A World Cup in which 10 nations took part and four-and-a-half competed (in the actual sense of contests) for more than a month, came to an end last night in the most bizarre circumstances sport has perhaps ever seen.
England beat New Zealand in the Super Over to win the ICC World Cup 2019 at the home of cricket, the Lord’s, in London. There is no doubt that the match, which saw the teams tied at 241 after 100 overs of play, and 15 runs apiece after the Super Over, kept everyone on the edge of their seats. However, England’s first World Cup victory came about at the prize of a loss, and we are talking not just about New Zealand’s, but for the game itself.
Cricket, no matter how much the governing bodies, players, and the hardcore fans in the Indian subcontinent would like to believe, is a very exclusive sport. The structure of the global game, with its two tier memberships and segregation, reeks of a classist order. During the height of English colonial hegemony, the Imperial Cricket Conference had England and Australia dictating terms, keeping the opportunities for the rest of the world to play quality cricket and teams under their firm control. The Imperial Cricket Council has got a more politically correct name these days, the International Cricket Council (ICC). But the elitism remains.
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The economic might of India, alongside England and Australia, make them automatic masters of the game, and the rest of the world (cricket playing world that is) become unavoidable sideshows. After all, one can’t have a World Cup with just three teams.
The political wranglings, financial powerplay and hedging of competitions, are all par for the pitch in cricket. Now comes the best part. The game and its establishment is consistent across everything when it comes to being unfair, archaic and myopic. Let us take power plays to start with. One has decided not to try and understand the field restrictions in power plays any more as the idea of those limitations, invariably, is to favour the batting side. So is the use of two new balls, and many other “innovations” that has been made to make the game interesting.
In cricketing biosphere, there is only one way to make the game interesting, by shifting the goalposts for the bowlers. It is a given that in the contest between the bat and the ball, cricket and its rules side with the willow.
That takes us back to the final of the World Cup. Specifically towards the end of the contest when things started getting tight. England started off needing 16 from the last over for victory. After three balls from Trent Boult, the equation was nine off three delivers. Ben Stokes hauled one to the outfield and ran two. The inbound throw hit his bat and raced down to the boundary. Stokes got a six against his name, inadvertently though.
The rule of the game had no provisions to ensure a sporting notion prevailed during this rare circumstance. Even in Gully Cricket that would not have been a six, commented a friend.
To get things straight, the attempt here is neither to take anything from the English victory, nor belittle Stokes’ display of athleticism, intent, and his effort with the bat.
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Cricket, of late, has evolved into a much quicker and cheekier version, with lot of edgy moments occurring on the field which never used to, say, even five years back. Ideally, the rules of the game should evolve to match that pace, to ensure no one gets away with any undue advantage, purposefully or inadvertently.
Then again, cricket is not about keeping things fair, isn’t it? If that was the case, then, after the Super Over tie, the rule to decide the victors would have been different. As things go, the rule prescribes that the side which scored the most boundaries through the match wins it.
One can’t help but wonder that instead of making it all about just one aspect of the game, the bat, shouldn’t the rule be about the total picture. New Zealand lost eight wickets while scoring 241 in 50 overs. England were all out for 241. In my book, the side which reached the score in lesser number of wickets in regulation play won the day. That would be the Kiwis.
But, that would be going against the spirit of cricket establishment, right? How can the game be fair to anyone.
Congratulations New Zealand. Well played, England. No cheers for Cricket!
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