Ride of a lifetime!

Ride of a lifetime!

World Cup A year after...

The charm of sport exists in its ability to produce memorable moments that can be stored in our minds forever. Mahendra Singh Dhoni gave us one such moment on April 2, 2011 when he deposited Nuwan Kulasekara into the long on stands of the Wankhede stadium to end India’s 28-year wait for a World Cup triumph. Players and the team itself have transformed unequivocally since that seminal Mumbai night 364 days ago, but somehow the magic still remains when you peep back occasionally.

Even the disastrous outings in England and Australia – strong reality checks as they have been – have not entirely wiped out the colour from that World Cup victory. There might be a group chuckling in disdain after India’s travails away from home, and for them the tag of world champions now is a pitiful, old rag wrapped around the Indian team.

But for a common, every day fan of Indian cricket that tag is a source to keep refilling his faith in the team. It reminds him that his favourite team is capable of casting the current wretched fortunes away sooner than later, prompting him to rise above the recent turmoil and continue to support the team fervently.

However, it’s indeed quite flummoxing – for the fans and the players alike – to see a world champion side spiraling into the kind of trouble India have been to within one year of that grand effort. It seems that the effort to win the World Cup has emptied energy from their body and soul or they might be feeling that there’s nothing more to be achieved on the field or they might be struggling to find a new common goal that can keep the team motivated. In short, they seemed to be the victims of PAS (Post Achievement Syndrome) – in this case long and deep one because of the magnitude of their achievement.

That’s not an entirely pleasant situation to be in as time has come for the team to hit the road to the 2015 World Cup, and start the related processes such as identifying a core group – players and support staff – that can serve India in the 11th edition of the mega event, to be hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand.

It’s imperative then for the players to find a cure for the PAS before it sets in irrevocably, and don’t take the pains to go through a medical journal for the remedy is available only within the individuals. Here a quick refreshing of brain cells will help them immensely. These are the factors that contributed chiefly to India’s World Cup win – sustained energy and intensity levels, a collective awareness about the task ahead and an overwhelming desire within the group to lay hands on the ultimate prize.

But after the World Cup, the team left without a common motto, pursuing individual goals – Sachin Tendulkar was in a prolonged quest of his 100th ton, Dhoni in a contemplative mood over his future in the longer version, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir in constant search for consistency in all formats, Zaheer Khan in a vicious struggle to stay fit while others like Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and S Sreesanth are no longer in the team for various reasons, and we have only the growth of Virat Kohli as a cricketer and an individual to show in the last one year.

So, to restart their journey back to greatness, Indians need to re-embrace the aforementioned virtues at the earliest. Dhoni and his wards should realise that the label of world champions will sit on them lightly only if they justify it with performances, and they haven’t exactly set the field ablaze after the World Cup.

However, swooshing through a past achievement – the World Cup victory in India’s case – can provide fuel to a personally and collectively better future. Sehwag’s blistering hundred against Bangladesh that set the tone for India’s charge, Yuvraj’s sustained all-round brilliance, Zaheer’s incisive spells, Dhoni’s icy-nerved captaincy and finishing prowess – all significant components of India’s triumph – seem to be episodes from a different era.

But in those still shining nuggets concealed is the antidote for India’s recent lethargic shows. Listen to Sehwag. “We are still the World Champions. We have to look at ourselves, and see what went wrong with us, and then we have to take a call," the Delhiite had said during the tour of Australia.

There’s going to be some massive celebrations to mark the first anniversary of that epochal triumph, and there should be because it remains an accomplishment without parallel. This is not to downgrade the victory in 1983, but Dhoni’s bunch had to negotiate the crushing pressure of being the favourites. 

But alongside uncorking the champagne bottles, they shouldn’t forget to ask a few tough questions of themselves. Have we done enough to justify our tag as the world champions? It should be the first question in a long list, and finding an honest answer will determine the legacy of that remarkable Mumbai night.