India’s Invincibles suffer a heartbreaking defeat in the final moments of the day, as silence reigns. | Written by Barney Ronay
Unfortunately, that was not intended to occur. Let’s halt all clocks. Change the name of the stadium. Stop the DJ from playing his constantly cheery musical interjections. On a day of intensity, anger, and also quiet, India’s World Cup, known as the World Cup of the Invincibles, reached its end at the Narendra Modi Stadium.
This final was reminiscent of a piano forte, with a day that was characterized by contrasting levels of sound and quiet, conveyed through loudness rather than visuals and music rather than brightness. The beginning was filled with noise, from the exhilarating and unique energy of the 92,453 cricket fans, to the jets performing aerial maneuvers in the sky over Ahmedabad, to Ravi Shastri’s enthusiastic introductions at the toss, as he resembled a frantic and energetic figure in a panama hat, with his arms spinning like a military leader on amphetamines in the midst of the ruins of Stalingrad.
However, it was the moments of silence that truly defined the day, revealing a deeper meaning beneath the excitement and intensity of the game. The pivotal moment occurred 28 overs into the day, with India at 148 for three and the field glowing in bright white light, covered in a usual layer of mist.
Virat Kohli scored a calm and flawless fifty earlier on during the World Cup. Throughout the tournament, he has appeared to be in his own exclusive and protected zone, thanks to the strong performances of his teammates and India’s bowlers. While facing Pat Cummins, who was delivering an impressive spell as captain, Kohli struggled with the deliveries that were pitched at a shorter length and angled in, as if Cummins was politely attacking him physically. Eventually, Kohli was unable to escape the tight deliveries and ended up hitting the ball onto his stumps, which were illuminated with a mocking red light.
It was unexpected that silence could manifest in the form of a wave. The atmosphere suddenly turned chilly as the air escaped through the roof. The hush of 92,453 individuals was a noteworthy occurrence, with silence taking on a life of its own, overpowering any other sound. Kohli stood in silence, and continued to do so for an extended period of time. Looking back, it could be argued that his dramatic actions amplified the significance of the moment.
A scientific paper needs to be composed regarding the optics and team energy involved in a batsman’s walk-off. Portray a tragic event that could potentially occur. Two hours passed and Kohli was once again present, as the loudest sound of the day erupted when he caught David Warner’s vague prod at Mohammed Shami’s delivery at second slip. For a brief moment, it seemed as though Australia’s pursuit of 241 runs would be overshadowed by the surrounding energy.
There was an incredible sound, like rolling and tumbling waves, before merging into one large field of static. People were tumbling in the stands and even a soldier, who had been emotionless before, was now dancing with furious fist-pumping at high speed. It was a moment of pure joy, filled with energy that you just wanted to devour for another burst. This type of atmosphere is not common in cricket, especially not in this location. It was a rare occurrence. Then, the switch was flipped once again. Mitch Marsh hit Shami high over the fence at long-off while plumes of smoke drifted through the densely crowded silence like tumbleweed. At the other end, Travis Head started to dominate the ball and drain the energy out of the day, leading to one of the best ODI innings ever seen – a match-winning 137 full of remarkable vigor and skill.
Amidst the chaos, the most pleasant sound of the day was a calm and deliberate one. As the match was slipping away and India’s chances at the World Cup were fading, Head scored a hundred with a quick single. Suddenly, the stadium was filled with a soothing noise as the fans in blue stood up to cheer and more joined in as Head celebrated his achievement. It was a heartwarming moment that spread throughout the entire stadium.
In the end, the losing team accepted their defeat gracefully, applauding the winners. Many stayed behind for over an hour, waiting for Narendra Modi to arrive and present the trophy. This day served as a reminder that sports, which is highly valued here, still holds a special place in the world of competitive elite events, providing a small sense of freedom.
Things happen. Anyone can be defeated in a game. Even if a World Cup is organized by a country that dominates the sport, the outcome can still go in a different direction. In India, the focus has been on their victory, their happiness, and the belief that their team is flawless. This is justified as India has been the top-performing team in this tournament. However, sports always have surprises, and Australia is the benchmark for excellence. They are like the BMW 3 Series estate or like Germany in the 90s, setting the standard that everyone else must strive to surpass in order to beat them.
It may be argued, in a critical manner, that India’s batters succumbed to the pressure as Australia delivered exceptional bowling. However, it was Head who rose to the occasion, a player known for his carefree and stylish approach, appearing as though he was playing at a leisurely country event even in a World Cup final.
Marnus Labuschagne was ice cold to the end alongside him. And both Australians were applauded as they hugged on Head’s departure from the crease, by a home crowd stepping outside the matrix of game, country, shirt, and offering up some pure sporting affection.