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Defending champions India, who draw raucous fans to grounds in kumbh mela style numbers, which often muzzle the opposition from even sledging, is surely the most hated team in this edition of the Cricket World Cup 2015 competition.
Or, for that matter, in world cup sporting competitions.
When it comes to other global world cup competitions like football or field hockey, there are clear favorites and defending champions, like Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands; each with their distinctive style of play.
Crowds throng to watch those teams. Admire, cheer them play, sigh and debate if they go out of contention, exult when they move through to the next stage. Of course, in the knockout stages, especially in close matches, the rival nation and their supporters might not feel the joy.
Not so with India in the cricket world cup 2015: from the beginning to the end, win or lose, end up champions or not, it’s the most disliked nation, for more reasons than one.
For Pakistan, India is the symbol of the arch enemy, an unassailable Goliath who continues to inflict mental pain and anguish come every four years, in a total of six encounters since 1992, 23 years ago. In a way it’s bizarre, considering Pakistan have a much better ODI cricket record against India, now standing at 72-51.
It’s a wonder no Pakistani lawyer has sued the national cricket team for their failure against India; claiming a national calamity, deflated pride, spike in domestic hatred levels. It’s a wonder the Pakistani safai karamcharis have not gone on strike as yet, demanding extra salary for cleaning up the resultant debris from Indo-Pak matches, worse than on the aftermath of polling days – all those smashed TV sets cause for injuries too.
Pakistan’s hatred of India seems to have rubbed on the hapless Bangladeshis too, this year.
The grudge match against India in the quarter-finals for Bangladesh was pretty much over after the first ball, as Rohit Sharma stroked that ball to the boundary, an agony of a repeat performance of four years ago when Virender Sehwag butchered the clueless attack of India’s neighbors to the East.
But despite all that, if there is one team the Bangladeshis love to hate more than Pakistan, it’s India. They have also proved in ample measure they are poor losers too, led by none other than their prime minister Sheikh Hasina and International Cricket Council (ICC) president Mustafa Kamal, who between them declared India won because of an umpiring decision by Ian Gould.
One can understand displeasure, protests and anguish amongst the common folks for the mediocre performance of their national team, but the prime minister and top cricket official of Bangladesh joining in a conspiracy theory. C’mon! Hopefully no Bangladeshi player falls to the ground in 2019 after some macho chest bumps in their match against India.
Semi-final rivals Australia have some respect (read that as respect for Sachin Tendulkar), but mostly disdain and disrespect for India. They consider India the minnows in the semi-finals, on their home turf, having galloped all over them in the series before the World Cup. But the fear emanating from deep inside their bowels, prompted by some memories of the thrashing received in the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Cup, now see some players like David Warner to plead with Australian supporters to come out in numbers to support them.
But more than cricket, the racial element is a factor too in this coming World Cup semi-final encounter between India and Australia: the continuing racial attacks on Indians has been a concern for some time now. There is a growing perception Down Under, especially in Australia, that Indians take away jobs and enjoy a quality of life many Australians don’t.
The one thing that surely must go in India’s favor should be the IPL: it’s given plenty of players globally a lucrative career; given a boost to cricket itself in many countries. But one thing also is clear: while players in countries like West Indies and New Zealand have profited from it, the cricketing boards of those countries are not a pleased lot. There is also a clear distinction that India, England and Australia – despite whatever performance they deal out on the international stage – are the kingmakers of the sport because they hold the financial strings. Other countries be damned.
New Zealand is one country who would wish to dispel that notion, of being poor country cousins, the also-rans. And what best to disprove that notion than to thrash India to pulp in the finals.
An example of that fury was seen in the furious boxing like match played between the Aussies and the Kiwis. That match by the Kiwis and before that their demolition of England had only one objective: prove to the world that it’s bullshit to consign New Zealand to the second tier of cricketing nations when scheduling matches.
The anger and envy directed at India also comes because of the high profile of some players like Virat Kohli, who is the quintessential symbol of a debonair sporting star, making millions every year at a young age, with a stunning girlfriend at his beck and call. Many senior international players from around the globe, who have proved their mettle on the highest stage, feel they are just as better or better than Kohli.
Apart from South Africa, who may have the least animosity against India for all of India’s support over the years since apartheid ended to staging the IPL in Johannesburg, there are definitely two people on the field who love the Indian players, in every match that India plays: the two umpires who feel they are in review-free heaven as Mahendra Singh Dhoni never questions their decisions, right or wrong.
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