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Final of a kind!

The Indian captain in his post-match presser, graciously accepted defeat. Sport is no determinant of a nations honour; the cricket pitch is no battlefield and players dont have to be martyred.

Final of a kind!

With their Board in perpetual financial trouble, players embroiled in match-fixing allegations, fans deprived of home matches and the cash cow IPL shutting its door to riches, eight years since the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers, the cricket crazy country that Pakistan still is, was in a shambles. 

While the team-in-green displayed patches of brilliance, the retirement of their mainstays, only added to the plight. Their bowling had one of the worst averages, economy rate, and wickets per innings since the 2015 World Cup and they conceded 300 plus scores every four innings. Batting has never been their strong suit. Having narrowly qualified for the Champions Trophy 2017, the bottom ranked team was a no-hoper even before bowling a ball in the tournament. 

The insipid opening match against India only succeeded in making their proud ex-cricketers lash out vehemently against their system, players, coach and administrators. Little did they know that 14 days hence, the Pakistanis would script a miracle. A rookie opener, an 18-year-old leggie and a fast bowler ridiculed as a goat in the past, led by their fearless captain were the actors in this champion show.

 

Was it nerves? Was it over-confidence? 

While the Pakistani players set stirring celebrations in motion, Indian fans were left dumbstruck. Surprise had been the flavour of Champions Trophy 2017 but the final topped them all.  It was not that Indians had not seen witnessed wickets off no-balls, or extras dished out by nervous bowlers or a hopeless collapse of the famed batting line-up on a big final, that it was all happening against the arch rivals was a tough pill to swallow.

Or did the then-ongoing coach-captain feud take its toll? The fans would never know.  The performance of the men in blue was so dispirited that the one-sport nation had to find solace in India’s emphatic hockey victory over Pakistan and the authoritative Super Series win by Kidambi Srikanth in Indonesia! 

 

Most tweeted match...

Emotions flooded social media.  It was the most tweeted ODI match. Some chose to stand by the forlorn Indian players; some decided to thrash them; others opted to flood the space with memes and then there were the usual few who kept the tasteless and archaic match-fixing charade alive. Outside the virtual world, a handful of fanatics decided to burn players’ posters and shatter television sets. 19 men were arrested and denied bail across the states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Bihar on charges of sedition for celebrating Pakistan’s victory. 23 were left warned in Kerala. Kashmir valley saw celebrations on the streets where teargas shells had to be used to disperse the crowd. The high decibel channel, Times Now, name called the players, accusing them of letting the ‘brave hearts’ down. Apart from twisted reporting, its anchors also went hysterical. 

The Indian captain though, in his post-match presser, graciously accepted defeat.  The cricketing community lauded the gesture. Sport is no determinant of a nation’s honour; the cricket pitch is no battlefield and players don’t have to be martyred. Soon ICC tweeted a video captioned ‘spirit of cricket’ where players of both teams were seen sharing a laugh. While only time can tell if the Indian government would let the players meet on the cricket field again before the 2019 world cup, their last encounter was one to hold dear; for “friendship can trickle past hate” was the subtle riposte! 

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