A Big Year for India on the Global Stage Ends in Cricket Heartbreak

The stage was amply set: an acrobatic air present by Indian army planes, performances by star Bollywood singers, a lightweight show, plenty of fireworks and — talked about as the spotlight — an look by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the huge stadium that bears his identify.

All India’s nationwide cricket group, undefeated and closely favored, needed to do was win.

In the finish, the Indians fell brief, dropping to Australia on Sunday night time in the males’s World Cup, silencing the house crowd of about 100,000 and bringing heartache to greater than a billion Indians who’ve grown used this 12 months to endless validation of their nation’s world rise.

The end result was a bitter capsule for a nation that anticipated a coronation as the most dominant drive, measured in ardour and cash, in a sport that by some estimates is the world’s second hottest. It appeared to represent how far India has come, on and off the discipline, and the way far it nonetheless has to go.

The Indian group had entered the last in Ahmedabad, in the western state of Gujarat, having handsomely received all 10 of its matches in the event. The image-savvy Mr. Modi hoped to lap up a second of glory at Narendra Modi Stadium, in his house state, forward of elections early subsequent 12 months, when he shall be looking for a 3rd time period.

The choreography — of a robust chief handing the trophy to a commanding group that swept to victory — would serve to additional fuse his picture to the story of India’s ascent.

But by the time Mr. Modi reached the stadium towards the finish of the match, India’s possibilities had spiraled downward. He introduced the trophy to the Australians after the crowd had largely exited.

“Dear Team India,” the prime minister mentioned in a consolation message on X after the recreation. “Your talent and determination through the World Cup was noteworthy. You’ve played with great spirit and brought immense pride to the nation.”

And there was lots for India, now the world’s most populous nation, to be happy with this 12 months. Its financial system, the world’s fifth largest, is the quickest rising amongst main nations (even when that progress is very unequal). It emerged as a strong voice for growing nations because it hosted the Group of 20 summit this 12 months. And it grew to become the first nation to efficiently land a rover on the southern pole of the moon.

In cricket, India is the world’s undisputed financial powerhouse. At least 80 p.c of revenues in world cricket come from India, world cricket officers estimate. Indian broadcast rights for worldwide matches for a four-year interval fetched about $3 billion.

In addition, there may be the nation’s profitable home league, the Indian Premier League. Its 10 groups are valued at about $1 billion on common, and the league, which pulls the finest gamers from India and round the world, offered its five-year media rights for about $6 billion.

The sport’s riches are additionally starting to trickle to the women’s recreation. Last 12 months, India launched the $500 million Women’s Premier League, providing hope to younger feminine cricketers in a rustic the place feminine participation in the formal financial system stays abysmal.

But India’s checkbook domination of the recreation has not translated into comparable success on the largest worldwide levels. India has received the World Cup, performed each 4 years, twice in the event’s 48-year historical past, the final time in 2011. Australia has received six occasions.

That felt like historic historical past, although, as Indians streamed into the event last on Sunday with high expectations. It appeared as if the total nation had descended on Ahmedabad: Airlines added flights, and celebrities stored touchdown in chartered planes. Hotel rooms shot up wherever from 5 to 10 occasions the regular price.

All morning, the metropolis’s metro ferried individuals to Narendra Modi Stadium. At each cease, households clad in blue squeezed their manner into the packed automobiles, which grew to become transferring sound containers crammed with roaring cheers in Hindi:

“Mother India? Long live!”

“Win, win? India will win!”

By the time they acquired off the trains, many had develop into warmly acquainted, in the manner that sporting occasions convey collectively full strangers.

Some, like 16-year-old Kartik, had traveled lengthy distances even and not using a ticket, clinging to hope till the final minute. He had taken a number of trains from the south of the nation and stood exterior the stadium gates with a big handwritten signal.

“I WANT TWO TICKETS,” the signal learn. “I AM COME FROM 3000 KMS.”

In case anybody puzzled whether or not he was asking for a donation, he had written in a nook in smaller letters: “I will buy.”

During the few stretches of play when India confirmed hopes of bouncing again, the enormous crowd cheered the group on in unison.

But for a lot of the night time, it was the crowd’s silence that informed the story. Toward the finish, as India’s defeat appeared sure, it was so silent that the single clap of an Australian fan may very well be heard in a whole part. When the fireworks introduced Australia’s victory, it was so quiet that it felt like salt on gaping wounds.

After his group lifted the trophy, Pat Cummins, the Australian captain, mentioned he had begun his day nervous seeing the sea of blue throughout him.

“Awesome day,” he added. “The good thing was they weren’t too noisy for most of it.”

After the loss, India’s coach, Rahul Dravid, mentioned his group was shattered to see such a dominating marketing campaign finish in a whimper.

World Cup glory had evaded Mr. Dravid a number of occasions throughout his taking part in profession, too, together with when he captained the group in 2007. Now, as coach, he mentioned it was “tough to see” a group that had “represented India fantastically” exit with a loss.

“But yeah, that’s sport. That happens. It can happen,” he mentioned. “And I’m sure that the sun will come up tomorrow morning. We’ll learn from it. We’ll reflect. And we’ll move on, as will everyone else.”

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