Nearly a fortnight into the fourth sequel of the World T20, the aspersions cast, both political and infrastructural, by its severest critics, have fallen hollow. If any, this edition has stoically redeemed both the context and the relevance of this biennial fixture, apart from enhancing its appeal.
The prime concern was the escalating chaos that had gripped the tiny republic following the violence that accompanied the general election, and less than three months ago the International Cricket Council were apprehensive of the country hosting the grandee. It even summoned a meeting with the members to discuss the possibility of shifting the tournament out of Dhaka. But the Bangladesh Cricket Board soothed the fears and guaranteed security. So far, there has hardly been an instance of even a stray protest, as the government installed foolproof security in the stadium and team hotels.
The subsidiary fear was whether the country was equipped to host an event of such magnitude. Infrastructure, after all, isn’t Bangladesh’s blessing. But such apprehensions too were unfounded as the players and officials seem to be more than satisfied with the facilities. No one groused.
The third, and possibly the most significant, misgiving pertained to the game itself, whether it could survive the onslaught of mushrooming franchisee leagues. That IPL and Big Bash have superseded the World Cup in terms of glam quotient and reach sound like a Pythonesque statement of the obvious. And its prequel in Sri Lanka did little to disprove this, marred as it was of frequent rain interruptions, Messrs Duckworth and Lewis proving to be as vital as the players in the middle, cold public response and a long drawn out group stages.
India felt its pangs more than most. “See we just lost one match and we were suddenly out of the tournament. One match was rained off, yes, but it was not very fair on us,” skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni cribbed after their first-round exit.
Much of these are beyond human control, but the mechanics of the league stage definitely was. They promptly revamped the set-up, scrapped the elaborate two-tier pool structure, and made it more lucid – a qualifying group and super 10. The former provided the platform for the associate nations and low-flying Test sides to battle it out among themselves, a meritocratic quarantining.
Whether the latter formula could succeed too was a concern, given the gulf between some of the Test-playing nations. But the truism that the shorter the game the more likely the upset was spectacularly justified. And unlike the previous edition, there was no dearth of close matches. That as many as 10 of the 24 matches were decided in the last over attests the close-foughtedness of the tournament. And despite rain forecasts, only a couple matches were decided by the D/L method.
The quality of cricket, apart from out-field catching, were of the highest order. There was canvas for everyone – the sluggers, the traditionalists, the pacers, the spinners – to purvey their craft. There were fine exhibitions of good-old death bowling, leg-spinners staged revivals, mystery spinners dazzled, swing bowlers flourished with the new ball. Skills of every sort was valued, so much so that the format slayed the lurking demons of one-dimensionality.
Efforts of the ground-staff, too, should he lauded in that they didn’t dish out shirtfronts, as is the wont in the subcontinent. There was something for every hue – pacers swerved the ball around in the initial overs, spinners came on to impact as the match progressed, and the even bounce propitiated stroke-play.
Heartily, the associate nations, perceived to dilute the mega event, verified they could add a strain of romance to the fare. Forsaking them would have taken a substantial sheen off it. Imagine how poorer the World Cup would have been without Netherlands, Ireland, Nepal and Afghanistan. Their level of competence might be inferior, but some of them are snapping at the heels of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
Lastly, the tournament was almost entirely devoid of controversies, a brownie point especially in the backdrop of widespread spot-fixing and betting scandals in IPL. There were minor deficiencies like the malfunctioning of floodlights in Chittagong and the low floodlight towers and white chairs of Mirpur. But teams have moved on with it, joyously and agreeably. So far so good, the essence of T20 wouldn’t have been more convincingly narrated. And ICC and BCB will be breathing a lot easier.
HITS & MISSES
|Leg-spin bowling: Reckoned unsuitable for this format, leggies have proved their value in this edition of the World Cup. India’s Amit Mishra, South Africa’s Pakistan-born Imran Tahir, West Indies’ Samuel Badree, and lately, Australian rookie James Muirhead, all reinforced the worth of having a leggie in the team. They have not only managed to strangle batsmen, but also have taken a heap of wickets||Flags, Only Bangla: A few days before Bangladesh celebrated their 44th National Day, they turned xenophobic, banning the waving of non-Bangladesh flags by non-locals. This was after a few Bangladeshis allegedly waved Pakistan’s flags||Sloppy Fielding, Butter Fingers: Surprisingly, the quality of the fielding, especially catching, was quite ordinary. Rough calculations estimate the dropped catches, so far, to 66. How many more to come?|
|Associate Nations: Whether International Cricket Council’s associate nations needed to be part of global event was subject to much debate. Urged to prove a point, they exceeded expectations and sprung surprises, as Nepal prevailed over Bangladesh and Netherlands managed to snare a spot in the main round||Alex Hales: England, many deemed, were inept to mount a serious title challenge. And they seemed so in the warm-ups and in their first group match against New Zealand. In the second match against Sri Lanka, Hales struck a stunning hundred, 116 off 64 balls, to steer England to a memorable win||Stuart Broad: It might have been a genuine concern for his fellow players, or a case of sour grapes. Whatever, Broad’s outburst on umpires after their delay in calling off the lightning and rain-afflicted match against New Zealand, landed him in trouble. The umpires aborted the match, but only after the Kiwis had just surpassed the D/L par score. He questioned the timing of the umpire’s decision and duly got fined|
|India: Into the back-end of the group stage, only the Indian team has managed to not lose a match. They have won all their three matches comprehensively to be the first team to seal a semifinal berth|
|Dale Steyn: When your opposition has to eke out only seven in the last over and with enough batsmen in the hutch, you’ll be in most cases resigned to the inevitable. But not if you have Dale Steyn. The South African produced an outstanding over of specialised death bowling to fashion a two-run win over the Kiwis|
Blackout in Chittagong:
Bangladesh has a severe power crisis, and so they have gargantuan generators in stadiums. But floodlights failed in the second over of the match between Netherlands and Sri Lanka, before it was resumed after 10 minutes. Earlier, a power-cut at the same ground had led to the shortening of a warm-up match featuring Netherlands and Afghanistan
|Verbal Launch Gone Haywire: A day before their crucial league matches against defending champions the West Indies, Australian all-rounder James Faulkner decided to take them on off the pitch. So he told the Cricket Australia website that “he hates them”. As fate would have it, West Indies secured a delirious win off his last over. Backfired is probably a mild word|