The memory of former India captain Sourav Ganguly celebrating on the Lord’s Cricket Stadium’s balcony, swinging his jersey in jubilation, is deeply ingrained in the minds of every Indian cricket fan. This moment occurred on July 13, 2002, when India defeated England by two wickets in the final over of the tightly-contested NatWest series. The match, considered one of the greatest in one-day cricket, showcased the golden age of Indian cricket featuring Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, and Anil Kumble, against an England team boasting top players such as Nasser Hussain, Marcus Trescothick, and Andrew Flintoff.
For India, this victory was sweet revenge after England had held them to a 3-3 ODI series draw at home earlier that year. Ganguly’s jersey-swinging celebration, with his bare torso and invective directed at England’s Flintoff, was a tit-for-tat response to Flintoff’s topless celebration at Wankhede Stadium during England’s tour of India.
Throughout the years, India and England have played over 100 international ODI matches, with moments of aggression, good banter, and a strong competitive spirit between the players. However, Indian fans believe that this rivalry has toned down in recent years due to players from both countries competing together in franchise leagues like the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Since its inception in 2008, English players have participated in the IPL and have gained a solid fan base in India. Players like Ben Stokes, who has played for IPL teams Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings, have become fan favorites among Indian cricket enthusiasts. The IPL has allowed fans to be exposed to players from different countries, and once they witness a player perform well, they support them regardless of their nationality.
The IPL has also played a significant role in bridging the gap between Indian fans and overseas players. Casual fans who are less concerned with rivalries have been able to enjoy the game and support players simply based on their performance. England players have been a part of the IPL for many years, making them familiar figures to Indian fans, and they have made an effort to assimilate into the league and the cricketing culture of India.
Support for overseas players extends beyond the IPL. Many Indian fans have developed emotional connections with players like Sam Curran, who played for the Chennai Super Kings. These emotional investments in players lead fans to support them even when they play for different teams or countries. Fantasy gaming also contributes to this support, as fans align themselves with certain players and cheer for them in all formats of the game.
While India and England share a cricketing rivalry, they also have a shared history due to British colonial rule over the Indian subcontinent from 1858 to 1947. Cricket, introduced to India by the British, became highly popular, and India’s victory over England on English soil in 1971 solidified the sport’s significance. Despite the colonial history, Indian fans do not let it affect their enjoyment of an India vs England cricket match. They focus on the game itself and see it as a competition between two teams from different countries.
In terms of the upcoming match, England’s poor form, with four defeats in five matches, puts their semifinal hopes at risk. However, Indian fans still expect an entertaining and competitive game. The venue in Lucknow, with its changed pitch, could provide a neutral ground for both teams. While India is the favorite, England’s aggressive approach may make it a challenging match for the Indian team.