India’s Jingoism Lost at the Cricket World Cup: Nationalism is replacing sportsmanship in Modi’s India (TUNKU VARADARAJAN, DEC 1, 2023, The UnPopulist)
Neutrals cheered Australia on Sunday—a team that has historically been unloved outside its own shores—because most cricket fans worldwide are thoroughly sick—fed up, pissed off—about India’s bully-boy dominance of world cricket. I don’t mean sporting dominance, which neutral fans can live with (as was the case with the West Indians of the Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards era, or Brazilian football in the time of Pelé). It’s the wholesale takeover by the BCCI of [international] cricket’s financing, values and calendar, giving them a grip over the game that is stronger, more ruthless and vice-like, more absolute and remorseless, more self-serving and mercantilist, than that once exercised by the game’s original overlords in England (who might, at some level, have been forgiven their assertion of ownership over cricket because they did, in fact, give us the game).
The BCCI has warped cricket, distorted it, making it so India-centric that other proud nations—some with better pedigrees than India’s—have been reduced to bit-part players, mendicants, petitioners for match-time. Everything is now about India: the crowds, the songs, the scheduling, the pitches, the money. The one element the BCCI cannot control, mercifully, is the outcome of a match. Try as India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party might—for the BCCI is now the BJP in cricketing form—the result of a match cannot be influenced to suit its needs the way an election can. International umpires are not the Indian judiciary. The International Cricket Council is not (yet) the Indian Election Commission.
That India lost in the final was karmic payback for the BCCI’s sins against the game, and also for the Ahmedabad crowd’s unwillingness to be sporting and civilized, to appreciate cricket as something other than a jingoistic exercise in which India must win every game to the chanting of “Jai Shri Ram” [“Glory to Lord Rama”] and “Bharat Mata ki Jai” [“Hail Mother India”]. Let us never again hold the final of a World Cup in such a city, a place in which cricket is but the means to petty nationalist ends, where few stand up to applaud an opposing batsman who scores a magnificent, match-winning hundred. Stay with Chennai, with Mumbai, with Kolkata, where the crowds love cricket (and not just winning).
In the end, justice was done. Australia won.