IMAGE: India fans react after their defeat against New Zealand. Photographs: Lee Smith/Reuters
Indian cricket fans were feeling pain rather than anger on Thursday as they tried to come to terms with their team’s shocking World Cup semi-final defeat to New Zealand.
Cricket is like a religion in India, where players can enjoy godlike status when they win but see their effigies burnt and houses pelted with stones when they lose.
While Virat Kohli’s men had been favourites to go all the way at the World Cup, their exit did not spark a furious response for fans back home who had been captivated by their run to the last four as the tournament’s top team.
Their efforts lauded on social media, the team were also congratulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said he was proud of the way they played during their run at the World Cup, which also saw them wrest the world No. 1 ranking from England.
“A disappointing result, but good to see #TeamIndia’s fighting spirit till the very end,” Modi tweeted after India’s 18-run loss in Manchester.
“India batted, bowled, fielded well throughout the tournament, of which we are very proud. Wins and losses are a part of life. Best wishes to the team for their future endeavours.”
In his post-match news conference, a glum captain Kohli said it was heart-breaking that his team, also the bookies’ favourites to lift the trophy on Sunday, had to exit the showpiece due to some ordinary cricket in a 45 minute spell.
That sentiment was mirrored by many back home too.
“We need an Indian version of the movie ‘Hangover’,” tweeted Anand Mahindra, chairman of Indian conglomerate Mahindra Group.
“To describe the blunt pain in the head & the bitter taste in the mouth that a country experiences when it wakes up & remembers that it’s no longer in the race for a title that was supposed to be in its destiny.”
“The sun will still rise tomorrow,” was the main headline on the sports page of India’s largest selling English daily The Times of India, while the Hindustan Times described the team’s failed attempt to win a third title as the ‘Knockout Blues’.
Indian media and fans were also united in their praise for Ravindra Jadeja, whose all-round brilliance in just his second match of the tournament was not enough to lift India to Sunday’s final at Lord’s.