ICC World Cup 2011 started with much fanfare as it was expected to be(read in the biggest market, ICC abides by what BCCI says)! Indian cricket board took along their younger siblings(Sri-lanka and Bangladesh)with the necessary big-brotherly support, which in fact lends a fantastic lesson and credence as to how a leader should support their younger peers, in the larger interest of fulfilling its own agenda.That Pakistan was forced to withdraw as a co-host from the World Cup 2011 owing to problems related to terrorism, helped the other three nations.This development metamorphosed into a blessing in disguise for the other three hosts and co-hosts.They got more number of matches and derived maximum opportunity to leverage the same so as to supplement their financial coffers apart from marketing their own country. Bangladesh probably earned the maximum accolades from destination marketing experts as it blended its culture, heritage, natural beauty with the fascinating modern-day opening ceremony of world cup 2011. It was the team which led them down, as they crashed out even before reaching the first knock-out stage of the tournament.Srilanka displayed to the world that it is one of the best place for cricket and leisure travel and tourism especially when the civil war is over. This was portrayed through the picturesque new stadium in Pallakele. Indian cricket board couldn’t extract out the maximum possible benefit from the event, thanks to internal rivalry and squabbling(Dalmiya Vs Pawar?). It was indeed obvious from the fact that a cricket show-piece like world cup didn’t have a mega-match in the MECCA OF CRIKET-The Eden Gardens, Kolkata! On the top it some other stadia, like Hyderabad, Cuttak, Jaipur was overlooked as these additions could have added more value for an otherwise meek ‘Incredible India’ campaign which was run with low intensity and pitch during the course of the tournament. Fortunately, for the advertisers and other media buying houses, the high intensity matches like India-Australia in the quarters, India-Pakistan in the semis, and India-Sri-Lanka in the finals, compensated for their loss in World Cup 2007 as power-houses like India and Pakistan were cheaply out of the event! Re-doing the format really helped, notwithstanding some boring matches between the non-permanent members and a prolonged tournament. The Manmohan Singh government which was cornered in light of the record-breaking corruptions emanating every-day(thanks to the Indian Media!) seized this opportunity to extend its hand of friendship to the Pakistani counterpart by resorting to the old model of cricket diplomacy. The decision makers in the Indian government and also in the Pakistani administration knew its only for a photo-op, nothing more, nothing less. In spite of these apprehensions both the nations decided to go ahead with the plan as their respective government wanted to divert attention of their common man from issues which had been raging on in their respective nations for quite sometime. For India it was corruption and for Pakistan it was internal violence. For once, Indian government officials realized that there is an opportunity to get a brownie point as Indians were favourites in this match, unlike on the occasions the cricket diplomacy held during General Zia and General Musharaff’s tenure. Moreover, it was a way to announce to the world the big-hearted approach of the Government of India, to put the 26/11 episode into the back-burner and march ahead forward.It was evident from the fact that even Sonia Gandhi along with the Prime Minister in the Offing, Rahul Gandhi was in the stadium supporting India full throttle. As they rightly say, Politics is for the opportunists! The cricketing aspect too provided with a lot of takeaways for the common man. The lung opener saw India’s confidence in taking a sweet revenge against Bangladesh for the 2007 debacle. The sudden over-confidence which crept into the mind of the Indian players made them realize their real standing in the matches against England, South Africa and Ireland, before they took guard in the match against West-Indies. It was however, the gut feel derived bold decisions of MSD, which catapulted him into a situation where he can even eclipse the legendary Kapil Dev(1983 Prudential Cup Vs. T20 and ICC 2011 World Cup), provided he comes out champs on the morrow against a spirited Lanka. Picking up at the right time with some support from the almighty (owing to the prayers from a Billion plus Indians) helped the team’s cause as they encountered Kangaroos which looked like a bunch of Goats in the quarters, and an unpredictable arch-rivals which was all over the place, in the high-voltage game. Professional approach on the part of the Indians, coupled with the soaking in of the pressure element as an added responsibility indeed helped the Indians to corner their arch rivals for the fifth consecutive time in a World Cup event.Pakistan would have probably realized the flip side of playing mental games just before the D-DAY as all their lip-service to the press came to a nought. Indians on the other hand were away from media glare and were silently going about their process, the key to their resurgence under Gary Kirsten. What happens on the morrow would indeed matter a lot, in spite of the fact that many Indian supporters wouldn’t mind a second spot after beating their western neighbours. For Dhoni and his men, its clear, and they know people don’t recollect Sourav Ganguly and his Men’s runner-up finish in the 2003 world-cup. History books and human memory remember only the victorious team and that is precisely the reason why Kapil Dev is still worshipped as the face who changed Indian cricket forever! The million dollar question to be answered- would this world cup be etched in human memory as Murali’s Last World Cup or Sachin’s Last World Cup?In a few hours from now, we would know, who walks into the sunset of his career with an element of pride and who leaves the arena with an element of pain and sorow.
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Snaps taken from The Times of Oman, dated March 31, 2011.