The World Cup final between India and Sri Lanka today, is a day which will stand still for both countries as fans take their cricket very seriously, more so in India. When India loses, especially in a big way, fans sometimes express their anger in a violent way.
Rest assured, no one will go to work in both countries on that day and all eyes will be focused on the TV screen, since the Mumbai Stadium can only accommodate 50,000 sports enthusiasts and tickets were sold out weeks ago. It will be the largest TV audience for a cricket math – over 1.2 billion Indians plus another billion around the world, including West Indians in North America and the Caribbean. The President of India will host the President of Sri Lanka for the match.
Unlike West Indians, Indian and Sri Lankan fans hold the players accountable when they fail, while the players are very responsible, having an insatiable appetite to perform and not disappoint fans. They are hungry for runs and wickets and seek to break and set records.
Unlike most West Indian players who play for money, Indian and Sri Lankans play for pride of country. The South Asians practise and practise to attain perfection so they can take on tough opponents. West Indian players find the sun too hot and retire from practice after a little time at the nets. As I experienced a few times watching the boys at practice sessions and in hotels, some of them prefer to be at the bar in the hotel (for shade from the sun) than on the field. One West Indian cricketer who takes his game seriously is Shivnarine Chanderpaul. On two recent occasions, I came across the team at hotels. When others were hanging out in hotel lobbies sipping drinks, he was in his room. He is not one to socialize much, preferring to use his time to become a better batsman. The others have not shown the kind of hunger he has for runs and for the game.
Today’s cricket final is the first for two South Asian teams. Both have won the tournament once. India and Sri Lanka are now at the pinnacle of one-day cricket, replacing Australia and South Africa. At the level of Test cricket, India is also at the top of the table with Sri Lanka fourth. For Sri Lanka, it has been a phenomenal development, having been a minnow for a decade before playing its first Test match in 1982. Sri Lanka has developed over the last 30 years to become a formidable opponent for any of the traditionally powerful teams and in any form of the game. Indian players are also maturing, although some are known to choke under pressure.
It should be a great match as both teams have played high-quality brand of one-day cricket. India has not failed to impress so far. All of its matches were great and fans have had their money’s worth. The same can be said of most of the Sri Lankan matches. India beat two outstanding opponents – Australia and Pakistan to get to the final, while Sri Lanka disposed of West Indies and New Zealand. Both sides are equally balanced with a slew of batsmen and bowlers and those who can do both. There is much we West Indians can learn from watching the teams in action.
All eyes will be on the batting legend Sachin Tendulkar for what is likely to be his last outing in World Cup cricket. In NY, every Guyanese I have spoken with hopes he scores his 100 hundreds in international competition.