Olympic Gold Medal won, now time for a World Cup

tokyo-olympics-4784972_960_720There was a peculiar jinx when it came to sports and politics in India. Every Olympic Gold Medal and Cricket World Cup was won when there was a Congress Prime Minister.

Just look at the list…
1948 Hockey Gold: Nehru.
1952 Hockey Gold: Nehru.
1956 Hockey Gold: Nehru.
1964 Hockey Gold: Shastri.
1980 Hockey Gold: Indira.
2008 Shooting Gold: Manmohan.

You can argue that most of our hockey golds came early on when only the Congress used to rule. But even if you count from 1977, when the continuous Congress rule ended, then the only 2 golds had been under Congress PMs.

The same was with the cricketing World Cup.
1983: Indira.
2007: Manmohan.
2011: Manmohan.
The only hockey World Cup was also won under Indira in 1975.

Apart from the World Cup, the ICC has been hosting many other global tournaments from 1998. 1998-2021, the Congress has ruled for only 10 years. But even here they score.
ICC Knockout Trophy 2000: India lost in the final when Vajpayee was PM.
ICC Champions Trophy 2002: Final washed out. We shared the trophy technically, but didn’t win the final outright.
ICC Champions Trophy 2017: Final lost when Modi was PM.
2019-21 ICC Test Championship: We lost the final when Modi was PM.
The only ICC Champions Trophy final we won outright was when Manmohan was PM in 2013.

In a way you could call it a 70+-year-old jinx.
But now Neeraj Chopra has shattered this jinx in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics by winning the Javelin Gold. This is a stupendous achievement because athletics is probably the most competitive arena around. Forget every country: It is intensely fought over in every school in the world. Billions have tried their hand at some athletic discipline or another.
To make matters even greater, this was our greatest Olympics ever with 1 Gold, 2 Silvers and 4 Bronzes for a total of 7 medals and many hard-fought fourth positions in diverse sports like women’s hockey and golf.

Now it’s time to break the World Cup jinx and India should win the ICC T20 World Cup later this year.

Is there life after cricket?

Come the World Cup and a cricket-crazy nation like India is bound to go berserk. Now, with the World Cup reaching its climax, life’s a hollow emptiness without the willow. Nero might have fiddled while Rome was burning, but no one is going to budge from the TV room while cricket is being played.

Newspapers and magazines write cricket. Companies and business establishments think cricket. The TV buffs see nothing but cricket. And what about the cricket nuts? They see cricket, think cricket, talk cricket, walk cricket, eat cricket, sleep cricket and dream cricket. In fact, they breathe cricket and live cricket. Parks and open spaces are filled with crowds and heated debates. If there is anything mightier than the bat, it is the ball. Restaurants resonate with the names of cricket stars and offices reverberate with endless figures, statistics, numbers, overs, runs and matches.

Azhar doesn’t know a thing about field placing. Ask the bloke at the grocery store, he knows all that there is to know. Gooch doesn’t know what’s in store for him; the chap behind the restaurant counter smugly knows all. Shastri can’t understand what’s going wrong with him. The pan-patti wala can comprehend that quite easily. “Scindia can’t even select a team of the Nineties; I could choose one for the 21st century!”

“All this — and much more;
at your local grocery store.”

One ice-cream shop in Fraser Town proudly offers a 5 per cent discount the day India wins a match. Another shop in the same locality gives a similar discount when any ‘fan’ wants to talk to a ‘star’ Down Under. One innovative service centre on Langford Road declares in the paper” “Watch the World Cup live in AC comfort while you buy our tyres or get your wheel balancing, wheel alignment and engine tune up,” and hence the newspapers seem to be filled with little else, with most dailies devoting one full page to the pyjama game. Letters to the Editor are numerous on the rights and wrongs committed on and off the field. “Ah! Azhar could learn a few things from me!” Everyone seems to think.

Can companies fall far behind? Kapil and Tendulkar prefer Boost while Manjrekar prefer Complan. From Complan boy and Complan girl to Complan star. Boy, you’ve come a long way. However, Kambli would settle for something new from Nestle. Power might be an old favourite and Action the official for the Indian squad in the World Cup, but Prabhakar clearly prefers Status from Lakhani.

Eveready changes its tune from ‘Give me red!’ to ‘Give them power’ ‘n ‘Charge ‘em up’, a scheme to courier messages to the Indian team Down Under with an autographed acknowledgement in return.
Another ad in the paper screams:
“Listen to Sunil Gavaskar’s views on India’s chances in the World Cup, call…”

The magazines too leave no stone unturned with the fullest tournament coverage and all sorts of ‘Guess who?’ contests. Bush is back yet again with its great catches, hooking everyone from Tom Alter to Kabir Bedi.

As one commentator keeps on saying in every match; “It’s all happening here.” Well, it’s all happening here too!

With the latest satellite TV witnessing a full boom, cricket maniacs shouted, fretted, fumed, and clamoured in the latter part of February to get their connections fitted on time, from the ‘friendly neighbourhood Star-man’, who instantly has become a superhero overnight. For in Star TV lies salvation from frustrating blanks like ‘Sorry for the interruption’ and ‘Break in satellite link is regretted’, hallmark of Doordarshan, India Ltd.

Come a win and jubilations and fairy lights all over, with merrymaking galore, but come a loss and gloom casts it pale shadow over the country. A newly married youth commits suicide in Surat “in total despair and frustration following India’s defeat.”

However, the cricket fanatics of this nation are always on the hunt for a scapegoat and Ravi J. Shastri, erstwhile ‘Champion of champions’ fits the bill perfectly. He is now ‘Slowcoach of slowcoaches’ and hence must go. Residents of Girgaum, Bombay, garland his cutout with chappal malas. The nation proves that it can raise any mortal to the pedestal of demi-God and bring him back down to earth with equal ease. Effigies of Shastri are burnt with the same zeal and enthusiasm and hatred as one would set ablaze dummies of political leaders.

Posters in Malleswaram advise Scindia to do away with Shastri. Four enterprising youths on two motorbikes ride through Bangalore with posters of ‘Shastri Down Down’ to make their point. Manmohan’s budget wouldn’t budge them. The Punjab polls won’t interest them. Bush’s pre-election jitters couldn’t shake them. Russia’s latest update can’t affect them. Shastri’s performance, however, is enough to give them sleepless nights and he must go.

Another cricket crazy nation appears to be South Africa, fresh after 20 years in the wilderness. Someone suggested that F.W. De Clerk hold his referendum on the day of the S. Africa-Australia tie as very few people would turn up to say no! One Cabinet Minister said at the beginning of a press conference, “Let’s keep this short, I want to get back to the commentary.” With the news of its victory over Australia, South Africa virtually came to a halt. Financial markets went on hold and radio stations broke into their normal programmes to announce the victory. Even the president himself was interrupted from a weekly Cabinet meeting, which he stopped and then sent a telegram, a congratulatory message to the team.

With the countdown to the World Cup final beginning, the question everyone must be asking is; “Is there life after cricket?”

(This article appeared in Deccan Herald newspaper on March 23, 1992)