By Boria Majumdar
Vignettes of victory
Every tournament that lasts for more than a month, be it the Cricket World Cup or the FIFA World Cup leaves fans and analysts with a withdrawal syndrome. Journalists are no different. For close to two months you tend to get up and think about game to cover, how to get to the stadium on time, what are the practise schedules, what are my deadlines, what is a good story to file and much more. The journalist too, like the players, is on show. He can’t miss a story or a deadline and has more than fifteen or more hour days on a daily basis.
For example, the players are done with, once the match is over. For the journalist, however, his or her match starts thereafter. The post match press conference, the right angle for the story, the elusive exclusive and a lot of other things come into play.
Once the tournament is over and it is time to go back, the withdrawal syndrome is bound to kick in. And that’s when you look back and analyse. How will I remember this World Cup? What are the vignettes that will soon turn into lasting memories? Are there any that I will keep going back to in the days ahead?
As I look back at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, five different things come to mind, which stand out for me as lasting memories.
First, the Indian fan invasion of the Adelaide Oval and the MCG on 15 and 22 February, when India played Pakistan and South Africa respectively. More than the hundreds from Kohli and Dhawan, more than the Indian performance, to see 85,000 Indians at the MCG was a sight that can never be forgotten. Yes, the final on 29 March beat the attendance figure, but the passion among the Indian fans in the aftermath of the South Africa win was just unbelievable. These are the men and women who have made the game what it is and are largely responsible for the success of this World Cup.
The second vignette that I will remember is Trent Boult bowling with five slips in a one day international. You don’t often get to see such a field setting in ODI cricket and the wickets used in the competition made it all the more significant. Most wickets were good batting decks where 300 or more runs were scored. To see a fast bowler swinging the ball a good pace with five slips waiting for the edge was thrilling. And that is a testimony to the way Boult bowled and why he was close to being named Man of the Tournament, an award that very justly went to Mitchell Starc who was unplayable.
Third was the Duminy-Behardien collision, which has now been renamed Edgbaston two by critics. That was when South Africa lost the opportunity of making their first ever World Cup final. And that was the moment that best sums up what pressure can do to the very best players. One of the best teams in the competition, South Africa just could not hold their nerve when it mattered the most, and handed NZ the match in Auckland. AB was not the best captain on the day and Dale Steyn, the very best in the world, had a forgettable outing.
The fourth vignette will have to be the Mitchell Starc over to Brendon McCullum in the final. Ball one – a screamer that missed the bat by a whisker stating to McCullum that it wasn’t going to be easy at the MCG. McCullum, the player that he is, wasn’t bothered. Ball two – yet again it missed the bat to be collected by Haddin diving to his left. A real battle was brewing. Ball three – a terrific delivery that beat the bat by four or five inches to shatter McCullum’s stumps and New Zealand’s chances. The Kiwis never recovered, and Starc made sure he was indeed the player of the tournament.
The final vignette is about the Australian captain Michael Clarke. He has been through a lot in the last few months and to see him hold that trophy and all smiles will be a picture postcard moment for world cricket. A real statesman of the game, who had elevated himself to a different pedestal during the Phil Hughes tragedy, Clarke could not have asked for a better farewell. He played the last time as Australian skipper in a one day game in what was the world cup final. And to top it all, won the game for his team as the top scorer. Who says sport is often cruel? The Michael Clarke story is the perfect romance that makes cricket the most loved of all sports.
What do they know of cricket that only cricket know?