India Lost The Final, But Earned New Admirers, Says Dubai Cricket Coach


(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Tue 21 Nov 2023, 1:21 AM

Even if you dig deep into the archives, you would fail to find another cricket team that had dominated a World Cup like India and yet ended up empty handed.

To draw an analogy, you have to look beyond cricket and set foot in the world of Ferenc Puskas and Johan Cruyff.

There was the Hungarian football team with Puskas, the legendary real madrid striker, as the fulcrum, decimating every opponent with their dazzling football at the 1954 World Cup only to lose the title-decider to West Germany, the team they had thrashed 8-3 in the group stages.

Twenty years later, the Cruyff-inspired Netherlands captivated football lovers with their 'Total Football', combining tenacity with artful build-up play in the final third, teasing and tormenting the rival defences.

But even that great Dutch team succumbed to the pressure of a World Cup final with West Germany again delivering the knockout punch.

Compared to those two iconic football teams, the Indian cricket team at the 2023 World Cup was not quite as gifted in their sport.

But they found a system in favourable home conditions to produce a brilliant brand of cricket as they galloped into the final with 10 straight wins.

Australia, though, saved their best for the last and brought the unstoppable Indian train into a screeching halt in the final, silencing 100,000 fans at the world's largest stadium.

The forlorn figures of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli broke a billion hearts as the two modern giants probably would never get another chance to be part of an ICC trophy-winning Indian team.

India's Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and other players after the final match. - PTI

But Dubai-based Indian cricket coach, Gopal Jasapara, feels the cricket-obsessed country would end the ICC trophy drought sooner than later.

"The final was a big set back for fans and the team. But I am very, very optimistic about Indian cricket. If you ask me, India have a great system in place now, it's matter of time before they start winning the big finals again. They will bounce back from this," Jasapara told the Khaleej Times from India.

The veteran coach, who travelled to India to attend the first semifinal and the final, said India may have lost the final, but they have earned new admirers with their aggressive style of cricket.

"The team had a great run. It had the perfect blend of youth and experience. batters like Rohit and Kohli played brilliantly and the bowlers were outstanding. Such was their impact on the tournament that even England fans were supporting India," he said.

"I met so many English fans at the stadium on Sunday who were supporting India. They had booked the final tickets months before expecting England to be in the final.

"England could not make it, but those fans did. And they were all supporting India in the final. I saw many of them one day before the match, buying India shirts.

"They said they loved the way India played their cricket in the tournament. I think that says a lot about how this team performed. It was heart-warming to heart that from those fans."

But Ajay Sethi, the Dubai-based Indian businessman who travelled with his wife for the final, admitted that India failed to hold their nerve in the final.

Ajay Sethi with his wife during the final match. - Supplied photo

"At the end of the day, it is all about holding the nerve. All Indian fans are disappointed because they were the best team in the tournament," said Sethi, chairman and MD of the Channel 2 Group Corporation, the global audio rights holders for all ICC tournaments.

"But Australia is Australia. They went into the final as five-time champions and it showed in their performance and body language."

Shafique Ahmed, another Dubai cricket coach, said it was natural for Indian fans to feel dejected.

Australia's Glenn Maxwell hugs India's Virat Kohli after the final. - PTI

"India had a wonderful tournament, their batsmen were very good and their bowlers were superb. But unfortunately, they had one bad day and it came in the final," said Ahmed whose son, Abdullah Shafique, the Pakistan opening batsman, scored 336 runs at the World Cup in India.

"It happens in sports. Also, Australia is a great sporting nation. They are very tough and they never give up," he said.

"Only Australia could have beaten this India team at this World Cup and they did that in the final!"

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