When Kapil’s Devils secured the World Cup in 1983, cricket was still in its infancy in India. A champion team at that time depended on an ardent cricket enthusiast like Lata Mangeshkar to orchestrate a concert, ensuring each member could earn ₹1 lakh. By 2011, when Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team claimed victory, the BCCI had transformed into a billion-dollar entity. In the 28 years spanning from 1983 to 2011, cricket had matured into an “industry.”
Fast forward a dozen years, and as Rohit Sharma and his team strive to secure the Cup for the third time on Sunday, cricket has emerged as a significant form of ‘Soft Power’ for the country.
‘Soft Power’ refers to countries utilizing sports and culture to amplify their geo-political influence. Cricket not only enables India to assert its dominance in the sporting arena but also carries socio-political significance in a broader context.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending the final, a breathtaking air-show by the Indian Air Force, former Cup-winning captains Kapil and Dhoni seated alongside notable figures from the realms of entertainment and politics, the grandeur of the event will be unparalleled.
Cultural programs featuring Bollywood music director Pritam, singer Jonita Gandhi, and Coke Studio’s Gujarati singing sensation Aditya Gadhavi of ‘Gotilo’ fame are scheduled. Performances are set before the toss and during the innings break, with 500 dancers from Mumbai gyrating to popular Bollywood numbers.
For the visiting Australian team and the global TV audience, this will be an introduction to India’s soft power, with cricket acting as a potent tool.
The audience, expected to be at least 1.30 lakh strong, will settle for nothing less than a global crown, while an additional 1.39 billion viewers will watch from their homes.
As with every India match in this World Cup, the stands and streets will be awash with an ‘Ocean of Blue.’ The counterfeit industry will flourish, with jerseys bearing the No. 18 and 45, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma’s respective jersey numbers, swiftly disappearing from street corners.
From the youngest to the oldest, everyone, from dads to moms, granddads, and even pesky neighbors, will ‘Bleed Blue’ come Sunday.
This is sure to be an ‘Evening to Remember,’ but only time will reveal whether Rohit and his team can transform it into an ‘Evening to Savor.’