It came and went in what seemed to be the blink of an eye, but the World T20 provided its usual staple of intriguing results and enthralling cricket. It is the cricketing hors d’oeuvre that completely overshadows the main course – next year’s 50 over World Cup will be bloated and boring by comparison, and the ICC should take a leaf out of the T20 tournament book. Less is sometimes more.
I was not initially bothered with the presence of the first group stage, involving six associate nations plus Bangladesh, the hosts, and Zimbabwe, but this round got the tournament off to a stellar start as the big boys played their warm-up fixtures. The Netherlands 13.5 over chase of a 190 total against Ireland to advance to the Supers 10s was the most spectacular assault of the tournament and propelled the Dutch into the hearts of neutrals everywhere.
Rather than being content with just that, they gave South Africa an almighty scare in the next round before comfortably defeating England. Against England they have a 100% record; P2 W2 in T20 internationals. The second and third top run scorers in the entire tournament were Netherland’s Tom Cooper (231 runs) and Stephan Myburgh (224 runs). They also had the joint-leading wicket taker in Ahsan Malik with 12.
The Dutch have recently been deprived of their ODI status, which on this evidence, is a crying shame. How can they now build upon the success of this tournament?
Of the big boys, Australia and England were the biggest disappointments, both amassing a solitary victory, although the Aussies didn’t get humiliated by an associate. Nor did they participate in the most exciting game of the tournament, as England did in defeating Sri Lanka by chasing down 190 thanks to Alex Hales’s 116*, the innings of the tournament. It was to prove a flame that flickered too briefly for England, who have a long road to recovery in all three formats ahead of them.
Their performance opened the door for South Africa, who somehow won three of their four group games, relying on Steyn to defeat New Zealand at the death, Tahir to account for a nervous Dutch batting line-up and England being England. It was no surprise, therefore, that they were accounted for by India in the semis with relative ease.
India serenely progressed to the final by beating all before them. They were rarely troubled and, in the end, things were just too easy for them. Sri Lanka, in winning the final, were the only side to put them under any pressure, where Sri Lanka themselves had been through the mire in qualifying for the semis, most notably with a tight win over South Africa and a surprise defeat to England. They did bowl the Netherlands out for 39, though.
They were not tested in their semi, however, as West Indies were always well below the required rate before rain brought proceedings to an early close. They had had their moment with a dramatic victory over a gobby Australia side. It’s one thing that needs to be looked at seriously by the law makers, the amount of verbal exchanges and ramping up of the tension on field. It has been mightily effective for Australia, not least in Test series victories over England and South Africa recently, but it rapidly becomes tiresome and unpalatable. The further the boundaries are pushed in this regard, the more inevitable on field violence becomes. The ICC should look to nip this in the bud now; be proactive, rather than reactive once they are dealing with a serious incident.
The West Indies win, which delighted everyone (except Australians, even then, not all) sparked the celebrations of the tournament as Chris Gayle led the side with raw emotion that was designed to ram the point home to the Aussies. Captain, Darren Sammy even received a spontaneous standing ovation amongst the press corps after. The Aussies have only recently re-emerged as a power house, but it seems many wish they would slide back into anonymity already.
There were poignant celebrations, too, as Sri Lanka secured the title. This was the end of the T20 road for Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. They lost in the last final to West Indies in their own backyard at the previous tournament and have had an air of ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’ about them since their 1996 World Cup victory. This win exorcised a few demons.
It also means, of course, that we have had five World T20s and five different winners. It was another thrilling tournament where the slightest mishap was costly. Just ask Yuvraj Singh, India’s hero of yesteryear. His 11 runs from 21 balls in the final killed the momentum of India’s innings and all but gifted the contest to Sri Lanka. True, Yuvi has done a lot for Indian cricket and was instrumental in their World T20 and World Cup wins in recent times, but for how long can he dine out on past glories? Unfortunately there is no room for sentiment at the top table and under the T20 microscope, Yuvi fell well short.
Eras have ended and eras have begun. It all leaves us hankering for more. The 2016 edition, to be hosted in India, will complete the 50 over World Cup sandwich and prove, once again, that this bite-size tournament packs a more entertaining punch than its king-size companion.
By Miles Reucroft