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CWC19: A Eulogy Of The Indian Cricket Team

My dearest Cheeku,

I'm addressing this to you because I don't know who else would care as much as I do. I don't know who else would hurt as much as I am hurting. Truth be told, I feel like I'm writing a eulogy of the greatest team not to win a cricket world cup, not a blog post.

I'm addressing this to you because we've come a long way - you and I. From the clubs of the world's greatest cricketing cities to the (supposed) home of cricket. We've seen many downs, but more ups. We've seen the best of days and downright dismal ones.

I'm addressing this to you because a day after the fact, the pain is still raw and you're the only one that I can think might be feeling something similar.

Before the tournament, when I was planning the drive from Manchester to Birmingham, I had two scenarios in mind:
  • The pressure is off and we can scout our finals opposition knowing full well that we qualified in Manchester; or
  • Anticipation of us winning and reaching the finals, knowing who we're going to play.

There was no third scenario - it never crossed my mind, so sure was I, that this was our moment. That this was our tournament. That our boys would make good on all the promise that they've filled us with over the last 4 years.

A gamut of emotions flashed through me as I drove. The most prominent among them being a sense of grief. Then it hit me: if I'm this glum, then what you and the boys must be feeling could only be described as truly dark.

After all, I'm just a fan. I accept your exploits as mine. The entertainment you provide is my escape. I probably shouldn't feel this empty, but I'm only human. I have emotions and I can't help but hope. I can't help but feel an emptiness that no concoction of expensive poisons has been able to fill.

You know what gets me most? It's that we had the best ODI team we've ever had. One of the strongest opening partnerships the game has ever seen. You, as the best ODI batsman and chase-master. A game-changing lot of finishers. And finally, a bowling attack that is unmatched in terms of economy and potency. But when the fat lady sang, we were never really in it.

The pundits have written reams about a lack of a genuine number 4 (which was almost "criminal" on the part of the selectors, if I'm being honest) but that shouldn't have derailed us in the manner in which we finally stumbled. I think you'll agree.

What gets me most is that we could still suffer the exact same fate in 4 years' time even if we find a genuine number 4 before then. What demoralises me is that I thought we were building a dynasty to rival that of the Aussies until 2005, but we're still far from that. What baffles me is that we still haven't been able to perform at a level that is greater than the sum of our parts despite boasting some GOAT candidates in our first XI.

Am I suggesting that you step down. No.

But we do need a change in the team's think-tank. Maybe an addition, but definitely replacements. As good as you are with your individual skills and the mindset that you instill in others, there is a lack of tactical awareness in the current setup that allows or even contributes nonsensical team selection all too often.

This is where you need help from the coaching team and especially the selection panel. You should never have been in a position to choose between the decidedly mediocre Vijay Shankar and nice-guy-but-not-really-a-batsman Dinesh Karthik as your backup number 4 and 5 for the most important match of the last 4 years.

I don't fully understand how much power you wield behind the scenes but the powers-that-be need to put the right structure around you to help you do what you do best. If they don't do it of their own accord, you must demand it. That is the essence of true leadership, is it not?

The way I see it, this is your time to do what Mahi did when he realised 3 of the big 4 were not longer fit-for-purpose in ODIs. To me it's clear that your legacy will be sculpted not so much with the changes you make to the playing XI, but the improvements you demand from those behind the scenes.

I hope and pray that you succeed. Because I'm not sure that my health can handle a three-peat of our world cup semi-finals curse.

Yours through the good times and the downright pathetic,

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