Unveiling the Heartbeats of Indian Cricket Fans
Seventy-five years after independence, there is only one thing that the Indian population has always supported and celebrated. Festivals, rallies, and even spirituality fall short in front of it and for India, that is cricket. The 1983 World Cup win, the 2011 World Cup win, Sachin’s centuries, Kohli’s big chases, Dhoni’s finishing touches, and last but not least, the wins against Pakistan, there’s nothing that brings the whole nation together like cricket. However, for the last few years, the cricket fandom in our nation has witnessed its fair share of ups and downs. Supporting Indian cricket hasn’t been a piece of cake for the fans and neither has it rewarded them as was expected.
India as a cricket team has been considered a force to be reckoned with in recent years. Away wins, big margin wins, and miraculous feats in fixtures have been normalised by our players since the turn of the century. MS Dhoni managed to win all ICC trophies that existed in 2013 and drove our expectations onto cloud nine hoping for many more in the years to come.. Although, as we all know, it didn’t turn out that way. For the past ten years, India has dominated the cricket world with top players, a Test cricket monopoly at home and consistent away performances. Teams that came to tour India rarely won bilateral series, none of them even stood a chance in Test matches while India toured many countries winning limited overs series as well as making a name for themselves in the longer format. The Virat Kohli era saw us become the number one Test nation in the world and a young team out for blood made sure that big teams like those of England and Australia would fear playing this side even in their backyard.
However, for the fans, this ten-year journey has been glorious but far from perfect. A young team in 2013 that showed signs of winning every ICC trophy that came it’s way, failed to do so even once after the Champions Trophy victory in 2013. The Indian team fell to an apparent playoff curse or in other words “choking” during the big games.
This started with the 2014 T20 World Cup final and has continued till the recently concluded World Test Championship cycle: four finals and four semifinals across tournaments but not a single trophy. Every tournament the Indian team played we lost in some unique way to a different team. India entered all tournaments as favourites and managed to come close to winning every single time. Despite this, all the fans didn’t budge. Consistent performances, huge bilateral wins, and astonishing international rankings kept their hopes high as every tournament inched closer. The fans showed unwavering support despite the losses but over the years they slowly came to learn and realise the importance of managing one’s expectations. They supported the team even though they knew that this so-called playoffs curse wouldn’t be broken any time soon.
Until 2019, the whole team was in ideal form and there was no better team on paper who would lift the trophy. Since the 2021 T20 World Cup, we hoped for a win but had a very realistic idea that it might not happen as we weren’t the best team on paper or on the field. The Indian team started having selection issues, out-of-form players, inconsistent batting orders, etc. It thus, became a little easier for the fans to justify the losses. As the 2023 World Cup approached, we made peace with the fact that the next ICC trophy for India might take time and until then we couldn’t do anything but wait and watch.
Personally speaking, I had lost all hopes for the 2023 World Cup even though it is going to be played in India because we have this new reputation of being chokers in ICC tournaments. But then again when has Indian cricket ever been straightforward? As the fans tried to digest the fact that the team was out of form and that we might not win a trophy now or even in the next few years, the Indian cricket team managed to give a complete performance in the recently concluded Asia Cup!
The Asia Cup, primarily focused on because of the India-Pakistan clashes, had managed to upset Indian fans in the last edition. The Asia Cup was almost a guaranteed multinational trophy for India but we managed to lose to Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the 2022 edition and got eliminated in the Super Four stage itself. Indian fans had experienced everything by now, group stage eliminations, knockout match losses and even humiliating losses such as the 10-wicket loss to England in the semifinals of the 2022 T20 World Cup, cricket fans decoded to keep their expectations under check After this huge emotional rollercoaster in the last decade, we had finally learnt that it was better not to keep any hopes for even an event like Asia Cup 2023. However, this year’s Asia Cup didn’t go as we all had imagined, it changed everything!
The Indian team won the Asia Cup 2023 and with that also addressed all concerns regarding the form of star players, batting lineup, and bowling including choking in the knockout matches. The only loss that we faced was against Bangladesh in a dead rubber match where we played with a second-string bowling attack and an inexperienced middle order. However, this loss was overshadowed by the big wins before. The two India-Pakistan clashes allowed us to see India’s middle order strength as all batters got runs under their belt. We also saw the bowlers running riot around the Pakistani batters as they helped us register a huge win by a margin of 228 runs. The Sri Lanka match saw our batting lineup struggling against the youngster Dunith Wellalage but we managed to defend a low score and show everyone once again that this Indian team can face adversities. Then came the knockout match, the final of the Asia Cup, an expected thriller, an apparent upset, a battle of Asian Giants, and interviews of experts saying India shouldn’t underestimate Sri Lanka as they were out for blood. Although, it was Sri Lanka who got blown away, as with the help of a dream spell from Siraj of 7-1-21-6 we got them all out for meagre 50 runs in fifteen overs. India chased down the target with ease in six overs, winning the match by 10 wickets and lifting their eighth Asia Cup title.
Every Indian cricket fan including me wanted this result, a dominating win reminding the world of a giant of the cricketing world. This is a message to everyone that we are coming and we are not to be taken lightly! But maybe we didn’t, maybe we didn’t want all the key players to be back in form, maybe we were fine losing to Pakistan and to Sri Lanka, and maybe they were also okay with not winning another Asia Cup title because then we wouldn’t have any hopes for the World Cup trophy. But now we do. The victory raised expectations, it gave us a glimmer of hope that we might be able to win the World Cup.
Before this, every Indian fan had justified the potential loss we could face in the future, why we wouldn’t be able to lift a World Cup at home and reasoned as we had prepared for this loss for a whole decade. Indian fans had learnt to not have expectations and hoped that it would hurt less with every loss. In every tournament we went in as the best team, we hit a wall and it came down to a crushing defeat but these falls didn’t crush our spirits Photos were shared all around of heartbroken fans and dejected players and finally, everyone accepted that it might be a while till we win our next trophy.
Thus, here we stand again with every fan impressed by the dominating performance served by the team. We all are happy that our players are back in form and delighted that the injuries haven’t kept our key players out. Especially after that heartbreaking Dhoni runout in 2019, it finally feels like we have been given permission to dream again and go to sleep at night imagining Rohit Sharma lifting that trophy on 19th November 2023 because that is all we are praying for. We have been disappointed before and we are ready to face disappointment again, if it comes because of our unwavering support for Team India runs in our veins, now, more than it ever has.
We might not get what we wish for but ultimately, hoping for the best is what gives every Indian fan the strength to get through the rough patches, to support our team in any match, any situation and against any team. Now that we are hopeful again, now that we are dreaming again, it is time for us to don the blue jerseys-cheer from the stadium, our own home or even a traffic signal, ask strangers for the score and gather around shops in the heavy rain to not miss a single moment of cricket. We imagine what it would be like if we do win it all because for us, the fans, the glimmer of hope never fades and our spirits never ebb.