Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?
I’m not saying this just because England won. England won in the Caribbean in 2010 and I barely noticed, to be honest. It was somehow different this time. For reasons explained below I was just more interested. It is also worth mentioning that England’s men’s teams now hold both the 50-over and the 20-over World Cup trophies. No wonder former captain Sir Andrew Strauss was called upon by the England and Wales Cricket Board (“ECB”) to conduct a high performance review into what is wrong with English cricket.
First things first, it cannot be doubted that England were thoroughly worthy winners. Their clinical demolition of India in the semi-final at the Adelaide Oval was breathtaking India are not a bad T20 side but they were made to look second rate. The final, against Pakistan at the MCG – thirty years after the countries last met in a men’s World Cup final – was more challenging, and Pakistan suffered a cruel blow in the loss of the talismanic Shaheen Shah Afridi in taking a brilliant catch to dismiss Harry Brook. But England never put their first choice side on the field. That side would surely have included Jofra Archer, Johnny Bairstow and Reece Topley. By the time they got to the semi-final, Dawid Malan and Mark Wood had also been excluded. The strength in depth is amazing. My players of the tournament were Sam Curran and Adil Rashid.
This tournament has a lot in its favour, most obviously it’s comparative brevity. One can’t help feeling that a tipping point might have been reached in the scheduling nightmare. The next 50-over World Cup will be staged in India in 2023, and without having sighted a schedule it is not unreasonable to assume that the competition will seem to be going on for ever and that a fair proportion of the games will be rather dull. The T20 World Cup moves along swiftly, and even though a lot of the games are not that close it doesn’t really matter (few short-format games are memorable in any meaningful sense). It is pretty obvious which of the short formats the players prefer. One of England’s heroes, Alex Hales, was interviewed after his and his team’s triumph over India in the semi-final. Hales was asked if he wanted to play in the 50-over World Cup, and he said, well, yes, but he hadn’t actually played a 50-overs match for three years.
Of course from that point of view Hales suffers the singular disadvantage of being based in England during the English summer. The ECB, despite the fact that their men’s side is the holder of the 50-over World Cup, has effectively turned the domestic 50-over tournament into a county second eleven competition, so as to be able to prioritise its own nonsensical brainchild, The Hundred. Nobody else plays The Hundred or is ever going to play it. I suppose we should be grateful that the ECB, with its penchant for expensive self-aggrandisement, didn’t pay one of its consultants millions to recommend calling the thing The World Series. Anyway maybe the ECB itself, with new personal at the top, is turning a corner. They should be focussing their considerable marketing resources on the domestic game’s strengths, particularly the County Championship and The Blast.
At the start of the competition quite a lot of friends told me that they would not be following it because it was not a format they cared about. A while ago I might have taken a similar view myself. But it is a misguided view. The old cliché, that Test cricket is haute cuisine while T20 is fast food, is just nonsense. Test cricket is perhaps the eight course degustation offering; T20 is a two or three course set meal but from the same restaurant. All the skills are there.
I have to confess I have never seen a T20 match live. I have long intended to watch an Indian Premier League match. Well, they are the best, aren’t they, and it’s not far from Singapore. But is it the best? There are lots of franchises now; people speak highly of the Pakistan Super League. The fact is that T20 cricket is like everything else; the more you play it the better you get. So this tournament offers an intriguing mix of the best of both worlds: T20 specialists who have honed their skills in the franchises, players like Alex Hales, Rashid Khan and Glenn Maxwell; and players who are simply the best natural cricketers in the world, such as Ben Stokes and Virat Kohli. The feast of talent on offer for us to watch in such a short time is wonderful. It is not just a slog fest. There is wonderful batting to watch – Jos Buttler’s scoop for six in the final was amazing. Some of the bowling has been tremendous too. I singled out Curran and Rashid earlier, a medium fast swing bowler and a leg spinner. There is brilliant fielding, but – and this is why we love cricket in all its formats – human frailty is never far away. Panic is a not uncommon phenomenon in T20 cricket, especially when it comes to running between the wickets. Of course the analysts go for it with a vengeance, what with every ball being an event and all the rest of it. I was amused to hear Shaun Pollock say, when asked about the value of captaincy in T20 cricket, that, basically, everybody does exactly the same things. Let’s just accept that it’s enormous fun.
Test cricket of course has its unique appeal because of the time it takes for everything to happen. But it is quite wrong to say that there is a lack of ebb and flow in T20 cricket. As these things go, England may appear to have won the final quite easily, with an over to spare (that’s a lot). But that wasn’t how it seemed. Although Pakistan’s total seemed below par, the batting conditions were not easy. The game was riveting from start to finish, and, who knows, if Afridi hadn’t had to withdraw…
My favourite film of the year has been Top Gun Maverick. All right, it’s not Citizen Kane or Parasite, but have you actually met anyone who didn’t enjoy it? I think the men’s T20 World Cup is a bit like that.
The next one takes place in 2024. Do you know where? It’s in the West Indies and the United States. Maybe cricket really is going global.
Share this Post