solace in the fact that this side led by Rohit Sharma and headlined by Kohli laid it all out on the field and pulled no punches.
The spirit with which team India represented the nation over the previous month or so will surely be remembered with fond nostalgia while reminiscing as ‘the tournament that was’, and not ‘what the tournament could have been’.