Fandom surged across India on Friday following the national side`s triumphant roar to the T20 World Cup 2024 final with a resounding victory over England, placing the nation on the cusp of its first major title in over a decade.

Despite cricket`s widespread popularity in India and its central role in the global T20 landscape through the lucrative IPL, the country has only clinched this prestigious title once, a triumph now 17 years old. India`s most recent major cricketing achievement dates back to the Champions Trophy in 2013, and since then, hopes of further glory have repeatedly been thwarted.

The disappointment of narrowly missing out on the 50-over World Cup on home turf just last year, still weighs heavily, truth be told.

India`s valiant effort was ultimately eclipsed by Australia in a heartbreaking final, a loss that resonated deeply among the nation`s 1.4 billion cricket aficionados. However, on the eve of Saturday`s highly anticipated showdown against South Africa in Barbados, Indian fans dared to dream anew.

“The excitement has reached its pinnacle,” remarked Sabyasachi Roy, an accountant and devoted cricket enthusiast from Kolkata. “It has been far too long since India last seized a world title. If we can triumph on Saturday, it would be a fitting culmination for many in the team,” the 28-year-old told Mid-Day.

“Our unbeaten streak has been remarkable, and I am fervently praying it continues till tomorrow,” he further expressed, having rearranged his weekend plans to ensure he doesn`t miss a moment of the action on television.

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India`s path to the final was highlighted by a commanding victory over defending champions England, whom they dispatched by a formidable 68-run margin in a rain-affected semi-final clash. Captain Rohit Sharma anchored the innings with a crucial 57 runs, marking his third half-century of the tournament and second consecutive standout performance following his blistering 92 against Australia. The left-arm spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel then shared six wickets between them, restricting England to a paltry 103 all out.

Nitin Gadkari, India`s Minister for Road Transport and Highways, lauded the team`s stellar performance in Guyana, extending his best wishes ahead of the final. “Best of luck for the final match — bring home the trophy! Your determination and skill are truly inspiring. Let`s script history,” he conveyed in a heartfelt social media message.

Social media platforms reverberated with messages of support from fans nationwide. “Well played Team India. Let`s savor this victory and look forward to the final,” shared one user on X (formerly Twitter). The sentiment was echoed by IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore, who posted, “The final step is often the most daunting, but we know Team India won`t settle for anything less.”

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As anticipation builds to a crescendo, the Indian cricket fraternity remains acutely aware of the weight of expectations. For a nation deeply passionate about cricket, reclaiming the T20 World Cup would not only cement India`s status as a powerhouse in the sport but also provide a poignant tribute to coach Rahul Dravid, who has steered the team with his trademark diligence and wisdom.

Dravid himself has remained characteristically understated amid the mounting excitement, emphasising the collective effort over individual accolades. “Our focus is solely on playing the best cricket we can,” he affirmed in a recent interview with PTI. “Winning the World Cup would be a testament to the hard work and dedication of every member of our squad.”

In the countdown to the final showdown against South Africa, every detail has been meticulously scrutinized — from team strategy sessions to player fitness updates. The meticulous preparation underscores India`s commitment to excellence, as they aim to seize this rare opportunity to etch their name in cricketing annals once more.

For fans like Roy, as well as millions across the subcontinent and beyond, Saturday`s final represents more than just a cricket match. It embodies a collective aspiration and a shared hope for glory. As the Indian team steps onto the hallowed turf of Kensington Oval, the fervent prayers and unwavering support of a nation will accompany them, fueling their quest to emerge victorious against formidable opposition.

As the final moments tick closer, the stage is set for a spectacle that promises to captivate hearts and minds globally. Whether celebrating amidst jubilant scenes of triumph or grappling with the pangs of defeat, one certainty remains: Indian cricket`s journey, steeped in passion and resilience, continues to inspire and unite a nation like few other pursuits can!