The Indian U-19 cricket team had a tremendous run at the recently concluded World Cup in South Africa, except for a small but an extremely important glitch: they lost the final.
Yes, the devil that has been haunting Indian cricket fans for over a decade now with respect to the senior team's fallacies at the global ICC tournaments has caught up with the colts as well.
Over a Decade of Silverware Drought
With over a decade of a barren run and without a silverware, it's the final where Indian teams have been losing the plot.
After Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team clinched the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013, India have failed at two ICC ODI World Cup semifinals in 2015 and 2019 to Australia and New Zealand, respectively.
No Major Silverware Since 2013
The World Test Championship final losses to New Zealand in 2021 and Australia in 2023 added further agony to the misery of the ever-expectant Indian cricket supporter.
And after the 2023 ODI World Cup final loss to Australia less than three months ago which has been followed by the Indian colts defeat to the same opponent at the U-19 World Cup final, cracking the 'final' code has become somewhat of a mystery.
Probing the Psyche of Indian Teams
One wonders if there is a mental block or acute psychological pressure that has contributed to the continued failures of the Indian teams at this stage of elite tournaments.
Is it the weight of expectation of over a billion people coupled with the relentless hype generated by broadcasters?
Or is it just players struggling to bring their 'A' game on the D-Day when they try too hard to perform on the biggest and grandest of stages?
No easy answers there given the grind the Indian players are used to, and moreover pressure and expectation is something that our players are very familiar with, given the fact that we are the most cricket-obsessed nation on the planet.
Expectations of more than a billion Indians
Playing in front of crowds of over 65,000 to more than a 100,000 is an experience that Indian players are used to given the seating capacity of this country's most iconic cricketing venues and it's a regular feature at IPL matches and not just international games.
There could be a gap between planning and preparation and execution on the ground and the most rational explanation one could think of is the mind getting overwhelmed by the enormity of the occasion like a 'final'.
Impact of Negative Memories and Media Influence
Perhaps, the demon is in the mind and only a professional sports psychologist would be able to go deeper into it.
"What happens is when there is a certain pattern which keeps happening and the negative memories of that can have an impact on the performance. It's more like we have been losing so many times in the past, we may lose again. That sort of thinking can creep in," Dr Neeta Tatke, sports psychologist, explained.
"The media talking about these defeats from the past adds to the pressure and playing the same team to who they lost before are all contributing factors in inducing stress in a final and that is what we have been noticing," she added.