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Fellow Feeling

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It is extraordinary that there was such outpouring of joy at every place the Indian cricket team was present after its return following the World Cup victory – from the airports to the PM’s residence in Delhi, to Mumbai’s Marine Drive. It is not as if winning the trophy was unexpected – it is the highest ranked team in the game. Why should people leave what they are doing to spend hours waiting and brief minutes watching the team drive past?

It is true that the earlier loss to Australia in the ODI World Cup in 2023, despite India being the favourites, left a sour taste in the mouth. Taking revenge in another format by being the undefeated team did raise the spirits, but to this extent? Why do Indians feel they are more fulfilled in their personal lives because of the achievements of the national cricket team? Is it a reflection of their sense of nationhood? If that is the case, there should never be any doubt about the nation’s unity and integrity in the face of challenges.

It must be said that those in-charge of Cricket in India have built the game up assiduously as not just the gentleman’s game that it was before, but something every individual can aspire to. Almost every national level cricketer has a story of rising above circumstances, with the help of coaches, teams, governments and the Board, to the highest possible level. Perhaps, this potential to achieve, and find a better life, is also what inspires the common people. They see in the players a reflection of themselves, hence the connect.

There are other sports also where this aspirational model is being sought to be replicated. It is not just an understanding of the game that is required – it has also to be marketed skillfully so that the number of followers increases, which then can be monetised to finance the sport’s growth. It requires dedication among the administrators and the usual inclination to divert funds and misuse influence avoided. Excellence has to be promoted at every level – from the street to the school and college, from the village to the international arena. Negative internal politics must be avoided as it is a killer. One need only see the dismal condition of various sports associations to understand the effect. Cricket shows us that pursuit of the common goal benefits all, and also inspires the multitude.