One year later: Are India still the World Champions?

April 2, 2011 – a day of triumph and joy but also one of infinite sadness...

In the streets outside the Wankhede, where India won the World Cup for the second time, people took over Marine Drive, cars slowed down to a crawl, horns blared with wild abandon and Indian flags fluttered from every vehicle and hand.

By the next day, after a night of partying, the Indian players – quite literally -- emerged as changed men. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, to fulfil a pledge to the gods, shaved his hair off his head in the middle of the night. The others including, Sachin Tendulkar, cried like children. The madness lasted a day.

By the next day, the players broke camp and headed for their IPL teams. On that day itself, the World Cup triumph was consigned to history. Even the celebrations for the World T20 win had lasted longer.

The motorcade, the chaos, the millions who turned up to walk with team had showed what the game really meant to a nation that was starting to demand international approval. But of course, that was pre-IPL.

A cricket fan celebrates on top of an auto-rickshaw in New Delhi. Reuters

A cricket fan celebrates on top of an auto-rickshaw in New Delhi. Reuters

When the World Cup win arrived, the priorities had changed. IPL had a schedule to keep and the win was sadly not part of that. A year has gone by now and still a feeling of regret seems to wade into the corridors of our mind.

A few days back, Sachin Tendulkar speaking about his 100th hundred, had spoken about his two dreams: One, to play for India and Two, to win the World Cup. Imagine not being celebrate these moments; imagine having to move on the very next day; imagine… well, you don’t need to imagine because that’s exactly what happened.

No one can take away from the fact that India won the World Cup but does Dhoni’s team, in its current avatar, deserve to be called champions?

Over the past year, the team has had perhaps two moments of true triumph – one was the World Cup win itself and the other was Rahul Dravid’s batting in England. There were two other occasions of personal triumph – one was Dravid’s speech at the Sir Donald Bradman Oration and Tendulkar’s 100th ton was the other.

It could have scarcely been imagined that barely a year after the World Cup win, the cupboard would be so bare. Some of the pillars of the World Cup win have been dropped, a few have been ‘rested’ and others have been struck down by disease and injury.

The forces of change have forced the Indian team to look to the youngsters and with the exception of Virat Kohli, few of them have stood up to the challenge. There is already talk of the next World Cup in 2015 but given how frail the Indian team seemed Down Under, it’s hard to see them repeat the magic of 2011 or 1983.

This is a time not just to celebrate the win and relive the experience but also a time to introspect and see where India as a team finds itself. Have they progressed or regressed?

But alas, the answer to that question will have to wait; wait at least till the end of the fifth season of the IPL. These are the times we live in...