We are a nation of impassioned cricket lovers. But aren't we being irrational about our failure? KALYAN ASHOK asks sportspersons about fan frenzy

As the nation plunges into collective mourning and fans go berserk, baying for the blood of Indian cricketers, it's time to sit and analyse our irrational attitude to a defeat in sports ?Is it the end of the world as fans make us believe? Or don't our lives go beyond cricket? These are disturbing questions with no easy answers as a nation goes into a paroxysm of anger and frustration over the Indian debacle in the World Cup. Looking back, India had as much a chance of winning the Cup as any other contender, and it is not our God-given right that only we have to emerge victors. Big wins on home-turf and the media hype of our players' capabilities have surely clouded the vision of our fans and they never considered the merits of the opposition. No one was willing to acknowledge Bangladesh as a dark horse capable of upsetting India's applecart. No one gave a chance to a formidable Sri Lanka, which man-to-man is equal to ours in batting and superior in bowling. Instead there was this blind and child-like faith in our super heroes' invincibility and the hope that they will slay the rest of the competition and return home with the cup. Adding to that fantasy, a Rs. 3,000 crore mega-buck corporate deal was riding high on endorsements and TV slots. It was an Indian-made fairytale that unfortunately came with a flawed script. One wonders whether the fans would at least now realise that their heroes have feet of clay and treat cricket as a mere sport and nothing more?The cold statistics of the World Cup since 1975 clearly showed that the decks were stacked against us. After the 1983 triumph, thrice we got past the first round — the 1987 (semi-finals), 1996 (semi-finals) and 2003 (finals) — yet failed to win the cup. Still, fans have consistently refused to accept the facts and stories, first of mass prayers — havens for Indian success — and then of violent protests that followed the defeat, smack of a lack of maturity in the Indian fan. When India loses in World Cup hockey no eyebrow is raised. When Sania Mirza crashes out of the WTA championship early, crowds don't revile her. Nobody wonders how a team, which plays the game day in and out for almost 10 months in a year, can keep up a winning form or momentum. No one talks about the enormous pressure they face physically and mentally when they walk down the pitch. When Sharad Pawar claims that "they have failed us'', one is tempted to ask when BCCI, which considers the cricketer a golden goose and makes him slog with a killing schedule round the year, how does it expect him succeed each and every time? Failures are part of any sport and cricket is no exception. Fans seem to have all the backing from former sprint queen Ashwini Nachappa, , who like any one of them was incensed with the galling defeat. "I would not have minded if they had gone down fighting, but losing the way they did, what do you expect from fans, who had literally treated them like super heroes and gods. I squarely blame media for all the hype . It is the same media, which is now gunning for them. What exactly did a player like Sachin Tendulkar achieve, except blocking entry of a talented youngster into the team? " says Ashwini.Former swimming ace and Olympian Nisha Millet feels that the public is fully justified in venting its anger. "They have the right because they have made them what they are and surely they are accountable. In a game which is being played by about 16 countries, some of them being real novices, is it too much to ask for our team to at least make the last eight? If only a fraction of the kind of money and infrastructure given to cricket had been devoted to Indian swimming, it would be world class. Surely all our seniors should make way for youngsters and then only the game can prosper," says Nisha.Badminton maestro Prakash Padukone feels that fans should react rationally rather than emotionally. "I would blame the heightened expectations on media hype that surrounds cricket and cricketers. No doubt it is 10,000 times more popular than any other sport but we should learn to take defeats in our stride and not let mere emotions rule our reactions. I remember the time when I defeated Indonesian Liem Swie King in the All England Championship. Back home in Jakarta, fans brought down a statue of King, as they could not bear the fact he had lost to an Indian player. So such reactions seem natural.""But here they are over doing it. I would partly hold the electronic media responsible for that. When you show protests from different parts of the country on TV, everyone seems to join the party. They shouldn't bother to give such negative publicity." Prakash advises that there should be no knee jerk reaction to such a debacle. "Finding scapegoats and indulging in blame games are easy options, but they are counter-productive. Talks of sacking the coach or captain makes no sense either at this stage when defeat, like victory, happens to be a collective responsibility," he cautions.As Prakash wryly observes: "Probably all will be forgiven if they win the series at Bangladesh and it will be business as usual. So our players have to take the current barrage of brickbats along with the bouquets they had received in the past."

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