WC 2003 - A nation under unofficial mourning

Published: Monday, March 24, 2003, 4:42 [IST]
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Kolkata: Rising pre-match expectations, gradual dismay, rain-induced hope and the final heartbreak -- this more or less sums up the mood of the city as India collapsed meekly to the Aussie might in the World Cup final on Sunday.For the metropolis, where cricket fever reached an unprecedented high with the fans painstakingly preparing for the 'D' Day and almost the entire population hooked to the small screen hoping for a repeat of the 1983 triumph, it was a stunning anti-climax, hard to digest. The drums fell silent. Crackers did not burst. The much expected second 'holi' in six days never happened. The sports crazy Kolkatans watched with 'shock and awe' the devastating batting display of the Aussies. "The way they batted, no team in the world could have bettered them. They played like true champions," said Suman Mitra, a resident of Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly's locality at Behala.Groups of people gathered in street corners, soon after the match, discussing in hushed tones team India's debacle, criticising Ganguly's decision to field first and the much hyped pace troika's inability to deliver the goods when it mattered most.If Aussie captain Ricky Ponting's sledge hammer blows with the willow acted as the first dampener to the people's aspirations, batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar's first over fall to the tricks of Glenn McGrath led to collective sighs of dismay from the fans watching the match at the 20 giant screens set up by the West Bengal government. But as the heavens opened up in South Africa, hope returned to Kolkata. "Maa Mangalchandi (Ganguly's household deity) will bail him out. If there is a replay on Monday, India will certainly win," said Kumar Sen, sitting before the giant screen at Jadavpore. However, the match resumed within 23 minutes, and once Virender Sehwag departed, the crowd started melting and only the most die-hard fans sat through. Even those glued to their TV sets at home, started switching channels as Indian wickets tumbled at regular intervals. Community dinners organised at various clubs of the city, where large number of people collected before television sets hoping to see local boy Ganguly lift the Cup, tasted bitter after the defeat. "I was sure we will in. But then..." said a sad Palash Karmakar, of the Creek Row Sporting Club. Earlier, all other activity came to a standstill as buses, taxis and auto rickshaws kept off the roads, and the main thoroughfares, cinema halls and tourist destinations were deserted. Even patients visiting hospitals complained of unavailability of doctors and para-medical staff.The creme de la creme of the city gathered at several hotels, where the match was shown live on big screens, with moth-watering culinary delicacies and drinks for company. Groups of youngsters moved around the city on trucks and motorbikes flying the national flag and eulogising the Indian cricketers in the lead up to the match. Meanwhile in Chennai, it was a nation that took to the streets in this southern metropolis as the Indian cricket team went out against the Australians in the World Cup final in Wanderers with the strong hope and prayers that the glittering trophy was destined for New Delhi, not Canberra, but were disappointed as their national heroes slipped and bruised in the last hurdle. The crowds were seen walking around in batches waving Indian flags to the moving vehicles and passers by in preparedness to greet and cheer the heroes with an euphoria reserved only for New Year revelry. The sight of a sports loving country celebrating was to be somehow more emphatic as the cricketers woke to the call after their loss to the Aussies in the league stage and were pitted to beat the best in the world. This was ringing in everyone's mind and in fact all their talk soon after toss was taken revolved around Sachin, Saurav and Dravid and the bowlers, Srinath and Zaheer would win the match for the country on Sunday.However, the Australian opening batsman, Adam Gilchrist and Mathew Hayden silenced thousands of spectators assembled in different places in the city, including the sprawling Marina beach and the Chepauk Stadium, to view and enjoy the match on 'big screens', while families were seen witnessing the match in star hotels with greater facilities, including free 'short eats'. In effect, the city had undergone a transformation with spontaneous efforts of lovers of the game outwitting the other youngsters in one area to another. In each and every Municipal Division in the city, boys and girls and some cases men and women, were going in procession rolling or lifting the huge replica of cups made in paper to locate them in eye catching positions. The largest one of a size to the height of over 20 feet with the Indian tricolour atop of the Cup was erected at the tip of a sub-way adjacent to the age-old Loyola College in the heart of the city. When this correspondent went out to have a look at what was going on, he received several 'bear hugs' and joined the prayers made standing before the replica of the cup.In a nutshell, the roads were filled with people hours before the match commenced but wore a deserted look like on a 'bandh day' during the match, with only few government transport buses and cars moving on the road. And, hours after the game was over and with the grouse that their heroes did not rise their game to the expected levels, the supporters of the game were returning home with their heads down -- mourning India's loss. Of course, the elite crowd shifted their action to the Clubs and Hotels and 'drowned in sorrow with spirit'. Finally, they consoled themselves saying 'come next World Cup'. In Indias capital city, it was a case of so near yet so far for millions of Indians as the 'men in blue' stumbled at the last hurdle in the Cricket World Cup final in Johannesburg. Even at the half-way mark, most of the Indian fans were almost resigned to the fact that it is impossible to dethrone Australia. But 32 per cent of them surveyed by a television channel were still hopeful that their team would overhaul Australia's record score of 359 for two in 50 overs. Coming after a wait of 20 years, India's entry into the final had created so much expectation that the same people who were burning effigies and conducting mock funerals of the team were praising the players. "Everything is over," said Anoop, a cook by profession, as he along with two of his friends listened to the ball by ball commentary on the pocket transistor."It went haywire from the very beginning," said a crest fallen fan referring to the very first over of the match in which Zaheer Khan conceded 15 runs including 8 extras. It was the bowlers who disappointed" opined the majority as the Indian pace trio came a cropper against Australia.After Australia coasted to a nine wicket win in a highly anticipated league encounter, the men from down under unleashed a thunder on the Indian bowlers tearing their statistics to shreds. PTI


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