Fans have a responsibility in lifting the game to the next level © Getty Images
Fans have a responsibility in taking the game to the next level © Getty Images

“A defeat in the summit clash of an ICC event surely hurts and it does rankle, but I have to admit that India did not show up on the big day and Pakistan were more driven and passionate. However, I continue to have full faith in India and have no doubts that it is the best limited-overs side. After all, cricket is a sport and there is a lesson to be learnt for all genuine cricket fans here. A team is not greater than the sport. We should respect our opponents no matter how they are”, opined my cousin Kunal Sahay, after our long conversation on my way back home from work.

The writing was on the wall when India were 54 for 5 in pursuit of 339 against Pakistan in ICC Champions Trophy 2017 final. Nonetheless, I was caught in two minds since the start of proceedings. Writers, or journalists, are expected to remain neutral but the occasion got the better of me. I was furious when Jasprit Bumrah overstepped after dismissing Fakhar Zaman for 3. I was banking on the Indian openers in a humongous chase.

When Virat Kohli fell, I entrusted the pair of Yuvraj Singh – MS Dhoni to script a famous victory. The duo faltered, I pinned my hopes on Kedar Jadhav. His departure led to Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja taking centre-stage. Pandya was on fire, but his run-out put the final nail in the coffin.

I was livid at Jadeja after Pandya’s dismissal on 76. I even abused India’s No. 1 all-rounder in Tests, in the heat of the moment. After India’s 180-run defeat, my seniors (in CricketCountry) sat down to finish the pending work. My mind was still pondering over the game gone by. Clearly, it was not India’s day. They were outplayed in all departments. The better team, Pakistan, ended as deserving champions.

As the loss sunk in, I realised my follies as well. It is a game. The likes of Bumrah and Jadeja did not purposely have a bad outing on the 22-yard. More than that, Jadeja was instrumental in leading India to the coveted title in 2013. One should never forget this!

Being a sportsman and cherishing this sport since I was 10, I should also refrain from letting my anger get the better of me in tough situations. After all, I am just a fan. I wanted to go the distance and don the blue jersey, but could not. Those who are playing at the highest level deserve all accolades and cannot be doubted. They are the driving force for a country so passionate for the game. Moreover, professionally, one should also use his/her pen to good effect and be sensible enough with their approach rather than rigorously thrashing a team (be it their national side or an opponent). After all, we all know how ‘critical’ some news channels and writers are in degrading their ‘heroes’.

There is no baap-beta in sports

There were several social media memes hogging the limelight in the run-up to the marquee clash between India and Pakistan. Some termed this as ‘mother of all clashes’ whereas a section of ‘us’ referred Team India as Baap (Father) and Pakistan as Beta (son). India have a staggering record against the arch-rivals in World Cups (50-over format and T20Is). In the ODI World Cups, India lead Pakistan 6-0. On the other hand, they have also trounced the Men in Green 5 times in shortest format’s biggest event. Such records led to a popular belief that Team India would have another rollicking day on the field versus Pakistan.

In a world dominated by social media, fans go a step ahead in supporting their side and bashing the opposition. Leave alone fans, former Indian opener Virender Sehwag’s tweets usually make Team India appear as the ‘Baap of cricket’ and provoke reactions from other countries’ supporters by framing them ‘beta’ or ‘pote’ (grandson). Everything cannot be taken in a light manner.

There is a thin line between humour and taking jibe intentionally. No team owns the sport. There is no way that the Indian cricket team have conquered everything in world cricket. They are by no means invincible. Past glories are history. On their day, any opponent can turn the tables; a fitting example shown by Pakistan.

There should be a way of backing our troops. Fans have minimal responsibility. They should feel a part of India’s celebrated triumphs and cherish the occasion. Similarly, they should also bear the brunt of disappointments triggered by crushing defeats.

Also, respecting the opponent is an art. Such small things do not matter generally, but a genuine fan will always step aside and state, “No issues, the other team played well. Hence, they won. Let’s respect that and back our unit”.

Instead of appreciating the opposition, Twitter was flooded with memes of Jadeja, Bumrah or taking digs at Team India.

Be sensible, not a blind follower

Take a leaf from the champion?

“If you are proud of that fact that we are 11-0 up against them (Pakistan), one reality is that we may lose sometime in future. Maybe after 10 years, 20 years or 50 years. But this cannot be possible that we will always win (versus Pakistan). Someday will come when we will lose”, quoted Dhoni after India’s triumph against the neighbouring country in WT20 2016.

One way to go about it-

In the end, fans have a small, but crucial, part in taking the sport to another level. Accepting defeats graciously, bursting in celebrations after thumping wins and showering respect to the opposition is the need of the hour.

What are fans fighting for? Why are we disappointed? Surely, a humiliating defeat shatters everyone, but not more than the players. This tweet shows the apt way of handling such consequences. The game is played on the 22-yard; not across the boundary ropes.

It is safe to say that Spirit of Cricket prevailed yesterday…