Home >mint-lounge >business-of-life >World Cup 2015: A party with no hangover

The most astonishing sight at the cricket World Cup final actually came after the cricket World Cup final. A few hours after it ended last week, I looked up from my computer and saw that the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) pitch was being dug up.

This was the pitch on which the final had been played: where Australia’s Mitchell Starc had hurled his left-arm exocets, New Zealander Grant Elliott had tried to drag his team out of quicksand and Australian Steven Smith hit the winning runs and celebrated like a schoolboy. Less than 3 hours later, the crowd had gone, the stadium had been emptied out, the golden glitter and streamers were being swept up by machines and the pitch was being removed. Being a drop-in pitch, there was a determination to have it stowed and get the ground ready for Australia’s “footy" season. Footy season had already been pushed back to fit the World Cup into the summer’s sporting calendar and no more delays would be tolerated.

To see the pitch being readied to being carted away was a bit disconcerting. After six weeks, the final had arrived with due fanfare, an impressive 93,000 filled the MCG. The match began, the match ended and within a few hours it was being clinically consigned to memory and archival material. Inside 3 hours, the World Cup final had already become so yesterday. Damn, my copy had not finished yet and the World Cup was being taken away. A colleague working out of Auckland had asked me over Internet chatter, whether the MCG had been “flat" after Australia had won their fifth title in seven finals out of 11 cricket World Cups held so far.

At the time, it did not feel flat. The ebullient crowd was merely being decorous and listening to the prize-distribution ceremony speeches. Everyone noted the fact that N. Srinivasan got distinctly audible boos throughout the MCG when introduced as chairman of International Cricket Council (ICC). Always alert to the correct tone, TV presenter Mark Nicholas smoothly moved over to introducing Sachin Tendulkar (who my colleague Jarrod Kimber, sitting in the press box, immediately called, “chairman of the world") and the cheers rang out. Nearly 70,000 remained to celebrate the Australian team as they went through their lap of honour. Once the ceremonies were over, the people left, the noise stilled and another late summer night in Melbourne took over.

Suddenly it struck me as to why everything may have looked “flat" on television. The last image of a World Cup final for Indians belonged to 2011, where the noise only stilled by the time the sun came up. At which point it started again, like it always does when day breaks in South Asia, where cricket is something more than a leisure activity and a regular tick on a calendar. Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai had half the crowd than the MCG a few days ago and the decibel levels cannot be compared. The crowd in Mumbai had produced a tidal wave of sound that grew and grew till it broke all the way down over the stands and soared out to the sea across the road.

The fireworks went on forever, the laps of honour never ended, the spectators had successfully vaulted over barricades and ran on to the field, dodging security. Close to 1am, there were people flinging themselves on the Wankhede grass as if they had landed in heaven. The police just let them be. It was a night of riotous community celebration. The next morning people walked around smiling and shopkeepers would grin when customers finished their purchase and said congratulations. Even the hard-boiled felt the feel-good.

Melbourne’s was a night of celebration too, of a crowd but perhaps not an entire community. The crowd numbers and response was sensational, making the 29 March final the biggest gathering of cricket fans in the world. When it was done, the crowd broke into individual clusters and headed home or to bars as commentator Shane Warne was insisting they do. When England had won the 2003 rugby World Cup and the 2005 Ashes, half a million people had poured on to the streets of central London for the team’s open-top bus parade. When India won the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, the same thing happened, except the open-top bus parade ran from Mumbai airport to the city with the crowd thronging the entire 25km route.

Australian cricket has won so much over the last two decades, one more world championship is never going to send people into paroxysms of delight. You cheer, you holler, you applaud in the stadium and you go home. If you’re at home, you go to sleep. The day after is Monday, mate.

Amid this uber-coolness, a key point. No need for hysterical South Asians to whine about what happened after the final. Compared to 1992, the first time the World Cup came to Australia, the MCG final in 2015 was a heaving headbangers’ concert. Australian writer Gideon Haigh remembers watching the 1992 final, as a freelance correspondent for the fanzine, Johnny Miller 96 Not Out. He described the 1992 atmosphere as “funereal." Eighty-three thousand true-blue 1980s Australians had bought tickets, but the defending champions and hosts never made it that far.

The Great Southern Stand had been inaugurated for the World Cup, with its vertigo-inducing highest row with views over the city. England versus Pakistan to 83,000 became, Haigh said, “like Hamlet without the Prince". The crowd had no idea who to cheer for—there was a roar though, when Wasim Akram removed Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis in an over and Imran Khan was a star in Australia at that time.

I asked Haigh what the spectators had made of the ebullient Pakistani celebrations that followed. They were bemused, he said, mystified.

Much like we were 23 years later as to how quickly the party ended.

What we mystified visitors must remember is that the 2015 World Cup was most certainly a party. It is only the hangovers that differ.

Sharda Ugra is a senior editor at Espncricinfo.

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