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

The cricket World Cup final was held in Ahmedabad in India last week with the home time facing the Australian challengers. Now this World Cup is second only to the soccer World Cup in the number of followers globally and the match of two hot teams promised to be a zinger.

India had breezed through the arduous challenging qualifiers without any hiccups and a perfect record, while Australia had fallen to the team they would be meeting in the finals. On their path to the finals they had also lost to South Africa, and had a couple of hairy matches but they managed to squeeze through.

India was coming in with the leading scorer in their meteoric star, Virat Kohli, while the star and the leading wicket taker of the tournament was another Indian named Mohamed Shami. This was going to be their evening among the 100,000 spectators led by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in attendance.

Across India, people were gathering with family and friends to witness what they knew would be India’s solid victory and on their home soil.

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The stage was set. In millions of homes across the Indian subcontinent, housewives were quickly sent scurrying into kitchens to prepare sumptuous feasts of Biryani and Gajar ka Halwa laced with almonds and silver foil or other such delicacies to serve their invited guests!

Indian politicians, Bollywood actors, lawyers, doctors, students, and street food vendors were all preparing to be captivated by their home boys in blue. Social media was buzzing before the game with any piece of gossip relating to their team eagerly lapped by the zealous followers.

When the game started, the boys in blue took to batting first. The captain got the team going with a towering six off Glenn Maxwell. The footwork, backswing, timing, and the nonchalance as he turned his back on the ball after following its trajectory brought a huge roar from the expectant crowd.

The Indians started confidently, putting on 30 runs before a wicket fell and the nation’s darling Virat Kohli made his appearance at the crease. Along with the Indian captain, they quickly accelerated to near a half century partnership when the captain was dismissed, and chinks began to show themselves around India’s armour.

The Australians smelling blood tightened their grip on the field and other than Kohli and then their wicket keeper Rahul, the ship began to founder as wickets fell regularly and India was soon bowled out for 240 runs in their allotted 50 overs.

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ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 - Final - India v Australia - Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad, India - November 19, 2023 Australia's Pat Cummins, David Warner and Steve Smith celebrate after winning the ICC Cricket World Cup

Simply not cricket

When it came for their turn to bat, the Australians found themselves looking down the gauntlet as the Indian bowlers quickly dismissed their first three batsmen. Little did any of the Indian fans at the ground know then that there would be no more cause for joy for them.

And then, another Australian took charge and as his team moved on towards the winning total, the festive and roaring crowd seemed to have become subdued and the deafening crescendo that had marked the beginning of the finals was soon replaced by an eerie silence all over the stadium.

The throngs who had come to watch the thrilling finale began to fizzle out long before the Aussies scored the winning runs. It brought to mind a statement by the Australian captain a day before the finals when he said that there was no greater satisfaction than silencing a huge crowd. There would be no festivities that day.

The paltry remaining crowd that had stayed on to the conclusion of the game did no justice to sportsmanship anywhere. When the umpires were introduced during the presentation ceremony, they were loudly booed by the crowd. It was a curious finale on a night where the spirit of gamesmanship was severely tested by the partisan crowd.

Now the term ‘that’s not cricket’ signifies the importance of playing by the rules and adhering to the courtesy of players in a gentleman’s game.

Deviating from such behaviour is simply frowned on and is not cricket. Winning and losing is part of the game, but what the spectators displayed at the World Cup final was simply not cricket.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena