Sunday night’s shock defeat of ‘favourites’ India (in the final match of the Champions Trophy against ‘sworn-enemy’ Pakistan) should be celebrated, rather than mourned. To put things in perspective, a sport is all about heartbreaks, triumphs, and surprises. Some of the best moments occur when absolutely no one expects them.
While it is true that a comprehensive defeat of the Indian side spoiled the mood of the nation, it is good for the game. Upsets are an integral part of sport. If that is missing, the world of sport would be a damn boring place. Who would enjoy predictable results?
When France Was Made to Eat the Humble Pie
Who can forget the stunning upset of the mighty French in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The losing team included 15 veterans of their 1998 victory including Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry, and Marcel Desailly.
Before their match against Senegal, the African side stood about as much chance as a mouse in a cat sanctuary. But it had other ideas. Senegal’s midfielder Papa Bouba Diop scored in the first half to stun a formidable French side that seemed to think they would win simply by turning up. The final whistle sparked off days of dancing on the streets of Dakar.
If you’re an Argentinian fan, you would still remember the 1990 World Cup. They were defending champions having won the 1986 World Cup with Deigo Maradona at the peak of his career and a very star-studded squad. They were up against African side Cameroon who were playing their very first World Cup. But, their party was spoiled by Roger Milla when he scored a winning goal against the far better side.
It was heart-breaking for Argentinian fans. Yet, the world of sports was lucky enough to witness such an upset.
Nadal & Federer’s Surprise Exits
A couple of years ago, tennis players Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer’s fans could not believe that their icons had lost their matches to unknown players in the Wimbledon championship.
Of course, if you know the result of any match before its start, then that match has no meaning. It is not worth watching or even discussing. Therefore, the early exits of Nadal and Federer from Wimbledon should be welcomed. And yes, their shock defeats cast no reflections on their class. They have already booked special places in the annals of tennis history with their phenomenal performances.
It is no secret that as recently as a couple of years ago when the Australia team had thrashed their rivals in all forms of the game, interest among cricket fans was on the wane. The Australians were virtually invincible between 1999 to early 2001 when Steve Waugh was their skipper.
Australia holds the record for the winning the maximum games (16) without losing or drawing. And that winning streak was achieved by the Aussies under the captaincy of Waugh before the Indians beat them at Kolkata in that famous Test. It was considered a real big upset when team India challenged their invincibility. Who can forget the marathon knocks of VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid?
The mother of all upsets was Bangladesh’s thrashing of Australia by 5 wickets in the NatWest Series at Cardiff. It was 18 June 2005. Before the match, Bangladesh had won only nine of their 107 ODIs – including just two against teams outside Zimbabwe and non-Test playing nations.
Thanks mainly to a sensational century from Mohammad Ashraful, they beat the mighty Australia. First they restricted the power-packed Australian line-up to 249 before executing their run-chase to perfection.
Who had imagined that a Kapil Dev-led Indian side could’ve comprehensively defeated West Indies in the 1983 World Cup final. Had anybody expected the Indian side to humble Clive Lloyd's side? Hardly.
The unbelievable upset on 25 June 1983 at Lords' generated tremendous amount of interest for cricket among people across the country.
Biggest Upset in Boxing History
If you're a Muhammad Ali fan, then you would never forgive Leon Spinks for beating the 'greatest of all-time' boxer. Spinks thrashing Ali on 15 February 1978 was considered one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.
Of course, Ali’s fans would have then cursed Spinks for his victory, but he will be continued to be remembered for his most unexpected win. But for his victory over Muhammad Ali, he would have been consigned to the back waters. Who would remember him?
Remember, it is not always talent that wins, that sometimes it’s the size of the fight in the dog that produces the biggest upsets in sports history. Last but not the least, the world of sports will always be indebted to the giant-killers like Leon Spinks, Papa Bouba Diop and Roger Milla. Let their tribe grow manifold.
(The writer is former Editor, Somaiya Publications. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)