V.K. SANTOSH KUMAR
Singapore resident Prantik Mazumdar is despondent that India lost the cricket World Cup final to Australia in Ahmedabad last Sunday. But he is overjoyed he got to watch his favourite team six times at various match venues along with his wife and son over the tournament’s 45 days.
That included the final, the mega India-Pakistan clash in Ahmedabad, India’s six-wicket league-stage win over Australia in Chennai, and the hosts’ mammoth 243-run win over semi-finalists South Africa at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
“Australia played exceptional cricket in the final,” said the 40-year-old. “They showed us how to play and win in a mammoth stadium packed with jingoistic fans. It is their best World Cup win out of six simply because they beat a strong Indian side, which was bowling exceptionally well, in India no less.
“As a fan, I loved the whole party atmosphere in Ahmedabad. But the crowd was very partisan, which didn’t leave a good taste. It would have been great if they had also cheered for Australia and Pakistan and the other teams who played there.”
Prantik, a cricketer in the local league who has captained the Singapore Indian Association and National University of Singapore teams, has been hooked on watching World Cup matches since the 2011 tournament in India. He was at the final that year, and also at the 2015 and 2019 World Cup finals.
“I’ve been a cricket fan for years and I had a fabulous time travelling around India in 2011,” said Prantik, who is managing director at Japanese international advertising and public relations company Dentsu. “This time I wanted to do a World Cup tour with my family.
“My wife (Dipti, 33) follows cricket passionately, while my son (Ayaan, 7) has begun to play the sport seriously. So, I thought why not take them along.
“(The trip) did not cost us much as we took Indigo flights throughout, and friends and family members provided us with tickets and accommodation.
“Two of the games were in Pune and Bengaluru where our parents live, so we also got to celebrate Durga Puja and Deepavali with them.”
The family also bumped into several friends from Singapore during the matches, especially the final.
“In Indian grounds, it is very hard to coordinate and meet for a beer as there are different sections, and it is difficult to move around,” said Prantik. “That’s not the case in Australia or England where it’s more like a picnic. But, outside the stadiums in India, there are great places to have thosai and tea by the roadside or nice meals at restaurants.”
While they found the match experiences entertaining, the family weren’t comfortable with fans booing and jeering when India were losing, Prantik said.
“Another problem was that few tickets were released to foreign fans, with the bulk of the tickets sold either on the black market or for corporate favours. So, each match had only about 5 to 10 per cent of fans from other countries, especially the high profile India-Pakistan game.
“This is not ideal; in Manchester, during the 2019 World Cup, the beauty was sitting with Pakistanis and others and enjoying the match. Whether your team wins or loses, it’s all about the competitive spirit.”
To Ayaan, watching the World Cup matches was a dream come true. “My favourite player is Virat Kohli, and I was excited to watch him score two centuries,” the boy said. “I also enjoyed recording videos with my father before and after each match.”
Dipti said it was a “surreal experience” to watch Team India live at so many matches and to “cheer hard, dance, sing and #bleedblue”.
“While the final didn’t go our way, we’re very proud that Team India remained unbeaten until the last game. It was sheer joy to watch our team display outstanding skill and camaraderie on the field,” she added.
Prantik felt India had an exceptional campaign but missed a trick or two in the final.
“We missed all-rounder Hardik Pandya (through injury), as statistics show that every time we don’t have an insurance batter, the top and middle order strike rate goes down.
“With three lefties in the Australian batting line-up, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin too would have been handy.
“Also, the organisers and fans perhaps put too much pressure on the Indian players to deliver the cup. Home advantage then actually became a disadvantage, as Australia had nothing to lose. The final was turned into a coronation ceremony, and the Indian players caved under the pressure.”