The last of the great World Cups?

A few years ago, you could smell a World Cup from a year away. Ads were splashed across TV, radio, hoardings, newspapers and magazines.
The last of the great World Cups?

BENGALURU:  Ladies, gentlemen, and friends beyond the binary – yet another cricket World Cup is here. I’m no expert on weather or electricity – but I don’t really find the special buzz in the air that usually accompanies a World Cup. A cricket World Cup comes once in four years, an election once in five years. No prizes for guessing which excites us Indians more! 

A few years ago, you could smell a World Cup from a year away. Ads were splashed across TV, radio, hoardings, newspapers and magazines. New offers stormed the market – on colour TVs to watch the World Cup on. And washing machines to wash all the tears we shed after a loss! Contests flooded the nation.

Films were not released during the tournament, and newspapers used phrases like ‘cricket fever has hit the nation’. A cricket World Cup was also the ultimate test of Indian parenting. ‘Cool’ parents let you follow the tournament in general and watch India matches in particular. Strict parents switched off the TV and cut off cable connection on account of Board Exams. A million core memories are formed during a World Cup. And you could sense the excitement in the air.

 But the ongoing World Cup seems like just another upcoming festival – like Dasara, Deepavali, Christmas, and Amisha Patel’s birthday. I don’t mean to sound like a Boomer or Big Babool – complaining about today’s generations not respecting the great game. The lack of excitement has more to do with the 50 over format of the game. Compared to Test cricket, One Day Internationals (ODIs) were the flashy, younger format of the sport. ODIs featured colourful uniforms, and were played under lights as Day-Night matches.

Sadly, ODIs are now the ‘Bellbottom’ version of the game – both due to when they became popular, and how relevant they are today. To sit for the duration of an entire match, you must not have a steady job – making it ideal for students, retired people, and standup comedians. The average viewing duration of an ODI match is 12 hours! Can you imagine the things you could do in 12 hours? You could make ONE entire round trip between Silk Board and MG Road! 

Perhaps the World Cup also seems ‘smaller’ in scale because the entire tournament could now be carried in your phone. Scores, live telecast, and highlights are readily available in your pocket. There is no need to stand near a paan dabba and eat 4.5kg of biscuits just to peek at the score. So unless you’re reading this in a draconian hostel that doesn’t permit mobile phones (like I did), you should have the entire tournament in your pockets. 

World Cups have always been four-year time pegs for me to slot all my memories. For the last 25 years, I have supported India with all my heart. I have revelled in India’s victories and sobbed after the losses. So this year, with all my maturity and wisdom – I have decided to do it all over again. India is sending  their strongest team ever to the World Cup. I will be rooting for Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to seal their places as modern legends.

This might be the last World Cup where I’m emotionally invested – for who knows where the world will be in four years? A different party could be in power, a different technology could take over from smartphones, a different disease called BROVID - 27 could take over the world. But even if we move to Mars in the future, and Elon Musk’s launches an app called X-traTerrestrial  Indians will still follow the World Cup!

(The writer's views are his own)

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