IN SEPTEMBER 2007, the International Cricket Council hosted the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa. The best Indian players, including Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly, declined to play, thinking it an inconsequential sideshow. An inexperienced team was sent, captained by the then relatively unhonoured wicket-keeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Six months earlier, India had been knocked out in the preliminary rounds of the main, or fifty-overs-a-side, World Cup. The early exit prompted protests by fans across the country. Effigies of players were burnt, mock funeral processions held. Police pickets were posted outside the homes of the (temporarily) disgraced cricketers.
Ramachandra Guha is a historian and writer whose books include India After Gandhi and How Much Should a Person Consume? For the 2011-12 academic year he held the Phillipe Roman Chair in History and International Affairs at the London School of Economics. He lives in Bangalore.