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The Roar


The curious case of the Sunday night angst

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Roar Guru
19th July, 2019

Its 3am on a Monday morning, only a couple of hours to go before the inevitable alarm rings, signalling the start of a work week I am not ready to face.

I lie in bed reflecting on the long and short of luck and life – Roger Federer has just hit a return miles beyond his line and a diving Martin Guptill left a couple of inches short of his.

Four hours and 57 minutes of excellence have not been enough to give one his twenty-first trophy, and nine hours of the most sublime cricket seen in years have failed to bring home the Cup to the other.

It has been just minutes since the most stunning night in sports we have witnessed in years, and the recriminations on social media have already started.

‘Which moron thought up this boundaries rule?’

‘Why would you want a tiebreaker for the finals of Wimbledon?’


I answer a few people on WhatsApp groups and ask myself whether I should stop wasting time trying to grab a few winks and instead just get up and put my thoughts onto paper.

But sleeping on it, I have found, is almost always rewarding. I close my eyes.

Fast forward four days.

Much water has flown under London bridge. The English have celebrated, the Kiwis have mourned (albeit with dignity). Mukul Kesavan has called the result an ‘illegitimate judgement’. Jonathan Liew, in what is an unusual ‘fanboy’ piece in The Independent, has written: ‘England are world champions and frankly, everything else is details.’

Greg Baum in the Sydney Morning Herald has spoken about the vagaries of chance: ‘There were no ifs, only the butt of Stokes’s bat, and so really, this World Cup was decided by accident.’

Sambit Bal on ESPNCricinfo has summed it all up: ‘If cricket were to end tomorrow, at least we’ll have this game.’

Brian Phillips has captured the essence of the Federer loss with his inimitable prose: ‘Federer dominated the game of runs but couldn’t keep Djokovic from seizing control of the game of moments.’

And Rohit Brijnath, as always cutting to the essence of elite sport, has pointed out in Straits Times: ‘The athlete understands the epic has place for only one hero and so tragedy lurks like an unkind stranger.


A fan in England has preserved the moment for posterity by naming his newborn ‘Eoin Morgan’.

And yet, I haven’t written a word, despite being tempted more than once. Instead, I have assimilated, pondered, and just like a certain busload of Kiwis headed back to their hotel from Lord’s and a limousine carrying a sole Swiss back to his Wimbledon abode on Sunday night, wondered about what could have been.

But even more importantly, I have tried to brush away the loose grass Novak Djokovic has left uneaten, and figure out the reason for the angst that has swept media and social media after this magnificent Sunday.

‘Who is the angst directed at?’ I have asked myself. Is it truly at the ICC or at Wimbledon? Or is this angst that just won’t go away, the result of who we desperately wanted to see holding up the trophy?

Is it really about the rules, or indeed about the results? Or is it because millions of fans feel cheated by chickens they had counted well before the eggs were hatched?

It is an interesting thought.

England had been the favourites to win the World Cup for well over a year. As Baum pointed out, ‘For now, suffice to say that England were deserving winners, for their four-year body of work and their vibrant cricket in this tournament.’

Djokovic was the defending champion and perhaps the most consistent of the ‘fab three’ over the last decade. If you choose to look only at Elo Ratings, you could even call him (at your own peril if there are Federer and Rafael Nadal fans around you) the greatest of all time.


The fact that both won should have been a confirmation of the obvious. Instead, the reality of the overwhelming angst points to a problem.

Before the finals, Jimmy Neesham launched a Twitter appeal for resale of tickets, targeting Indian fans. If he had hoped to have more Kiwis at the game, he didn’t succeed, but if he was concerned about support for the team, he needn’t have worried.

Kane Williamson tweeted his apologies to the Indian fans after the semis and requested their support. He needn’t have bothered either.

The hundreds of waving tricolours on Sunday, at a game 1ndia was not playing, may have looked incongruous, but the timely cheers left nothing to the imagination about where their support lay.

New Zealand had beaten India, but they had won hearts with their humility, sporting spirit and out and out niceness.

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But that was far from being the only reason for the overwhelming support they found from India and millions of cricket lovers around the world when they walked onto the field against the host nation.

England, you see, is an easy team to dislike. Nations have elephantine memories, and an English national team will always suffer from the weight of history and be punished for the misdeeds of their ancestors.

Given a choice, an Indian, a West Indian, a Bangladeshi, will support any team (in India’s case other than Pakistan) that plays England.

It’s in the blood, in the mind, in the genes. Three hundred years of exploitation takes more than a couple of generations to forgive and forget. Future generations may well be different, but for now, such is the case.

As for the Aussies, well, it’s easy to be neighbourly when on the other side are the Poms. No drama mate.

Now for the curious case of Novak Djokovic, a man who has been accused by ‘Headless Nick’ (Kyrgios) of having a sick obsession with being liked. A man who had to mentally convince himself through the match that the entire Centre Court crowd was chanting his name, when in reality they were uttering his opponent’s.


A man who won 14 fewer points than Federer, served 15 fewer aces than his opponent, hit 40 fewer winners, and yet won the match.

As Brijnath put it: ‘Almost always the Serb resists the irresistible Swiss.’ Djokovic had 15,000 spectators and a globally adored opponent with 20 Grand Slams against him, and yet he prevailed.

Therein lies the problem, not in that Federer lost, but that Djokovic won.

Perhaps if I hadn’t woken up with that alarm two hours later last Monday morning, in a parallel universe, Kane Williamson and Roger Federer would be in bed halfway across the world and ten miles apart, hugging their trophies like the bolster I had to abandon as I got up to go to work.

Then perhaps four days later, in that parallel universe, there would have been no angst.