Through his grace, Kane Williamson was so influential that even Ravi Shastri doffed his hat.
In a crazy World Cup final, there was a winner and no loser. England won in Super Over on boundary-count and lifted the trophy. It was very tough on Kane Williamson’s New Zealand. But the manner in which they conducted themselves after the heartbreak struck a chord with everybody who believe cricket is a gentleman’s game and should always remain like that.
Earlier, in case of a tie in 50-over cricket, the team that lost fewer wickets had been declared the winners. The Super Over followed by boundary-count is the IPL’s export to One Day Internationals. While finalising the playing conditions for the World Cup, the International Cricket Council (ICC) was seemingly oblivious to the difference between T20 and 50-over game despite both being limited-overs cricket. The uproar will usher in a change in due course, but that’s hardly any consolation to the Kiwis. A country of five million people winning the World Cup would have been a fairytale story. And they thoroughly deserved to win it, like Eoin Morgan’s England, too, were
The trolling of England beggared belief. They didn’t set the World Cup playing conditions. In fact, they have had been the best ODI team in the world for the past two years now. In fact, under Morgan and coach Trevor Bayliss, they have raised the bar for every other team to follow. They went to the World Cup as the favourites to win it and lived up to the expectations. They showed character to bounce back after losing to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and England. Also England’s maiden World Cup triumph presented a bigger picture. The success might prompt cricket’s return on the streets at the home of cricket, where football is king.
New Zealand, though, won a bigger prize. “You’re a credit to the tournament… a fabulous bloke,” former England captain Nasser Hussain told Williamson at the post-match presentation, after the New Zealand captain won the Player of the Tournament award.
Three days before the final, after India had lost to the Black Caps in the semifinal, ex-New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum had posted this on Twitter: “Respect is hard earned. There has to be a winner and there has to be a loser. It’s how you carry yourself after both and when your emotions are raw that define you as a person and distinguish your character from…”
Williamson was broken but the way he carried himself after the final was statesman-like. His team was at the receiving end of misfortune twice. A Martin Guptill throw had accidentally deflected off Ben Stokes’s bat in the 50th over to the boundary, which brought the equation down to three runs from two balls. Misinterpretation of the Law by on-field umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Marais Erasmus had added an extra run to England’s total. It should have been five runs rather than six and it’s a positive step that the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) has now decided to review the overthrow Law. The MCC is the custodian of the Laws of Cricket.
Coming back to the final, Williamson had enough reason to explode. But he put things in perspective. “The rule (deflection off Stokes’s bat) has been there for a long time. You can’t look at that and think that perhaps decided the match, there were so many other bits and pieces,” he had said. The Kiwi skipper was asked about the boundary count-back rule as well. His response was: “I guess you never thought you’d have to ask about that rule and I never thought I would have to answer it.”
He added: “While the emotions are raw, it is pretty hard to swallow; two teams worked really, really hard and when two attempts to separate them with a winner and loser still didn’t shine with one side coming through; it is what it is. The rules are there at the start and no one really thought I guess that we’d end up having to use it.”
Pure class, and Williamson was given a standing ovation at the post-match press conference. Through his grace and dignity, the Black Caps leader was so influential that even the Indian team head coach Ravi Shastri doffed his hat. “Your composure and dignity viewing the sequence of events was remarkable. Your dignified grace and silence 48 hours since is simply remarkable. We know you have one hand on that WC. You not just Kane. You Kane and Able. God bless,” Shastri tweeted.
Williamson’s New Zealand have shown that cricket can be played without swearing and/or finger-wagging after scoring a hundred or dismissing a batsman. Even some senior Indian cricket board functionaries are impressed with Williamson to the extent that they now privately want the Indian team to behave the Kiwi way on the field. “There’s no need to show off,” said a BCCI functionary.
Hopefully, Williamson has done enough for the broadcasters and TV channels to retrospect. Or maybe, it’s a wishful thinking that come the next ICC event, we won’t see classless, tasteless promos like ‘crown cricket ka madam ji hum le jayenge’… England won the cricket World Cup. To paraphrase Neville Cardus, Williamson’s New Zealand honoured cricket.