Big Ben strikes victory bells for England and Ben ‘stokes’ controversy
For Ben Stokes, his brilliant knock of 84 not out in the final and winning World Cup would remain as a moment of redemption. But his name would also be associated with controversies
The iconic British ‘Big Ben’ struck the golden moment for that would be etched till eternity; heralding England’s first World Cup victory in 39 years’ history.
First, the memorable metaphors: Big Ben (ubiquitous English symbol) would surely remember the timeless moment when England won its Cricket World Cup 2019; other big-fella in English team, the big-hitting Ben Stokes, inadvertently ended up stoking endless controversy when his bat unintentionally struck a free four in final over, not from a ball bowled by bowler but from a ball thrown at the wicket by a fielder for effecting a run out. New Zealand ran out of luck in running out Ben Stokes when a ball deflected from his bat ran to the boundary.
That ball became a golden ball for England, whereas it doomed the golden chance for New Zealand, bringing a pall of gloom to all countrymen. Audiences worldwide were tongue tied in shock; British bashful initially but prepared for bow tied celebratory dinner.
Though not called as Prudential Cup any more, this year’s World Cup surely should aptly be called as the Providential Cup because only providence alone can explain as to how New Zealand ended up on the losing side, despite standing even all through the match that ended up as tied, not once but two times over.
England’s victory in cricket World Cup 2019 continues to be vilified worldwide without world remembering the essential nature of sports, wherein only an individual or a team ends up as a winner. And when defeat is accepted with grace, the sport becomes that much richer.
This is best exemplified in Federer Nadal rivalry in tennis. And just as concomitant reminder about heartbreak being an essential ingredient, great Roger Federer ended up as a loser, after having two championship points, after nearly five hours of record tennis duel with Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon final. Ideally, both should have been declared joint winners as the match was similarly decided in an end of the road tie break. Similar voices arose arguing that both England and New Zealand should have been declared joint title holders.
Be it individual or team sports, most memorable victories or heartbreaking losses, have displayed involvement of an element of lady luck. New Zealand conceding a free four can only be called as an Act of God (now infamously called as Bat of God) that handed England the Cup.
Many great individuals and teams have faltered and failed at the final hurdle to win at major championships. Who can forget New Zealand failure to lift World Cup in 1992 under Martin Crowe when team lost semi-final match unexpectedly to Pakistan. In 2015 too, New Zealand failed to win the World Cup despite strong performances prior to final where they lost miserably to Australia.
New Zealand should take consolation from South Africa’s tied semi-final match against Australia in 1999 when Hansie Cronje’s team was considered invincible and a favourite team to lift the Cup. After that, Cronje’s cricket and life nose-dived till he lost his life in air crash. Ever since, despite South Africa team being a top team has lived with the tag of chokers and this reputation further got further strengthened during this World Cup. New Zealand has lost two out of eight semi-finals in World Cup. May be after this year, New Zealand would have to live with the label of being luckless or a jinxed team till it wins. But remember that even Lionel Messi, despite breaking all the records with Barcelona Club, has failed to win the World Cup or Copa America for Argentina.
Even this World Cup amply demonstrates essential unpredictability of sports: top two performing teams (India and Australia) at round robin stage lost, rather ignominiously at semi- final stage, without giving any pretension of a fight to teams that were struggling to sneak into the semi-finals. But once into the final, both England and New Zealand played like champion teams unlike past champions India (twice) Australia (five) playing in the semifinals.
Respected international umpire Simon Taufel’s ruling that umpire Dharamasena wrongfully awarded six runs, instead of due five, to England, has opened the Pandora’s box. New Zealand didn’t appeal and lost. Kane Williamson and Macmillan admitted that they didn’t know of the crossing over rule.
But one mustn’t overlook the pressure cooker situation of the final over with over thirty thousand spectators in stadium and over two billion people watching the match live across screens. Error from umpire wasn’t the first and surely won’t be last. If one has forgotten, recall how in 2017 Oscar Awards’ history, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway wrongfully declared La La Land as winner of Best Picture instead of Moonlight. And how in 2015 famous presenter Steve Harvey wrongfully crowned the Miss Universe crown to the runner up but corrected that faux pas immediately. Agreed in both these cases, immediate correction was possible.
The problem with this incident was that neither New Zealand appealed for review nor umpire Dharamsena referred the matter to third umpire and nor latter intervened suo moto though rules were rather clear. Cricket has also increasingly adopted technology to avoid umpiring howlers as evident in now all-round acceptance of DRS.Last year World Cup football also saw similar adoption of VAR that allowed nudging in umpire’s ear piece to review incident on TV near the lines; it helped France’s Griezmann to earn penalty against Australia in 2018 but controversies haven’t gone away about its uses. Undoubtedly, resorting to review by Dharamsena would have avoided current controversy but then who knew that match would end up tied, not once but two times over. Like in all events, most critics and commentators are wiser with 6/6 vision of hindsight.
Kane Williamson’s visage with uncanny resemblance to Jesus Christ- only overflowing locks missing -stoically stated that no one lost the final and accepted the outcome with equanimity in keeping with the rules and spirit of the game. But Jimmy Neesham went overboard by tweeting advice to children to shun sports and take up baking and die obese and happy at sixty. One can say that like winning teams display a balanced attitude and balanced composition, one needs to have a balanced perspective to fully enjoy the joys and thrills of sports.
Sports like life can be unfair at times but such is their intrinsic nature. New Zealand can draw some consolation from a fact that they played top cricket but luck did them in and can pray that lady luck smiles next time and ball rolls their way much like it does in golf and football for winning teams. New Zealand have come near to winning three times now and yet cup has remained far from their grasp.
Sports can be heartless causing heartbreaks. It is indeed ironical that New Zealand, adjudged as the best fielding side in the tournament, actually lost the match by boundary byes caused not by a fielding error but by the bat scoring, though not by a batting stroke. And if that wasn’t enough, New Zealand lost by rather strange rule of conceding more boundaries in the match.
Remember that timeless photo of Andrew Flintoff consoling distraught Brett Lee after Australia lost the Edgbaston Test by two runs in 2005. That photograph of Flintoff consoling Lee amongst all the din and raucous celebration by rest of the team mates has become a classic image of showing sportsmanship and grace.
Nothing illustrates the twin side of sports more than the two contrasting images of Guptill’s visage, one sorrowful and the other exhilarating: he was overjoyed in running out Dhoni and India out of the contention in the World Cup; but was shattered when his attempt to run out Stokes led to that famous (now infamous) deflection ending in six runs bounty for England.
There are no iffy situations in competitive sports at the highest level. This was best replied by Rafael Nadal during this year Wimbledon, when he said there is no IF IF in sports achievement, on journalist asking if Nick Kyrgios would be a better player if he concentrated on tennis more than his tantrums.
There was a slight error in Boult miscalculating the back step after catching Ben Stokes cleanly on boundary line. He could have easily thrown the ball to Guptill to complete the catch. Maybe he was too thrilled to catch and lost the back-line in jubilation of having caught Stokes.
For Ben Stokes, his brilliant knock of 84 not out in the final and winning World Cup would remain as a moment of redemption. But his name would also be associated with controversies: his bar side brawl is infamous as he did knock out two men though he was let off in the affray charge by Bristol court; this victory has aroused raging controversy and one wonders when New Zealand rage would die down (Stokes said that he would apologise to Kane Williamson throughout life whenever they see each other). It will, like all controversies do. But Stokes surely going to be the knight in the shining armour and would be soon knighted.