The disappointment over India's defeat in the semifinal of the just-concluded cricket World Cup is still refusing to die down. The defending champions were beaten by 95 runs by hosts Australia who went to become the world champions for the fifth time.
World Cup Special; Dear Arnab Goswami, how many runs have you scored in cricket?
Angry media, abusive fans, disappointed experts: What for?
A national news channel in India faced a massive backlash after running negative images of MS Dhoni's men on television while many fans targetted Anushka Sharma, the actor girlfriend of Virat Kohli, for his ordinary form in the mega event (just one century). Some experts also expressed dissatisfaction over India's strategy during the quadrennial event.
In all, negativity ruled the minds in India after the semifinal loss.
But the 95-run loss was much less painful than the 125-run loss in 2003 final
But was that really so hurting? To be honest, the latest loss to Australia in Sydney was certainly not as painful as the 125-run defeat to them in the final of the 2003 World Cup at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, South Africa.
On that fateful day, Ricky Ponting had not only smashed the Indian bowlers, but he had even dashed the confidence of India as a cricketing nation. Technically, India ended up as the second-best team in the tournament, but the gap with the best was too huge to be covered by consolation only.
Compared to that loss which had happened after 8 consecutive wins, the defeat in Sydney after 7 consecutive wins did not lead to any natural feeling of despair.
Two reasons for that:
There are two reasons for that.
Australia were always going to be a tough opponent at home
First, Australia were always going to be a tough opponent on their home soil and those who ignored this fact before the match, did so at their own risk. We shouldn't have forgotten that this was the same Australia that had crushed India in the Tests and one-dayers before the World Cup. [Australia beat New Zealand by 7 wickets to win 5th WC crown]
The Indian players were conditioned playing against such a tough opponent and that could be seen when they played against other teams who were playing Down Under after a long time.
While India reaped the benefits 4 years ago, this time it was Australia's turn
The result of the semifinal that India lost could also have been different had they not played Australia. But the home team was always ahead of the visitors throughout this summer. The semifinal was no exception. Just India had shown who is the boss in their own den four years ago, it was Australia's turn to reciprocate this time.
India no more also-ran in cricket now
The second reason is related more with India's rise as a cricketing nation. In 2003, the loss in the final hurt Indians badly because the country came closes to win a world title after two decades since Kapil Dev had lifted the trophy at the famous Lord's.
In 2003, India were desperate to prove that 1983 was not forgotten for ever
Since that victory and the 1985 win in Australia, India were not really a force to beat the best in mega tournaments and that too on foreign soil.
Apart from Sachin Tendulkar's centuries, the Indian cricket supporters didn't have much to celebrate for as a team, big victories remained a dream. In 2003, Sourav Ganguly's team hence made a big big promise but when it failed to clear the final hurdle, the pain was enormous.
In 2003, we were in final after 20 years; in 2015, we were the defending champs
In 2015, the situation is no more the same. If Australia are the champions of this era, India are not much behind as the second-most successful team. Since 2007, Indian cricket teams have won four World Cups (the T20 World Cup in 2007, two Under-19 trophies in 2008 and 2012 and one 50-over World Cup in 2011) and one Champions Trophy (in 2013).
India now have a number of world titles
The sweeter part is that apart from the 2011 title win, all other crowns were won abroad (South Africa, Malaysia, Australia and England) which added more shine to these achievements.
So unlike in 2003 when our feats were confined to the 1983 World Cup win, the 1985 Benson & Hedges championship win in Australia, a U-19 title in Sri Lanka in 2000 and a NatWest victory in England in 2002, we are more successful outfit now with a number of world titles under our belt.
Hence, a loss in the semifinal doesn't really hurt us much. After all, India have a equal number of U-19 world titles (three) along with Australia and the second-most number of crowns in 50-over World Cup after Australia.
WI also have two WC crowns, but that is more of academic interest now: The real fight now is between Australia and Asia
The West Indies also have same number of crowns like India (two) but it won't be an overstatement to say that the Caribbeans' record is just for an academic interest now. The focus of the battle for supremacy has now shifted to Australia versus Asia led by India (something similar to the Brazil versus Europe contest in Fifa World Cup).
So, the 95-run loss was okay and we still are proud of the men in blue.