India fans react while watching the 2023 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) final match between India and Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on November 19, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

“In sport, there’s nothing more satisfying than hearing a big crowd go silent,” said Pat Cummins a day before the big final. And boy, his team didn’t just silence the 90,000 fans in the stadium, he also sent them home so fast that India lost the match, but it was cricket fans who tossed their respect for a six.

By the time Cummins, as captain of a world champion team came to collect the trophy, the stadium mirrored the emperor’s new clothes, naked in its vanity.

Once they bit, twice they bit harder. It was not good cricket the crowd had come to see; it was not even cricket. The stadium wasn’t a Wankhede or a Mohali, where sportsman spirit runs as deep in the stands as on the field.

Silly chants during the league were also a poke at every genuine cricket fan anywhere in the country who watches cricket for cricket’s sake.

Then the game plan — both inside and outside the dressing room — faltered. When a national passion is (mis) fired by nationalism, the surface spectacle unknots like a Bolt dash.

Travis Heard’s century came up but inside the Narendra Modi stadium, 90,000 spectators — in the rules of engagement, calling them fans would be injustice to those who are — could have been putting a baby to sleep.

The silence spoke. It spoke of a misled people; it spoke of a toxic people. In this grudge match, let alone the Australians, as the going got tough they even forgot to cheer Rohit Sharma and his men. The rules of gully cricket are fairer.

Australia were able to silence the 90,000 fans in the Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad during the 2023 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup

Boundary of global shame

These cricket supporters have a thing or two in common with Indian media, they are both equally misinformed. They have also stepped into the digital playground with far more enthusiasm than Sunny Gavaskar’s cowboy shoes on a dry pitch. There they compete in a race to the bottom.

Man of the tournament Virat Kohli may be the darling of the fandom, but in 2015 his wife, actor Anushka Sharma was trolled for India’s defeat — yes, it is a true story — and his toddler daughter threatened with extreme violence.

The couch cowards are back, classy is still not a shot in their repertoire. Now it is Heard’s turn, his wife and daughter have been threatened with dangerous aggression while Glen Maxwell’s Indian origin wife has been dissed for choosing her husband’s side.

The cup of embarrassment is overflowing like a frothy Yamuna during the monsoon, several Australian cricketers and journalists have complained of death threats.

Then came the umpires, Heard’s silent whisperer act in retrospect was relatively poetic, the two men were booed by the same Indian fans who are giving Mitchell Marsh a masterclass on respect for posing with his feet on the trophy. Irony lies dead and buried. Victors tell the story, not those who have crossed the boundary of global shame.

The seats inside the stadium, there was a better use for them. Not so strangely, the Narendra Modi stadium with a seating capacity of close to 100,000 preferred a knockout to the real deal.

India’s cricket board chose to ignore the very men who brought the game into our living rooms by vanquishing the legendary Sir Clive Lloyds’ team.

Narendra Modi stadium with a seating capacity of close to 100,000 preferred a knockout to the real deal

Pitch has long been queered

Much as what made India a tolerant nation, Kapil Dev and his 1983 World Cup winning squad, Kapil’s Devils are also dispensable in this new India and were not sent an invitation. It was probably par for the course that for those in the stadium actor Ranveer Singh, who plays Kapil in a movie, padded up.

Kapil Dev new
Kapil Dev, the captain who led India to victory in the 1983 World Cup, did not receive an invitation to attend the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 final at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. Image Credit: Gulf News

Kapil’s Devils in a joint statement in May put their weight behind India’s elite wrestlers who were protesting alleged sexual assault by a parliamentarian from the ruling BJP, “We are distressed and disturbed at the unseemly visuals of our champion wrestlers being manhandled …” The pitch has long been queered.

Incidentally, India’s biggest sporting hero, Neeraj Chopra was also at the match venue, but the cameras and cricket officials were busy.

It was to be a show by BCCI for BCCI’s non-cricketing arm, nepotism has long left Karan Johar’s couch. But as this political gambit began to unravel, with its unblemished record the team, incidental in all the power play became secondary.

For all its riches, the Indian board’s dominance of world cricket is not sport, it is not even just business. It is about ironclad control over cricketing nations, befittingly Australia reminded us that monopoly is just a game.

First pitch gate and now this, the Indian team deserves an apology. Their streak of brilliance is being second guessed, thanks to external shenanigans.

Stadiums will come and go; it is what is inside — both a stadium and our hearts — that counts. Ahmedabad stadium may be the chosen one, but it lacks both cricket meritocracy and aristocracy. Cricket deserves better.