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ICC World Cup 2019: For the

sentimental and the superstitious, it is fortunate that

Virat Kohli is India's captain

21.02.2019  Author: C.NAMASIVAYAM

Cricket and sentiment always go together. The sentiment is the intangible element associated with the game, whose presence can be felt at every walk of life of a cricketer and a cricket fan.

The cricketers are naturally sentimental

The cricketers are naturally sentimental, since the stakes involved in playing and winning the game are too high. The cricket fans are sentimental since they don't have any control over the proceedings in the middle. In the literal meaning, they are the silent spectators of the game.

Though different terminologies like luck, destiny, God's grace, jinx, superstition etc are used to recognize the presence of the sentimental factor in cricket, its presence and practice cannot be denied. Believing in sentiments and superstition is one way for the cricketers and the cricket fans to express their emotions. In the good old days, we heard about the legendary Sunil Gavaskar who always used to wear his right shoe and pads first before going out to bat. Mohinder Amarnath always had a red handkerchief sticking out of his pocket while batting.

The presence of sentiment and superstition will be felt more before going into a mega tournament like World Cup 2019. The World Cup, after all, comes once in four years.

Team India's World Cup record

As far as Team India's World Cup record is concerned, out of the 11 editions of the tournament, the team has won the trophy twice - in 1983 and 2011. Apart from that, India has reached the finals once in 2003 and the semi-finals thrice - in 1987, 1996 and 2015.

On the other 5 occasions, India were knocked out of the tournament before reaching the semi-finals.

Now come the sentiment and superstitious beliefs. On all the 5 occasions when India failed to reach the semi-finals, the team was led by a player from the south. It might be a strange coincidence, but it's an unmistakable one.

In the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979, S. Venkataraghavan from Tamil Nadu led Team India. India's first ever World Cup match started with Gavaskar's infamous innings of 36 not out off 174 balls against England. Having played just two ODIs before this World Cup, India managed to win only one match - against the lesser known East Africa.

In the 1979 Prudential World Cup, once again under S. Venkataraghavan, India failed to win a single match and had the mortification of even losing to Sri Lanka, the then associate member of ICC.

Mohammad Azharuddin led India in three consecutive World Cups in 1992, 1996 and 1999. India did reasonably well in the 1996 World Cup at home, when they reached the semi-finals. In fact, that was the only time India reached the semi-final of a World Cup when captained by a player from the south. Then again, that was the minimum expectation from a strong team playing at home.

In 1992, under Azharuddin, apart from accomplishing their customary World Cup win against Pakistan and a win against minnows Zimbabwe, it was a total disaster for India. In the 1999 World Cup in England, India struggled to reach the Super Six stages and failed to qualify for the semi-finals.

Disappointment for India in a World Cup event

The biggest disappointment for India in a World Cup event came in the 2007 tournament, when the Rahul Dravid-led team was knocked out in the first round itself. India lost to both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and made an early exit.

On the basis of past records, the World Cup and captains from the south are seemingly not made for each other. Besides, on the two occasions when India had to defend the World Cup title, in 1987 and 2015, they went in with the same captains who first won the cup for them - with disastrous consequences. Both Kapil Dev and MS Dhoni could not repeat their feat four years later.

In the context of sentiment and superstition, India should consider themselves fortunate to have Virat Kohli as captain for the World Cup this year. Kohli is captaining his team for the first time in a World Cup, and players from other parts of the country who have captained India for the first time in a World Cup have tasted instant success.

While Kapil Dev and MS Dhoni went on to win the World Cup, Sourav Ganguly's team reached the final of World Cup 2003. Indian fans would be hoping that Kohli does a Kapil Dev and Dhoni by winning the World Cup this year.