That’s it. Two runs is all it will take. Australia have won their sixth World Cup. The players are running in. It’s all yellow on green ground amidst an ocean of blue. That’s the only colour you can see. Nothing else strikes. You are just gazing at the TV screen with yellow blurs running. It’s bright. It shines in the night sky. It deserves to today, after the way the men wearing it performed.
But no, keep the yellow away for now. Shove it in a ship, send it along with the trophy to Melbourne and dance with it in the streets.
Right now, only one thing is running through my head. That line from Masaan – “ye dukh kaahe khatam nahi hota hai be” (why doesn't this pain ever end).
Because really, there’s only numbness. There’s only pain. That’s what you get for being a sports fan, lads. You ride the clouds of hope, then all of it rains down, and you are left to survive the bone-chilling cold of despair.
This is the third ODI World Cup where Team India lost a knockout game after bossing in the league stages. They lost just one game in 2019. This time, they were near invincible. Their bowlers had the best numbers for a bowling attack to play in a World Cup. Almost all of their batting top five had averages near 50 or above. They were blowing teams into smithereens. They were the best team in the competition by miles. Alas, they couldn’t win it. They’ll be remembered only as runners-up. The trophy lies in yellow hands, not blue.
It pains, right? As the cool Jesus of teenagers, John Green once said - “Pain demands to be felt”. But feeling this amount of pain is unbearable because despair after being hopeful is like peeing kidney stones. You can’t let it out freely in fear of the mountain of pain that will crush you, but you can’t keep it in your pee pipe as well because it keeps paining. PAIN! PAIN! PAIN!
We want rational explanations to make this pain feel justified. We want to find flaws and rip the players and management apart to express our suppressed anger. Is India really a shi**y team masquerading as a league-stage bully? Why couldn’t they pick up wickets? Why couldn’t they score more? Why couldn’t Rohit do some time turning magic like Hermione in Harry Potter so that India wins this god-forsaken trophy? Why does a nation of barely 25 million people, where most won’t even be aware that a World Cup is on, get to win the trophy they already have five of? Why are billions of hearts broken by these blurs of yellow running around?
That's the denial and anger the therapy kind talks about when they mention the five stages of grief, I guess. And what else can we do, apart from being numb and roaming around with an abyss of sadness full of frustrated screams? Nothing! Absolutely nothing.
I can see Pat Cummins taking the trophy from PM Modi. He has a medal around his neck.
Rohit deserved that piece of medal! He batted like a dream. Every shot that came off his bat was an announcement that this World Cup was ours. Every decision he took on the field was a leap towards the trophy Cummins received.
That dream is dead. He hasn’t become a bad captain in one day. But will we remember it while we yearn for something we hoped for years? Will we remember all those hundreds he sacrificed for the trophy that will never be his?
Moreover, what about that spell from Shami to Stokes now? The eventual agony of defeat will dilute its magic whenever we talk about it. And Kohli! What about the 700 runs? What do I do with them now? What about the 50th hundred? What about the leap, the bow and the kiss that followed?
We’ll remember all that. But just like viewing beautiful paintings of Vincent Van Gogh, there will be a residual glumness. Van Gogh never sold enough paintings to get out of his misery. India could not win the World Cup. Both were best at what they did. Both failed to perform in terms of what mattered more in the World. However, Vincent is considered a great now. This current team will not be because they don’t have a trophy.
Is that the difference between being best and being great?
How do we end this intense yearning? It was okay for our lives to be like this. But at least sports was different. It was an escape. It turns out the escape was life as well — just as uncertain, just as unfair, but slightly more palatable because it was served with momentous entertainment.
The Australian squad has now lifted the trophy. They are jubilant, just as they should be. Seeing the beaming smiles on their faces, I’m reminded of a game that happened 12 years ago. It was the same Motera ground. India had ended Australia’s domination at the World Cups by defeating them in the quarter-final. This time, the Aussies have won the World Cup at the same ground. It’s a full circle for them.
But why can’t Dravid get a full circle? He suffered the ignominy of 2007 as a captain and player. Now, he has built a team of invincibles, and still, he falls short.
It’s not even yearning anymore. It’s despair. Just the dark, winding caves of despair. Because, as a fan, what else can you do? From the highs of glory, there’s an abrupt fall into a pit of wretchedness, and the worst part is that you can’t even forget it.
An ODI inning takes nearly 3.5-4 hours to get done. So you remember stuff you watch. When your team loses, every single shot, every single defence, every bad ball returns to your memory like a needle’s prick on your feet. It took just one game for all the great memories to turn into prickly ones. Sport is so cruel that you’ll be pricked whenever you see the Men in Blue play. A corner of your heart will always be broken.
And no. There’s no acceptance or recovery in a sports fan’s grief because one is doomed to stay trapped in the eternal cycle of recurrence. I can also talk about how sport is beautiful because it mirrors life's unfairness and unpredictability.
But it’s useless because what of this pain? This crushing feeling in your chest has swallowed you like a mushy grape. There’s no painkiller made to end it. Maybe the only thing we can do is remember how we carried that hope. How we nurtured it and felt giddy. The hope that was living, palpable and communicated with every wicket and every run.
After all, the pain that we are feeling now is the burnt carcass of your hopes, which were once warm and breathing. Mourn that hope. Organise its funeral. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the only way we can let go. Until that happens, let’s just shout into oblivion and ask the universe, Ye dukh kaahe khatam nahi hota be?