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India must see beyond Virat Kohli and Co's loss and celebrate Kidambi Srikanth, hockey team's success
By Our Correspondent, 19/06/2017, New Delhi

 

Sunday was actually a great day for Indian sport, if only we could see beyond the Oval in London.

Monday morning, if we can stop mourning the loss in cricket, it is a day for celebration, being proud of Indians who work hard, triumph on the world stage away from the spotlight reserved for cricketers.

While the cricket team was crumbling at the Oval, in another corner of London, 21 years after the humiliating loss in the finals of the Asian Games in New Delhi, the Indian hockey team beat Pakistan 7-1, a margin fans of the game remember with melancholic nostalgia.

Around the same time, in Jakarta, for the first time in the history of badminton, an Indian, completed a golden trio--winning a Grand Prix, Super Series and Super Series Premium. There was, of course, the pain of watching the Indian cricketers put up one of the Sharjah-like performances in the finals of the Champions Trophy, getting mauled by a ferocious Pakistan team, giving up without a fight.

But, the India story is not just about cricket.

From the moment Pakistan batsman walked out on the Oval, it was evident they were destined to win. From the very first moments of the match, it was apparent that Pakistan had come out with what Ram Prasad Bismil famously described as sarfaroshi ki tamanna. No, the Indian arms did not have the strength to stop the rampaging Pakistanis inspired perhaps by kamikaze warriors.

Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali treated everything with disdain. If the ball was set up to be hit, they slashed, pulled and drove hard. Even if it went straight to fielders, they just ran, relying on their belief that Sunday was meant to be their day.

What separates a winner from a loser in a crunch game is not just talent and temperament. There is also something called luck. Pakistan seemed to have robbed the banks of luck when they played with a fidayeen-esque rage in the opening hours. After being caught, Fakhar got a reprieve when a review showed Jaspreet Bumrah had overstepped. Then, as the Indian pacers tightened their grip, a ball raced off to the boundary of the inside edge. And then, as the openers kept running for everything, Indian fielders kept missing everything.

Sadly, it was one of those days when Indians could do nothing right and Pakistanis could do nothing wrong. On such days, there is no shame in losing. Just shrug your shoulders, think about destiny and move on.

The problem with losing to Pakistan these days is that we have actually forgotten how it feels like losing to them. Since the two sides play do not play each other in anything other than ICC events or Asia cups, where Indian routinely beats them, the current generation of fans have forgotten that Pakistan have had a history of beating India regularly. In fact, there was a time when India would go to Sharjah only to be walloped by Pakistan in finals.

Sunday's loss would remind the generation used to Indian victories of the fallibility of our cricketers. It would tell us, cricket is not Sunny Deol's Gadar, where, whichever way you look at it, Pakistanis make up the numbers only to get routed and ridiculed.

Away from the TV studios that sell cricket as a replacement of war between the two countries, the Indian story is unfolding in the sporting arena.

In hockey, the Indian team is carrying forward the momentum it had gained at the Rio Olympics, where it came within striking distance of a medal. In tournament after tournament, it is competing on equal terms with the top teams. It has left Pakistan so far behind that most of the clashes these days are as lopsided as the 1982 Asiad final that turned hockey into a national pariah from an obsession. The only difference is that instead of India, the shame of conceding goal after goal is borne by Pakistan.

In badminton, Indians are dominating the court. A revolution started by P Gopichand's academy is producing winners among both men and women. In a classic example of a winner passing on her legacy like a baton in a relay race, PV Sindhu has taken off from where Saina Nehwal seems to be stopping. While Nehwal slips from her peak after dominating world events, Sindhu is scaling new peaks every tournament.

Among men, Kidambi Srikanth has matured from a jump-smashing fighter to a shuttler used to winning. On Sunday, when he won the Indonesian Open Super Series, he completed a week that saw Indian shuttlers beat the best in the world. In fact, it could have been an all-Indian final if HS Prannoy had not lost in the semi-final against the run of play.

In the run-up to the final, Prannoy had eliminated two former world number one players, including the Malaysian great Lee Chong Wei. Srikanth, meanwhile, beat the reigning world number one from South Korea to complete a sensational week for Indian badminton.

No, the Monday is not for mourning. Forget the Blues and rejoice the India story unfolding away from the noise of TV studios and floodlights.

Yes, Pakistan beat us in cricket. But, there is very little Indians could have done against a team that was destined to win. A team that came out singing, sarfaroshi ki tamanna, throw itself in the line of fire and went back smiling.

Put this one down to destiny.

 

 
 
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