Imagine you work in accounts for a biggish company that leases out some of its office space to other firms. Imagine that one of your company directors inexplicably removes the coffee machine from the shared kitchen and places it in the middle of your firm’s office.
Now imagine that you trip over in the car park one morning and a load of people who work for other companies in your building all point and laugh at you for 16 minutes while you writhe around on the floor with a broken ankle. This is what it’s like to play cricket for India.
Shikhar Dhawan hasn’t snatched away anyone’s coffee. He’s just a guy with a smashing moustache who enjoys batting. R Ashwin isn’t ruling Prosperity House with an iron fist. He’s just an amiable nerd with a deep and genuine love for spin bowling. Even so, when their team lost to New Zealand, people around the world were laughing at them, enjoying their downfall.
Unfortunately for them, India’s players are representatives. Back when they represented the country, this wasn’t so bad, but nowadays they find themselves the public face of their cricket board. They represent a bunch of fat dullards addicted to cronyism and infatuated with Mammon. This is despite the fact that they have pretty much zero influence over what those people do and are in fact being driven into the ground themselves through their poor decisions.
India are top of the schadenfreude hierarchy. They boss England and Australia, who bully the other six major Test teams, who look down on Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, who in turn exploit all the have-nots scrabbling around for international fixtures. The laughter then goes the other way.
England play the West Indies later today. The world can’t wait to see the Windies beat Giles Clarke’s boys and teach him and them a lesson. They then play Afghanistan next Wednesday, which offers the greatest opportunity for schadenfreude in this tournament with India not playing anyone quite so low down in the hierarchy.
Even when you play for one of the least popular nations, there’s always an opportunity to bring joy to the world.