The Silver Lining to India’s World Cup Exit

12 Jul,2019

The Amul topical ad after the Indian team’s loss in the semi-finals of the Men’s World Cup Cricket 2019


By Shailesh Kapoor


This week has been headlined by India’s semi-final exit from the 2019 Cricket World Cup. In a semi-final played over two days, league-stage toppers India went out to New Zealand, albeit after giving a tough fight in a run chase that had gone all wrong within minutes of it starting. While the end of India’s World Cup dream has meant heartbreak for many fans, it has easily been the most mature media and fan response one has seen to India’s elimination from a World Cup in years.


Take 2015, for example. India lost to Australia in a fairly one-sided semi-final, falling 95 short of a big run chase. Having stayed unbeaten in the group stage, it was India’s first defeat in the tournament, but it was enough to send them home. Many would remember Arnab Goswami’s “Shame In Sydney” coverage from that night, and the social media backlash it received. But he was not the only one. Several news channels, across languages, did not take too kindly to the defeat. India had been simply outplayed by the host nation on the given day, but that this can happen in sport was not important for the electronic media to understand. They played to, what they thought is, the sentiment of the fans. Except that social media now allows you to gauge the fan sentiment in real time. And the social media verdict was clear: There was no shame in losing to the better team on the day after playing a great World Cup for more than a month. While the print media too was mature and restrained the next morning, the TV coverage was the old-school, of the ‘Match Ke Mujrim’ variety.


This week, even the electronic media has fallen in line. Perhaps it’s the late surge from Jadeja and Dhoni, who took India within striking distance, that played a role in how the story was played out. If India had folded up for less than 150, a very likely option at one stage, the daggers may have come out in more numbers. But on Wednesday, the few, like ABP News, who presented India’s exit story as a “failure” were firmly rebuked by big numbers on social media.


I find this evolution of the Indian fan fascinating. We are not a sporting nation by culture, and understanding defeat in big-ticket sport doesn’t come intuitively to us. But somehow, over the last five years, there has been a sobering down of reactions after losses in key matches. Perhaps it’s a function of us winning more often than not these days. But there’s also little doubt that sobering and influencing voices on social media that have been able to influence how fans think about and approach the game.


As a follower of cricket over the years, if you have seen the agony of 2007, you have seen it all. India’s early (first week) exit that year was torturous, to put it mildly. It brought out the worst in fans and the media. But the performance was so lacklustre that even the most moderate voices found it difficult to appeal for restraint. It took an unlikely World T20 win later that year for that ghost to be buried. Though for many like me, that one week featuring losses to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will remain the worst week in Indian cricket for a lifetime.


We have come a long way since then, both on and off the field. There has been ample dignity at display this week. And that’s a wonderful sign for the future.



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