Why does India lose finals? I wish I knew the answer. But the truth is, India loses. And keeps losing. And lose some more. The senior team loses. The women’s team loses. The U-19 team loses as well. And all to Australia. Add the football team that lost to the same opponent recently at the Asian Cup. Australia and India in finals is a sad sad story. And unless we change this narrative soon, it could become a psychological issue if it isn’t already one.
Are Indian teams not able to handle pressure? Is it that we choke on the biggest stage of all? Is it about talent or something else?
Winning is a habit. Australia have mastered it. India haven’t. The senior team won against Australia in the group stage. The finals were a very different story. The women have come close multiple times in the recent past, and just when it seemed that the jinx would be broken, Australia have found something to turn the tables. Snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. This evening’s final was no different.
IND U19 vs AUS U19 : Live Post Match Discussion https://t.co/nqd1E2prJd
— Boria Majumdar (@BoriaMajumdar) February 11, 2024
After a really good win against South Africa in the semi-final, much was expected of Uday Saharan and Sachin Dhas. Both failed on the stage that matters. Saharan looked under pressure and with Adarsh Singh consuming far too many balls, the pressure was always going to be on Saharan and the others. Missing out on half-volleys and balls that were there to hit and turning ultra-defensive was an issue. Clearly, it had to do with the pressure of the occasion.
How do we get rid of this? What’s the solution? At one point, PV Sindhu lost eight consecutive finals and I remember calling her after a crushing loss. She was howling on the phone, saying that she was tired of losing finals and it was getting to her. I consoled her, saying making the final was in itself an achievement. For Sindhu, it was in the mind. And once she conquered her inner demons, the doors opened. She was on song and has thereafter won many an important event.
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Indian cricket needs to win one major trophy. Not a bilateral series but a multi-nation event. In bilateral series, we have twice beaten Australia in 2018 and 2021. But when it comes to tournaments like the World Cup, India have always been second-best. That’s why the prescription is individual brilliance. Cricket being the most individual of all team sports, we need someone to defy the odds and stand up in the next final. Do what a Travis Head did. Take the bull by the horns, and make it count.
Needless to say, we are all being tested, the players most of all. But that’s where we need to be patient and keep trying. Sachin Tendulkar had to wait 22 years for a world title. And he was the best ever. India’s time will surely come, and when it does, we need to make the most of it. But to ensure that it does, we need to keep trying. Learn from the losses and keep doing the things we need to do. Sport teaches us how to lose, and each defeat is a lesson. The quest to be perfect on an imperfect day continues. And will. Till the tide turns and the sun rises. For the moment, it is a long night and one of introspection.