On 31st march 2016, India was outplayed by West Indies in T20 world cup semifinal. There were tears in the eyes of players, spectators at Wankhade stadium were pretty upset, so were the millions of Indian fans watching at home. When they all have been denied their day of glory that was all set to be theirs on 3rd April 2016, at least a social media backlash was expected. I opened my social media account with same expectation of backlash and saw some arm-chair expert, who were doing the easy thing i.e discussing what Dhoni should have done and how match was fixed, but to my surprise, there was no outrage on social media and neither any news of outrage on streets. Majority of people had all the praise for performance of Virat Kohli, Nehra ji and were standing right behind team India.
Next day Harsha Bhogle’s, the renowned commentator, status update on his FB account read ~
“The reaction to the defeat to the West Indies has been striking. Normally social media is angry, the news channels peddle outrage and the jokes on whatsapp make fun of the players. Not so this time and as my old friend Kuldip Lal asked on twitter: Is it because we have come to accept that it is a game and winning and losing is part of it, or is it because the West Indies are so liked that losing to them didn’t evoke the same feeling?
What do you think?”
Answer doesn’t lie in either of the options provided by Kuldip lal, let’s look for the reasons for this change of heart of Indian fans.
We must remind ourselves that only a decade back there were numerous incident of burning effigy of players, attack on their homes after loss of India in any major tournament. With advent of social media, fans found new platform to spill their anger. They started to deride players on social media, jokes on them were circulated along with accusation of fixing etc.
Then came 24th september 2007, india lifted the T20 World Cup trophy and the frustration of not winning world cup for so many years was vanished and whatever frustration and anger was left had been removed on 2nd April 2011 World Cup, when India lifted the ODI World Cup trophy and wait of 28 years of a billion people was over. Fan and fanatics of team India were satiated by the flurry of successes. Ranked 1 in test, T20 world Cup winners, ODI World Cup winners, ICC Champions Trophy winners. Under MS Dhoni, Indian team fans have seen flurry of successes that was unheard of in Indian cricket history so instead of being cynical about team, they started to believe in team and its players. The anger and frustration in their heart, which was built over the years because of the failures of India team has been replaced by believe because of recent successes. A thought was developed in every Indian team fan that if we have failed today, we will certainly be successful tomorrow. Earlier, there was only hope and not certainty or belief about success. So fans’ thought process has changed a lot, post the stupendous success under Dhoni. They started to appreciate the efforts that players put in to bring glory to India. They started to see the blood and sweat that players put in. And above all, they realised that players wanted to win big tournaments more than the fans wanted.
Still, there was small section of cynical fans, and will forever remain so, who threw stones at Yuvraj’s home post ICC T20 World Cup 2014 loss in finals but that action was criticised by most of the fans. The tipping point, in change of behaviour of fans, came after semifinal loss in world cup in 2015. A famous news anchor, of Nation wants to know fame, tried to manufacture outrage after india’s loss. Team India fans had taken upon themselves to teach him a lesson that he will never forget. #ShameOnxyz channel trended for three days with message requesting everyone to deactivate that channel floating everywhere. Newschannels and critics were taken aback after that outrage of fans in support of Indian team. It is highly improbale that any of media channel would try to manufacture an outrage in near future after that backlash by team India fans. So, it was not surprising that none of the media channels tried to peddle outrage after semifinal loss against West Indies.
Their might still be some backlash if India loses a big match against Pakistan but outrage will never be same as it was a decade back. Fans, still, mock indian players during IPL but not when they are playing for team India and gets beaten in big matches. They now stand right behind their team and players because they know that sooner or later we will win. It’s not that they have accepted that winning or losing is part of game. There is, still, feeling of hurt at every match that team loses but there is more appreciation for the efforts of the players and more pride in their performances. MS Dhoni’s era has changed them forever because this team has given them so many moments to be proud of and looks set to make them even more prouder under Virat Kohli. From the hurt and angry fan of a team that couldn’t win big matches, they have now become fans of a team who is reaping success of efforts put in by previous generation of cricketers. They now behave like fans of World Champions and not the fans of underdogs and undeserving that Bangladesh and Pakistan have. India Cricket Team fans have changed forever, they now #bleedblue no matter what the result is.