Birmingham: Semi-finals are always an emotional one, one witnesses the joy of the victors and the dejection of the vanquished.
The atmosphere at Edgbaston was electrifying. It was a packed stadium and interestingly many were Indians as a lot of fans had believed that India would be playing here in the semi-finals. While a few had sold their tickets to England fans, the majority came to watch the match.
The disappointing aspect of a semi-final without a subcontinent team is the lack of celebrations outside the ground. There were hardly any interesting action outside for a video shoot … like some cheering fans or a victory celebration. If a subcontinent team had been the winner, then the fans ensure they don’t leave the premises for a long time and walk all the way to tube stations singing songs or shouting slogans for their team.
At Lord’s, the fans sat back after a match because they get a complimentary tour of the venue, which is otherwise is a paid activity on a non-match day. That is the way they have preserved this venue, which is referred to the as Home of Cricket and will now be hosting the final on Sunday.
Every top cricketer has a favourite venue, and now some teams have too. For England, Edgbaston is now their favourite venue as they have done well here winning their last 11 games. An England fan remarked that since the hosts decide on the venue for a final, they should have opted for Edgbaston.
The race from one semi-final to another and the speed with which we have been travelling has surprised me. The hunger to enjoy good cricket wipes away all the fatigue. Since many reports are written from one semi-final venue and within hours you move on to the next, one has to literally pause and think for a while before putting down the dateline for the story that I will be writing.
There was a tinge of sadness in me while I was proceeding towards Lord’s leaving behind Old Trafford and Edgbaston that gifted some great matches and memories in this World Cup. So one can only imagine the feelings of the Indian and Australian players over the fact that they won’t be playing at Lord’s. But what is satisfying is the fact that a team that has never lifted the World Cup will be doing so this Sunday.
It is often after the semi-finals that news of coaches and captains being sacked start coming up.
Amid serious talk over whether Indian skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri would be sacked soon, a journalist cheekily suggested that India should never wear the orange jersey again because that was the reason for their defeat to England. Funny remarks like New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson should talk to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for tips to outplay England (Pakistan had beaten England in the 1992 final) are doing the rounds here.
The expectations that England will lift the World Cup this time are now at its peak. Skipper Eoin Morgan is having a tough time to keep calm. There is also an uneasy feeling in England that New Zealand, who are also known as Black Caps, could make Sunday a black day for them. Sunday’s contest will be between two countries where cricket is not their most preferred sport. Williamson had said after their semi-final win that rugby will remain their No. 1 sport, and for England it will be football. I leave you with a question to ponder — why is it that any one nation where cricket is the No. 1 sport not reach the final?