India Wins Cricket World Cup, Stamping Its Domination of the Sport


India won the men’s Cricket World Cup on Saturday, defeating South Africa to end a dry spell in tournament victories that had lasted over a decade, even as the nation was dominating the sport globally in other measures like talent, cash and influence.

The tournament was played across several Caribbean islands, with a few of the matches hosted in the United States, including at a pop-up stadium in New York. When the final, in Barbados, ended with India declared the champion, it was close to midnight back home, where joyful crowds poured into the streets across several cities.

“Maybe in a couple hours it will sink in, but it is a great feeling,” said Rohit Sharma, India’s captain, who took a tour of the stadium with his daughter propped on his shoulders to thank the crowd. “To cross the line — it feels great for everyone.”

It was a closely fought match, and a deeply emotional one for India, in part because many of its senior players, including Sharma, 37, were near the end of their careers. India last won the World Cup in T20, the shortest format of cricket, in 2007, when Sharma was just getting started. The top prize had also evaded Virat Kohli, 35, one of cricket’s most recognized icons. Rahul Dravid, India’s coach, had never won a World Cup during his long and illustrious career as a player.

All three men ended the night on a happy note, with Sharma and Kohli announcing their retirement from the fast-paced short form of the game. Dravid, who finished his stint as India’s coach, is normally a quiet, stoic presence. But after the win, he was screaming and celebrating.

India’s president, Droupadi Murmu, and prime minister, Narendra Modi, both congratulated the team. “In the field, you won the World Cup. But in India’s villages, streets, and communities, you won the hearts of our compatriots,” Mr. Modi said in a video message.

Cricket, followed by hundreds of millions of people, is a crucial part of India’s global brand — perhaps even more important than the country’s film industry. The governing body of cricket in India has at times been accused of using its outsize economic heft to dictate terms around global cricket events, reflecting its status as the richest contributor and a destination for the world’s best players.

The start of the Indian Premier League in 2007 transformed a sport that was once seen as slow and short of cash. In just 17 years, the league’s brand value has surpassed $10 billion, making it among the richest sports leagues in the world. Players routinely earn contracts worth over $1 million for a season that lasts about eight weeks, with some of the highest-paid bagging close to $3 million.

Last year, India launched the I.P.L.’s sister league, the Women’s Premier League, with $500 million — an investment similar to the one that started the men’s league — and is already expanding opportunity for women in India and for talent from around the world. The league’s wealth has meant more investment at the grass roots to develop more players. Female players long in the shadow of the men’s game are now finding brand endorsements, more TV viewers and thousands showing up for their matches at stadiums.

And the foreign players in both the leagues — all with large followings at home — are a public relations boost for India as they travel around to play, using social media to post admiration for the culture of a vastly diverse country.

In India, a cricket-crazy nation that closely follows the players’ every move on and off the field, many of this generation of stars have been role models that could help the country move the needle on social issues, particularly about a public life that remains male-dominated.

Sharma, the captain, who is married to a sports management professional, and Kohli, who is married to an actor, often speak of the role of their partners in their careers. Sharma’s wife, Ritika Sajdeh, and their daughter are often at his side during tours, while Kohli is frequently seen video-calling his family from the stadium after matches.

“Our daughter’s biggest concern was if all the players had someone to hug them after she saw them crying on TV,” Anushka Sharma, Kohli’s wife, posted on social media after the win.

Jasprit Bumrah, who was named the World Cup’s most valuable player, found himself doing his post-award interview with his wife, the broadcaster Sanjana Ganesan. This was a working couple on tour. Behind them amid the celebrations was their 10-month-old baby being looked after in a stroller.

“Thank you so much for talking to us, Jasprit, and all the best for—” Ms. Ganesan began as she wrapped up the interview. But her husband went in for a hug before she finished speaking and then ran back to join his teammates in celebrating.





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