March 26: Samba flopped, Sania gave no joy and now Team India has tumbled out — it’s been a bad year for the Indian sports addict.
The Men in Blue began their losing streak in May last year, in the West Indies, and continued it in Malaysia.
In between, the boys in canary-and-blue dealt the unkindest cut. Not only did Ronaldinho and Company leave the World Cup early, but embarrassed their fans with insipid play in a key match.
Those Indians who don’t support Brazil were already heartbroken with the exit of Argentina on penalties.
Just when the desi fan was trying to get over it all by immersing himself in ICC Champions Trophy excitement at home, the Blues left in a hurry.
Sania Mirza’s second-round knockouts at the US and Australian Open after the end-2005 high, and her wavering ranking that now reads 45, did nothing to lift the gloom.
So the Indian fan can be forgiven if, after the latest Caribbean catastrophe, he goes into an all-sulk-and-no-play mood and throws his television remote into the bin.
But come Tuesday evening, and indications are his fingers will be itching again to switch the TV on. Passions die hard, and surely there will be a second-choice side to root for'
T. Gangadhar is putting his money on it.
“The Super Eight has heavyweight matches and I expect Indians to tune in big time,” said the vice-president (marketing) of Set Max, which is beaming the World Cup. “Public memory is short, so once they get over India’s defeat, they are going to watch the matches.”
The crowds at Indian stadiums didn’t go away after Rahul Dravid’s men exited the Champions Trophy last year.
“My guess is they will root for Sri Lanka as it’s the only big subcontinental side left. South Africa could be second favourite,” Gangadhar says.
The fans have their own picks — and their own reasons.
Apurva Soumya, a student at IIT Kharagpur’s Calcutta campus, wants the best team to win. “And that’s Australia. If they lose, I’ll probably switch to South Africa.”
What about Habibul Bashar’s youthful whippersnappers, or the old sentimental favourites, the West Indies'
“I’m not going to back anyone on sentiment, but only the team likely to win. And that’s Australia or South Africa,” says Delhi University student Shovan Singhal firmly.
Calcuttans Ashimendu Dasgupta and DJ Akash are all for sentiment, but not of the purely cricketing kind.
Akash is for Lanka because “I want the World Cup to come back to the subcontinent”. To septuagenarian Dasgupta, Bangladesh has been “the” team of the tournament as much for its spirit as for his being a Bangal.
For Mumbai MBA student J. Atul, 24, all that matters is how the game is played. “Although it’s insane to expect Bangladesh to win, I support them because they have shown they can fight. It’s the fighting spirit that I support.”
Twenty-year-old graphic designer Jay Hasija, too, will be cheering the teen devils on: “They have been playing better then before; it’s nice to see them winning.”
So what if each of their wins drove a nail into India’s coffin'