The Silent Shame
In the grand spectacle that was the ICC Cricket World Cup Final between India and Australia at the Ahmedabad Cricket Stadium earlier today, one thing stood out more than the breathtaking cricket skills displayed on the field (more so by Australians but that’s beside the point)— the unsportsmanlike behavior of the crowd. This behavior is not new to this ground. A stadium that boasts a capacity of 120,000 spectators became a graveyard of enthusiasm as the fans failed miserably in their duty to support even their own team, India.
Cricket, often hailed as a religion in this cricket-crazed nation, witnessed a bizarre anomaly as the crowd at Ahmedabad remained dead silent, almost as if they had forgotten the essence of sportsmanship. We have witnessed a few encounters in this World Cup edition where the crowd exhibited very similar behavior. But today was the Final.
One would have expected a stadium of this magnitude to be pulsating with energy, given India was playing after winning 10 continuous matches. One would have expected a stadium with fans passionately rallying behind their team in both highs and lows. However, what unfolded was a scene reminiscent of a funeral procession rather than a World Cup Final.
Travis Head played a brilliant man-of-the-match winning knock and he got no cheers from the crowd throughout the innings, and even we raised the bat after crossing 100, the Ahmedabad crowd gave him nothing. To be honest, on TV broadcast, it felt like the sort of applause you might hear for a regulation drive struck off the tee at a minor golf tournament.
The most disgusting crowd act came during the presentation ceremony when on-field umpires Richard Kettleborough and Richard Illingworth were called to the podium to receive their mementos. They were booed. Yes, they were literally booed by the crowd that stayed back. For no apparent reason. I mean, there were no particularly controversial calls made throughout the match. It almost felt like this Ahmedabad crowd simply needed to find some kind of target to vent their disappointment after witnessing their team fall at the final hurdle.
But the most disheartening aspect of this silent charade was the lack of support when India found themselves in dire straits. A true test of sportsmanship is not how loudly you cheer when your team is winning but how steadfastly you stand by them when the going gets tough. Unfortunately, the Ahmedabad crowd failed this test miserably. As India faced challenging moments on the pitch, the deafening silence from the stands was nothing short of disgraceful.
In a country where cricket is not just a sport but an emotion that unites millions, the Ahmedabad crowd’s behavior raises serious questions not about the city’s commitment to the spirit of the game but more about the obsession with hosting such high-stakes games in this city when there are so many better venues available in the country. Wankhede, Chepauk, Chinnaswamy, and even Eden Gardens (in spite of what happened in 1996), to name a few. The silence at times today was so palpable that it seemed as though the spectators were more interested in the “architectural marvel” of the stadium than the cricketing action on the field.
One cannot help but wonder why Ahmedabad, with its colossal stadium, should be the venue for such significant encounters if it time and again draws crowd that cannot muster the passion and sportsmanship expected at games of this caliber.
The choice of a venue for a World Cup Final goes beyond its seating capacity; it should reflect the true essence of cricket fandom, the spirit of the city hosting it — an essence that was painfully absent in Ahmedabad today.
Cricket is not just about the players; it’s about the entire experience — the roar of the crowd, the ebb and flow of emotions, the collective heartbeat of a nation. Ahmedabad, on this fateful day, failed to live up to this expectation. A stadium capable of hosting an ocean of supporters turned into a desolate island of apathy. What’s worse? When Team India was not doing well and going through low moments, of there were many, the crowd went dead silent on them.
In the aftermath of this disappointing display of sportsmanship, it is imperative for the cricketing authorities to reconsider whether Ahmedabad deserves the honor of hosting such high-stakes matches in the future. But then, we all know the answer. Ahmedabad and the stadium named after the ruling Prime Minister Narendra Modi (North Korea style), is going to be the hallowed grounds for all important cricket matches going forward — at least for a foreseeable future.
Because it is no longer about sports in the country. It is no longer about cricket. When you have the largest sporting body (BCCI) in the country run by the country’s Home Minister’s son, and when his political party is on a perpetual campaign mode and more so in 2023 as they are planning for reelection in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, every move BCCI makes, if the said political party can draw some political mileage out of it, they will continue to do that. Hosting prestigious sporting events in a stadium named after their Supreme Leader is one of those things that they can draw huge political mileage from.
The World Cup Final is not just a showcase of cricketing talent; it is a celebration of the sport, an embodiment of the passion that binds fans and players together.
Ahmedabad, sadly, did not miss the memo.
This is how they have always been.