“Dhoni finishes off in style!”
Ravi Shastri’s epic words from 12 years ago. Words that reverberated in my head, time and again. Not after the 2011 World Cup win, mind you. It was after I had watched MS Dhoni: The Untold Story. A movie that intensified, even glorified, my love for a cricketer I had admired for years. Future thoughts of Dhoni were peppered with reverence. As though he were a god of sorts. Cricket is a religion, they say. One look at a Virat Kohli fan in a stadium on the occasion of his idol scoring a century, and you will feel the truth in that statement. What better stage to bring that sense of worship to other than the World Cup?
The very words ‘World’ and ‘Cup’, when uttered in unison, exude a different sort of charm. Only recently, there was the Asia Cup, where India played Pakistan not once but twice. Strangely, people could not be less bothered. It was different during their World Cup fixture, of course. People were checking into hospitals, not hotels. All so they could catch a glimpse of their favourite gods. The ‘bashers’ of the arch rivals. And bash them we did…That too, in style!
I remember when Bangladesh tried to finish off Dhoni style against us in 2016. They lost one wicket after another, in going for that stylish boundary, the “money shot”. From prime position, they succumbed to Dhoni’s uber-craftsmanship behind the wicket. As well as his sheer speed.
India winning the World Cup is akin to bringing Ganesha home
Indian players celebrate after winning the 2011 World Cup final in Mumbai
My earliest memories of watching cricket go back to my childhood years, when we would tune in with a sense of fascination to a black-and-white screen to watch our gods. Gods like Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev. It was also the time when I harboured this deep sense of fascination for the Australian opening duo of David Boon and Dean Jones.
Flash forward to 2015, to the glorious Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. South Africa has piled on a mammoth score against us, and there is something unfolding that I have never witnessed before. It seems as though the entire stadium is chanting “ABD! ABD!”. It might have a little something to do with AB de Villiers’s glorious knock. Oh, and I am one of those people in the stadium. Those chanting the name of a god, a foreign god at that.
That is exactly why cricket is a religion. People say that religion is the reason for so much divisive politics around the world. But I beg to differ. I think it makes the lines between people blur. The unifying force between people might have different faces, but, in its essence, it is one.
God is within, as they say… Which brings me to the current World Cup. For me, India winning the World Cup is akin to bringing Ganesha home. We treat our cricketing team with about the same reverence as we would the Elephant God in the environs of our four walls. It almost seems as though there is no space for other gods. After all, everywhere you look, there is a sea of blue.
We are not invincible. And nor are our gods
Virat Kohli walks back to the pavilion after getting dismissed for 117 during the semi-final against New Zealand in the ongoing World Cup
After the India-Pak game in Ahmedabad, Kohli walked up to Babar Azam and handed him his jersey. An act that saw criticism from an ex-Pakistan player, saying that Babar should have not accepted the ‘gift’. It is only human beings who discriminate. How could the many avatars of god think they are any different from one another?
If there is one thing that is obvious about any World Cup, it is the fact that every team wants to win it. When a god like Kohli gets out, it seems something of an anomaly. The thought of someone invincible being slayed is ludicrous! And yet, we are not invincible. And nor are our gods. This world we live in is ephemeral. This, too, shall pass one day, as will Kohli’s reign. India might be winning now, but one day we may lose to the Netherlands. That is life. It makes me question: What is even the point of winning, if we are doomed to fail sooner than later?
Sport is a great leveller. It teaches us about loss like no other. The very reason we love cricket or any other sport, for that matter, is because, as in life, there are no guarantees in sport. No matter who lifts the World Cup tonight, every nation that has played it must be proud of themselves. As for the winners, they need not lay emphasis on finishing things off in style.
Because nothing is truly finished. This, too, shall pass. After sometime people will be hanging on to other gods for dear life, hoping they will make their wishes come true. Yes, we want to win tonight and celebrate another Diwali, screaming “India! India!”. But winning is not the only thing.
In sport, as in life, fun is a part of why we love
If you will, allow me to revisit that moment on April 2, 2011, when Dhoni hit the winning six. Did you see his expression, or were you too busy celebrating, like everyone else? His face bore a sense of unreal calm, the memory of which makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Dhoni knew better than to get carried away by the momentary victory. He knew that one day in the not-too distant future he would be replaced by another.
We all want India to win every World Cup, but just imagine if we really did! I remember a friend telling me when India were midway through their World Cup winning streak: “India should lose just once. Then there will be some fun.” Fun. That is the word. No matter who wins tonight, let us have a good game of cricket. Let us have fun. And yes, in sport, as in life, fun is a part of why we love. And love is all the more precious because it is inextricably tied to loss.
Rohit Trilokekar is a novelist from Mumbai who flirts with the idea of what it means to love. His heart’s compass swerves ever so often towards Kolkata, the city he believes has the most discerning literary audience.