The ‘Agony’ after the ‘Ecstasy’ as Cricket India falter, Smashing A Billion Hopes!

The ‘ecstasy’ of the ten won games ended in ‘agony’ for a billion plus cricket crazy Indians. The home team under-performed in the last game, proving how cricket remains unpredictable. After all, it is just another facet of ‘life’, you can never tell how it will end! The loss apart, India did do well, with hopes moving on to the next generation of young cricketers.

I write this article with a very heavy heart and teary eyes as well. The true Team India supporter, Massive “deshbhakt” and the insanely fanatic cricket nerd in me rues the fact as to what could have been, but then also wants to celebrate what joy Team India gave to the nation during the 2023 Cricket World Cup. There was pride and honour galore and without any prejudice during this campaign.

For the grand finale in Ahmedabad, special trains plied between key cities, schools postponed their examinations and corporate offices were given offs as well. The entire nation was waiting for the inevitable to happen – India being crowned as the ICC WC Champions of the 2023 edition. Alas!

The euphoria has ended. The dream is shattered, but so are many cricketing records in this World Cup. Many of the records are now owned by our men in Blue. India has done the unthinkable by winning ten games in a row and with consummate ease, that too. Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have re-iterated to the world as to why they are both GOATs of World Cricket. India’s pace bowling attack has venom like never seen before with the current fast bowling trio that exhibited raw pace, excellent control and a lot of bite. India’s middle order batting department delivered with so much ease throughout their campaign.

On that day of the Final, the Indian Team lost to a better team in all the departments. That is the harsh and unfortunate truth. Was India the best team and the deserved winner of the title?  This will be debated till the cows come home. After all, four Indian batters feature in the top ten run getters of this edition and the highest wicket taker of the tournament is an Indian as well.

As Indians, we would like to believe that the World Cup was snatched from our clutches with just the one bad game. That is sport. Be it individual or a team game, sport is not scripted and it has that element of suspense that makes it sticky. Most importantly, there is more than skill needed to lift a global trophy.

Having said that, one cannot help but feel heartbroken especially for Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. I am sure they wanted to bid their World Cup careers a glorious goodbye a la Sachin Tendulkar style in 2011. These two GOATs along with Rahul Dravid deserved to win the World Cup, after the way they had stitched together a fabulous well rounded unit and actually took on the mantle to play their roles so effectively.

Before we dissect the “could have been” scenarios further on in this article, let’s delve into what was achieved by Team India in this World Cup. These stats are truly startling. India pretty much owned this World Cup on personal performances.

Most Wins in the Tournament – India
Best Net Run Rate – India
Most Runs – V. Kohli
Most wickets – M. Shami
Highest average – V. Kohli
Most fours – V. Kohli
Most sixes – Rohit Sharma
Most fifties – V. Kohli
Best bowling figure – M. Shami
Most five-wicket haul – M. Shami
Best bowling Strike Rate – M. Shami
Best bowling Average – M. Shami

The Man of the Series was awarded to Virat Kohli. Enroute, he conquered the 50th century landmark as well, overtaking Sachin. No one including Virat Kohli celebrated these mammoth personal achievements.

King Kohli eclipsed Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 2003 where he amassed 673 runs in a single World Cup edition. Virat scored 765 runs at a staggering average of 95.62 and yet did not lift the trophy. Both God & King lost to the might of Australia in the finals!

Add additional records, specifically the other outstanding milestones achieved by the Indians.

Mohd Shami is now the Fastest Bowler Ever to 50 Wickets in ODI World Cups. Just the17 Innings taken to do this. He also owns the Best ODI Bowling figures by an Indian with the 7-wicket haul he took.

Rohit Sharma now has 7 centuries at ICC World Cups and scored 597 runs in this edition.

Shreyas Iyer scored 530 runs at an average of 66 and resolved the India’s Number 4 spot concern.

KL Rahul batted an average of 75 and amassed 452 Runs this time around.

58 wickets were taken by the pace trio of Shami (24), Bumrah (20) & Siraj (14) in the 11 games. That’s a serious significant impact on a campaign that was held on Indian soil where pacers traditionally do not prosper.

So, what really happened in the Final?

Winning a Big Moment is not about “not panicking”; rather it is about panicking a bit less than the other guys. Hope you get what that means. The butterflies will be there. It is the World Cup Final after all. But, India were taught the same lesson two decades ago in South Africa by the Aussies.

If you draw parallels between the 2003 and the 2023 World Cup Final, there are a lot of commonalities. Australia won both because of their unabashed ruthless outlook towards the game. India got downed this time by Travis Head, who mind you is quite a big match Player.

Travis Head is a player and a half!

South Africa had to succumb to his brilliance as he took 2 wickets and smashed a quick fire 62 in the Semi Finals this World Cup. Not to forget the 137 not out against India in the Finals. Both of these were Man of the Match performances.

But, cast back to the WTC Finals in 2023 as well, where again a boisterous Australian attack ripped apart the Number 1 Test Nation India to win that too. It was Travis Head there too with the bat though. He walked away winning the Man of the Match in that Final again, thanks to his blistering knock of 163. This guy is made for the Big occasions.

Who dares Wins!

Australia won the big moments. The ceased them with clarity of thought and the killer instinct that has won them their sixth record breaking title out of the thirteen world cups. It’s actually a 46% chance of Australia winning a World Cup each time it is held. Isn’t that just staggering as a number for one country to dominate a particular sport.

Flash back to the Finals and review some startling reasons as to why Australia are such champions;

Pat Cummins had the guts to play mind games in the pre match press conference where he was going to want to silence the world’s largest stadium cheering for its home team – India.

The Aussie team management understood the nature of the pitch and its changing nature as the dew would fall in latter part of the day. Hence, making it easier to bat second.

Australia picked to bowl first in a big final. Chasing in the Narendra Modi Stadium against not eleven, but one lac plus people wearing a sea of blue is a daunting thought in the first place.

India were not allowed to get any boundaries in the middle overs and were actually tactically forced to a below par total. India buckled down and resorted to not offering any big hits and left the bowlers with a lot to do under lights.

Australia came out swinging hard. Losing Warner, Marsh and Smith did not deter the approach at all.

Australia backed Travis Head even though he has failed initially. Did he come through for them.

Bottom line. They dared and they Won. Never count out Australia in any of the global events.

“Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee”: Muhammad Ali

Did Australia do that or what in the 2023 World Cup? They were never supposed to wear the crown at the start of the global tournament. Neither did they make a handsome start to their campaign with the initial losses. In fact, they convincingly lost a home ODI series to India just a week prior to the World Cup commencing.

However, they were always around floating like a Bee in this edition. The world saw them buzzing around their ears, but they were always the fringe team. Not many took them seriously to lift the title. Come the must win and the Knock Out stage, Australia stung and stung how. Convincing victory over the South Africans, who hit the panic button way too early in the semifinal and then the momentum was carried into the finals against the home team.

The 2023 World Cup – financially delivered for the ICC!

Within this massive anti-climax of a final and all the gloom that followed – this World Cup edition of India has broken records for in-stadium attendance and broadcast viewership, according to the ICC and its broadcast partners Disney Star.

Let’s have to look at a report published by the ICC on the success of this World Cup.

6.7 Billion video views on Social Media
43 Million Website Users
60,000 views per post on Social Media

Before the above numbers are starting to amaze you, look at the officials number of views as per ICC as well.

364 million total Viewers
76 Million Peak on Linear
43 Million Peak on Digital

Further on, as per the ICC Reports, a total of 1,250,307 spectators watched the 48 games at the grounds in India, surpassing the previous record of 1,016,420 spectators during the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. The 2019 World Cup in England stands third with 752,000 spectators.

One can say this was expected, given the godly worship cricket and cricketers have within this part of the world. Another reason being that the home team India delivered their perfect ten wins in a row as well. The mood was just great and life was on auto mode for the BCCI and its stakeholders.

Streaming Services & Broadcasters have raked it in.

For a 10 second advertisement, corporates had to spend upto INR 35 lacs per insertion towards the end stages of the tournament making it a huge success for all interested parties.

Disney Star said linear television viewership in India crossed more than half a billion with 518 million tuning in for the World Cup across the six weeks of the tournament. Total consumption on TV was 422 billion minutes, making it the biggest World Cup ever, according to Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) data in India.

The World Cup final between India and Australia was watched by 300 million people, with a peak concurrency of 130 million, making it the most-watched cricket match on TV according to Disney Star.

The final also broke digital viewership records, with Disney+ Hotstar recording a high of 59 million concurrent viewers, the most for any live sports event.

Looking at that Fateful Day!

It was a debacle on the 19th of November 2023. It will be etched into the soul of every Indian who followed, admired and expected to see India do the lap of honour in front of Mr. Modi in Ahmedabad. But, why did things go south for India on that day? Let’s relive the decisions and it’s impacts on the end result.

India “tossed” the pitch around in Australia’s favour? Pitches are like chameleons. They can also come back to bite as you can’t trust its nature to that extent. India experimented against the Kiwis in the Semi Finals and it did work out favourably for them.

However, the track in Ahmedabad for the final was heavily worn – much to everyone’s surprise for an event of such stature. Australia won the toss and were brave enough to value the pitch and not just the occasion. They bowled first on a tacky 22 yards.

The gamble on the surface and regarding the surface failed for India – almost from the moment India lost the toss.

Home Disadvantage: You heard that right. While it’s a boon, it is also a bane. When things are great, you have a lac plus people roaring away to suppress the opposition. But, when the times are tough, the home team can feel that ‘weight’ of expectation from the “in your face” audience waiting for that one miracle to happen.

Paralysis by Analysis: Did India just think too much about what the Australians would not be comfortable with, rather than thinking about the Indian team’s strengths. In hindsight, we can all sit here and comment on things, but it does seem likely that India didn’t back preparing a track to suit not a traditional, but an in form Indian juggernaut prior to the final.

The Toss “Bossed” Day: Come on. While Rohit Sharma said he would have batted anyways despite losing the toss, was probably a mind game. The pitch was looking tacky from the get go, why on earth would India have wanted to not use the track under lights in better batting conditions.

India dug themselves a hole by gambling either winning the toss or regardless having an air of lots of self-confidence to bat out the opposition anyways. If you think about it, one couldn’t doubt that being the case if India re-played the game all over again. India has been the dominant squad for a while and at home they were like Goliaths to any other nation.

The Dew factor: It came. Just when India did not want it to land, it was there. The first three wickets buoyed the entire nation. One could hear fire crackers going off as Steve Smith left the Australian team reeling under lots of pressure. As the pitch got better, the Australian team management sent out enough messages to Marnus Labuschagne to just stay out there and bide his time in complete test format mode with the unperturbed soul of Travis Head who was busy bashing the leather off the ball in all directions.

Post World Cup Thoughts to Ponder!

Catches WIN Matches

Grown up hearing this? The saying has withstood the test of time. Cast back your memory to 1983 and relive the match winning catch of Kapil Dev to dismiss Sir Viv Richards in the World Cup final at Lords. Now, cut to the present and you’ll have no choice but to compare the Travis Head’s effort in Ahmedabad to dismiss Rohit Sharma in the belligerent mood that he was in. India could have run away with the game right then and there within the first 15 overs of the final.

Did Mujeeb do a Gibbs?

Now, for lost opportunities, comes to mind a great quote I heard the other day, “Opportunities are never lost, someone will always take the one you miss!”. Let’s align this thought process to Australia’s global success in the 1999 and the 2023 World Cup. Both times, Australia got out of jail and made the cricketing world pay by lifting the trophy.

In 1999, Herschelle Gibbs dropped Steve Waugh as he decided to celebrate the wicket without gaining decisive control on the catch. Guess what happened. Steve Waugh scored 120 and Australia won the game from nowhere and then hammered Pakistan in the Final to win the coveted event.

Circa 2023, Glenn Maxwell was rather sloppily dropped by Mujeeb Ur Rahman in the 22nd over. The casual effort made Maxi achieve the unthinkable on just the one leg. He amassed an incredible 201* and qualified for the Semi Final spot. Afghanistan not only squandered their chances of a top 4 berth, but aided Australia to “believe”.

But, was it Mujeeb’s Catch that Cost India the 2023 World Cup?

It would be rather imbecile to link India’s failure to lift the trophy with a league stage match performance. It did bolster the Australian dressing room’s confidence for sure, but that has nothing to do with how their Indian counter parts were feeling. We have no statistical or empirical reason believe other than the fact that any finalist that day would have meant the same to Team India’s chances one feels.

The Road Ahead?

Well. India has conquered the art of winning almost all its Bi-lateral series. It is time that we started pushing out a structure and a plan as to how we will compete in the Global ICC events. India is now earning a reputation of cracking under pressure in crunch matches. As a cricket geek, I feel this is somehow being blown out of proportion, but there is enough statistical data to support this theory too. The answer lies within the strong Indian cricketing structure. There are enough funds, tons of talent, amazing infrastructure and the right intent. The mental make-up might be a cause of concern however. Have a look at what’s to come in the near future as per the ICC Global Event calendar.


Sam is an ex-cricketer having played for Singapore U23’s and at a semi professional level in England in the 1990’s. He is a cricket-preneur working on the online & offline space in partnership with stalwarts such as Mickey Arthur.



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