India did not lose the final of the World Test Championship. New Zealand won it. This a subtle yet important distinction to make, especially in a country where cricket is not a matter of life or death, but rather something even more important.
The fact remains that India have failed to win any global events in the recent years. Equally, New Zealand have reached the final four of the last four World Cups, and featured in two finals, one of which they did not actually lose, but were adjudged second best in England two years ago on the basis of a quirky rule.
And there are other facts that have been bandied about that deserve closer examination. It is true that India boasts a population of 1.4 billion to New Zealand’s 5 million. But, as with typewriters and monkeys not producing the next Shakespeare, numbers alone do not guarantee excellence.
While comparing populations, it bears mentioning that a child in New Zealand is far more likely to be encouraged to adopt an outdoor way of life and a sporting one, revelling in the clean air and open fields in the Land of the Long White Cloud. In India a child of a similar age is more likely to be pressed into action in online tuition classes, so much so that even the cricket team is sponsored by one such entity.
It is a reality that the Board of Control for Cricket in India generates in excess of $700 million in revenue each year to New Zealand Cricket’s $55 million. But, throwing money at a problem is not necessarily the best way to solve it.
In India, administrators – not just in sport but in other walks of life – are better known for raising large sums of money rather than knowing what to do with it. It is scarcity that drives people and organisations to be careful with what they have, to reduce wastage and increase efficiency.
New Zealand are masters at this. In cricket, in the manner in which they have handled the Covid-19 pandemic, the grace and poise with which their PM handles delicate and occasionally deadly situations, New Zealand stand tall.
It is indisputable that India have great depth in cricket. This is best exemplified by the fact that not one member of the bowling attack that sealed the historic series win at the Gabba in Australia recently made it to the playing eleven in the World Test Championship final. Even Axar Patel, who came after and took 27 wickets from three Tests in his debut series at home against England was surplus to requirement.
India can easily field multiple teams at the international level and be competitive. And, while this depth is to be celebrated, it does not mean that India can afford to send their second eleven to a prize fight.
India’s fans believe that it is their birthright to see their team win every time it takes the field. However, in sport, at least for the moment, it is not about how many teams you can field, but how good your best team is. In the course of the World Test Championship final, New Zealand were just better than India. While that may be disappointing, it need not necessarily be painful.
If for one moment, India’s fans can pause to not look inward – and demand that heads roll and systems be dismantled – they will recognise that New Zealand’s victory is a thing of beauty, something worth celebrating and cherishing.
While Virat Kohli spoke after India’s loss, having just been embraced by Kane Williamson, who deserves all the respect he gets, as person and player, he suggested that the World Test Championship should be decided by a three-match series, and not a single final. This was not sour grapes, but rather, a suggestion that the hard work of two years not be decided by a single match.
But, this too is the beauty of sport. Years of effort can build up to one single moment – that long putt on the 18th hole, the penalty shoot-out after 90 minutes of blood, sweat and tears, that 10 seconds in an Olympic 100-metre sprint.
New Zealand won, and India lost, it happens, it is allowed. There is nothing to fix here. What’s needed is acceptance that the mighty do not always prevail. And this is a good thing.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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