Barely a few kilometres away from each other, in two different venues right in the heart of London, one could see the emotional highs and lows that run through human beings. Ironically, they also bore testimony to a sportsperson’s psyche that was on show, courtesy of 44 players of which half were Indians and the other half representing Pakistan.
It was a mixed Sunday for both nations, although looking at the larger picture, the day belonged to Pakistan. All said and done, at a time when hockey is passé in the sub-continent, it is the performances of cricketers that catches the attention and for obvious reasons. And that is what transpired. The way fans reacted back in the two nations reflects how a cricket match may alter equations and impact emotions.
One fails to describe the manner the famed Men in Blue were driven to submission in just about every department of the game in a Champions Trophy final whose run-up gave little or no chance, whatsoever, to Pakistan. That they peaked at the most opportune time and dethroned the champions for their maiden CT triumph is a tribute to the mercurial talent that exists in Pakistan, whose players thrived on the underdogs tag.
The Men in Blue seemed too complacent in their approach, which, perhaps stemmed from over-confidence following the drubbing they meted out to the arch-rival in the title defence opener. The verdict serves as a rude wake-up call to Virat Kohli’s boys, whose pride has since taken a severe beating. Heart in heart, losing the final may not have been as much painful as was the fact that they surrendered rather meekly to the one team that they should never lose if they hope to enjoy the adulation they command.
The balm came from the hockey team, which decimated Pakistan in a crucial Hockey World League match. It is a tragic irony that any other hockey match featuring India may not have won as much praise or enjoyed as much media coverage had it not been for the fact that this was on the day India was beaten black and blue in cricket. Suddenly, Indian hockey stars are being seen as saviours on a particularly ill-fated day.
The passionate hockey lot would be chuckling away as for a change the current crop of players are enjoying a higher status than the cricketers, a la the days when Indians were kings of stick-wizardry. It is a different thing altogether that had India retained the CT title, the hockey report would have got buried in some obscure columns.
That cricket’s popularity is highest gets evidenced by the way the third newsmaker of the day commanded awe, albeit by default. Kidambi Srikanth’s career graph has been on the ascendance for quite some time now. The Indonesian Open that he won is the toast of the badminton world and rightly so too. He should thank his stars that his stellar feat came on a day when the nation’s cricketers went into mourning. Like the hockey players, Srikanth provided the silver lining.