Express News Service
CHENNAI: CARLOS BRATHWAITE - REMEMBER THE NAME
West Indies great Ian Bishop had spoken about Carlos Brathwaite after his last-over heroics that helped West Indies lift the 2016 T20 World Cup. The bowler then was Ben Stokes.
BENJAMIN ANDREW STOKES - REMEMBER THE NAME
Although Bishop wasn't there to say it, the same words reverberated through the world six years down the line but with a different name. The hunted became the hunter this time, the vanquished turned into a match-winner now albeit against a different opponent.
On an overcast evening, when England all-rounder Stokes mauled Pakistan’s Mohammad Wasim through midwicket to take England to glory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, he had scripted one of the greatest redemption stories in the sport. At Eden Gardens six years ago after the defeat he was down on his knees on the pitch, almost in tears. On Sunday, there were those clenched fists and jumps of jubilation.
Since that fateful night in 2016, Stokes has been their talisman. Whenever England needed him, he was there; ODI World Cup final in 2019, check. Test captaincy in 2022, check. T20 World Cup final 2022, check. His maiden T20I fifty was at the centre of the five-wicket victory on Sunday as England reinstated their white-ball supremacy with the Jos Buttler-led side becoming the first men’s team to hold both the 50-over and T20 World Cups.
That said, Stokes wasn’t the only hero England had.
There was Sam Curran, who had reinvented his bowling and benefited from the pace attack that had a certain variety, allowing himself to stick to his role. He tested every team that came England’s way, taking 3/12 in the final. Giving him company was ever-dependable Adil Rashid. He might have only four wickets to show, but if one had told him that he would dismiss Pathum Nissanka, Suryakumar Yadav, Babar Azam and Mohammad Haris across three must-win games of the World Cup, he would have taken it with both hands.
Then there was Moeen Ali, who did not feature in the 2019 World Cup final. In this year alone, he captained England in Pakistan, the country of his descent, came to Australia where grandfather Shafayat Ali worked as a merchant seaman before moving to England, and smashed a 12-ball 19 in the summit clash to break the shackles for Stokes at the other end.
Perhaps, the biggest and the unlikeliest of heroes is Alex Hales. If not for Jonny Bairstow’s freakish golf injury, Hales would not even have made the squad. But when the second coming came, Hales did everything in his power to redeem his name from all the off-field issues of the past. He might have faltered in the final, but that he scored 212 runs in 6 innings faster than anyone else (147.22) in this England line-up (Buttler’s SR 144.23) sums it up.
Behind every player, there is a story and a redemption arc. But the story behind England’s success is not just of individual revival, but of a collective adaptation of data science and a modern approach. The way they turned it around since the defeat against Bangladesh in 2015 is a well-known story. But their T20 revolution did not start in 2015.
It began on 17th February 2010. Two months before the 2010 T20 WC, England, with Jonathan Trott and Joe Denly as T20 openers, were thrashed by Michael Lumb (35-ball 58 n.o) and Craig Kieswetter (66-ball 81) of England Lions at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi. The hammering had such an impact that the then head coach Andy Flower dropped their regular openers and drafted the young duo.
They would go on and have an impactful tournament, helping England win their maiden ICC title. "It should have been the start of our white-ball revolution, but it wasn't. That wasn't until Eoin Morgan ripped up the scrapbook in the 50-over game nearly five or six years later," former England spinner Graeme Swann said in a video on the ICC T20 World Cup site.
However, since they did that in 2015, they have been the best white-ball side in the world. They have brought in individuals with flair and character. Buttler might come across as this tucked-in-all-the-time good guy with a boyish voice, but given a bat in hand, he would make you go crazy. Then there are the mavericks like Hales, Stokes. But what makes it all stand out, is that they ensured that these individuals embraced their brand of cricket.
They have the most advanced data-based approach for their bowling with match-ups and cue cards. They have specialist floaters, who might not bat or bowl through a tournament but will come and smash like Moeen did on Sunday. They changed the captain — once Eoin Morgan stepped down and retired — and the coach less than six months before the marquee event. Brought in people who know how to taste success in Australia — Matthew Mott (white-ball coach), Michael Hussey and David Saker (coaching consultants) — and the result is there to see.
They have taken the batting-heavy approach in limited-overs and have dominated like world-beaters. It says much about the evolution of the sport as much as how fast they have moved ahead of other teams in the last seven years.
Buttler’s comment on Stokes’ unbeaten 49-ball 52 after the match summed up the mentality within the group. “I was comfortable after 10 overs, but said to someone ‘If he played like this in a Test match, he would have dropped himself,” Buttler said on Sky Sports about the Test captain’s slow start in the final.
Sport is filled with the romance of redemption. Had Pakistan won, it would have been one as well with the comparisons of 1992. But England’s story is special. For theirs is an amalgamation of personal revival and modern age approach.
It is not often the best team in the world wins the World Cup. Sport doesn’t work that way. On Sunday, it did as England stuck to their method, persisted through the challenges from the best pace attack of the tournament and prevailed in the end to script history — a story teams would want to buy into and replicate in the coming years.