India’s defeat of Sri Lanka in the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup Final not only affords the Guardian’s unusually skilled Barney Ronay (“India’s Future’s So Bright They Gotta Wear Shades”, Monday, April 4) with an opportunity to quote Ian “Beefy” Botham — one of David Brent’s great heroes— but also a chance to take in an epic sporting experience he aptly calls, “a vibrant and riotous global TV sport phenomenon…in visceral HD was an example of TV sport’s ability both to bring people together – forging such cross-cultural treasures as the Sri Lankan Russell Arnold picking up the phrase ‘he’s a goner!’ from our own dear David Lloyd – and also to fuel the most quiveringly overwrought nationalistic display.” Hotter stuff than the NIT Final, then.
The first hint that this was an occasion of superheated frenzy, one that superseded even the stage-managing powers of the almighty Sky Sports, came with the pre-match appearance of a frazzled Ian Ward on the outfield of Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium. “What … an occasion … Bumble?” “I’m sweatin’ up in the paddock ‘ere,” Bumble offered, shrugging. In the studio David Gower, Mike Atherton and Ian Botham lurked around an unusually small cardboard coffee table looking oddly bleached-out, a sense of ghostliness accentuated by the ever-present World Cup logo with its backdrop of faceless, baying cartoon figures set against a glaring firestorm of a sky, like a Soviet-era depiction of some future cricketing apocalypse.
“People ask about pressure? Pressure makes kettles boil,” Botham pronounced, weirdly, but it did at least seem like the right kind of thing to be saying as finally it was time for India’s big show. The intrusion of the crowd from passive spectators into an operatic chorus is something Twenty20 has fostered in cricket. In Mumbai on Saturday the crowd was part of the story for other reasons. This is the face India turns to the world through the imperial power-glamour of its big-time cricket. It is an aspirational face, newly enriched and boisterously westernised. Above all it is a big-sunglassed face, an accessory without which Indian crowds are almost unimaginable. If the big sunglasses on show at the Wankhede were laid end to end, together we could perhaps sunglass the world.
There were incredible pictures at the end as Mumbai exploded in a confusion of sweat-sodden firework-flaring ecstasy. It was quite an occasion, not just for Indian cricket, but for cricket as a televised entertainment. For various reasons – of geography, format-tweak and a perfect storm of national ascendancy – we may never see its like again.