#MatchDay: Anybody But Them Please, Thank You

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There is, in the heart of every Indian fan of cricket today, an unnamed dread.

And in today’s grim column, I intend to name that dread, and speak about it. Cricketing catharsis, if you will.

Coming into the World Cup, it was clear to all and sundry who knew cricket that really there were two teams that were likeliest to win the trophy. One, of course, was England. Host nations, but also the team that had been setting grounds on fire with their batting pyrotechnics for the last two years, besides possessing a fairly good bowling unit and excellent fielding.

And the second, of course, was India.

Now, we all know how the story has panned out. India have played true to form, having won all their matches so far, with that scare against Afghanistan being the only blip. England, on the other hand, have flattered to deceive – stumbled twice, against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and thoroughly outplayed against England.

And so one should have hope and optimism as an Indian fan, right? If the other favorites aren’t playing well, that’s only to the good, no?

Ah, but now The Things That Should Not Be Spoken About will, well, be spoken about.

Anybody But Them.

As the tournament has progressed, two other teams have come to the fore. They have peaked at the right time, and are currently well into the process of imbuing their fans with hope. One of those teams does this with something they have always been good at: skill and professionalism inextricably wedded to a hard-nosed attitude. Add on top of this their know-how when it comes to the biggest of stages, and you have reason to fear Australia. And for an Indian fan, the thought that those smug, all-conquering, five-time-champions-already-for-cryin’-out loud will lift the trophy once again is just utterly unbearable.


Unless the other team that has come to the fore wins it instead. This team isn’t professional. They don’t have a plan. They don’t have a strategy. They have a captain who yawns, and team members who shouldn’t even have been in the squad. They are gloriously, utterly unorganised, and their campaign started with great big lurches. Arrrgh, I can’t bear the thought.

And that is exactly why I, and everybody else who follows cricket in India walk around with dry throats and palpitating hearts. Because if at the start of the tournament you had asked us the following question: if India is not to win the World Cup, who would you like as the champions instead?

… we would have picked Anybody But Them as our pick.

Doesn’t matter. Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Afghanistan – Antarctica, or the planet Jupiter, for all we care. 

Anybody But Them.

But as the tournament unfolds in front of us, there is good news, and there is bad news. The good news is that we’re sticking to our script: our team is playing well, save the odd stumble here and there, and we’re still one of the tournament favorites.

The bad news is that we’re all also walking around with rosemary beads, voodoo dolls and sticks of incense, muttering a mantra with increasing fervor (not to mention desperation).

Repeat after me:

Anybody But Them.


Ashish Kulkarni

Ashish Kulkarni

Ashish is a confirmed Punekar, which guarantees eternal undying love for the city, but also mandates an incurable sense of cynicism about it.

He doesn't expect the paradox to be resolved in his lifetime
Ashish Kulkarni