Saturday, 30 April 2016

World T20 2016: Five things we learnt

England overcame their poor showing in the 50-over World Cup in 2015 to reach World T20 2016 final © Getty   
"New England" is not a hoax
Unlike BBC's Spaghetti Tree report. Unlike an outrageous election manifesto. Unlike a UFO spotting, perhaps. World T20's 2016 edition made it amply clear that this "New England" is not a Strauss-coined Morgan-perfected media sham.
It wasn't a build up to some April Fool's prank. All that hype was for real. Like real, real. After an embarrassing World Cup exit Down Under, England hired a coach who wasn't English - in methods or accent, unloaded the team of jaded veterans, invested in fresh blood and fresher legs, a sequence of events that paid almost immediate dividends.
Within a year, England were defying odds. Their players now loved coloured clothing as much, and beat Brendon McCullum's eccentricity and Pakistan's spin to break shackles and embarrass geographies. Declared raw by the pundits coming into this World T20, and not harshly, given their track record, this England team didn't rue their IPL crutches. They embraced it, banked on skill to churn out new heroes, and stormed to a final where they fell short. Just short.

South Africa's bridesmaid duties rally on
De Villiers. du Plessis. de Kock. Miller. Tahir. These are hot shots of international cricket. They are the reason IPL needs strategic time-outs. Imagine all of that brilliance crammed into one team but still falling short. Not once. Not twice. But for the nth time. Imagine de Villiers walk away without a medallion. That's the pain. That's the mystery. What's an ICC event without a semi-finalist in South Africa? But this time, South Africa couldn't even make it to that. And that despite the ammunition. Despite the support. Despite the IPL. They looked to have hit their pink just before the World T20 but come the grand Mumbai stage, come the stakes associated with a win, South Africa fell short once again. Against the same team they had thrashed at home to hit their straps. A venue switch from Mumbai to Nagpur saw the spin demons return, and a distance of only 850 kilometres proved too dissimilar, like it was in a different continent, as du Plessis had feared. A big win over a Sri Lankan happened but that ironically rendered all excuses null and void. 

Song, dance and swagger cap off West Indies' exceptional World T20 campaign where they claimed their second title © Getty 

Adversities don't maroon Champions
Don't irk the Calypso Kings or they can be an unstoppable army of destroyers. Of Champion jig seekers and sword-wielders. Cricket's past testifies it, cricket's present nods in agreement and there's no reason why cricket's future will rebel against the fact. Tagged as "short of brains" by Mark Nicholas in the build-up to this tourney, West Indies brushed aside lack of practice, hurtled past the indifference of their own board, made do with a novice manager with no experience, apparently printed their own uniforms in Kolkata, tamed India in its own den and Champion'ed their way to the Cup. And they did all of that while swaying hips and sporting a wide grin. They did that with sweetest of swaggers. West Indies are driven by redemption but their campaigns don't smell of malice. They fashion history even in a losing cause and then join Afghanistan to celebrate their own humbling. That's why they are special. That's why they are rebels who have earned a warmer embrace.

A Dicaprio can deliver flops, a World T20 cannot

This edition was another hit. Agreeably not a marvel given the lacklustre beginning, ticketing shambles that saw empty stands, pitches that aged backwards and tough itineraries. Just one word to trump it all: Indian crowd. They just don't go to watch cricket in India; they go to build biceps from all the flag-waving, they go to earn sore throats from all the "AB, AB" chants, they go to cover up for all that's not good. India, an imperfect India, had surrendered to World T20's home hoodoo. They couldn't win the Cup, couldn't even make the final. Kolkata had not yet recovered from the flyover collapse but it turned up - at the Eden Gardens. And in the living rooms, in sports bars. A better ticketing facility would have seen more numbers for the Associate games but after this edition, do you think an Afghanistan will play in front of just concrete stands?

A maiden dis-Association of perceptions
Zeeshan Maqsood. Peter Seelar. Sikandar Raza. They dived, they caught, they stunned. They did a Jonty Rhodes and celebrated like Bermuda's Dwayne Leverock. So did Oman. It's all changing. It's all evolving. The supporting cast, the perennial supporting cast, now want lead roles. They have earned lead roles. Afghanistan were the only team to beat West Indies. Mohammad Shahzad invited cheers. There are demands of an all-women IPL. Meg Lanning conceded that there are no easy games in the ladies circuit now. India-Pakistan women's game at Kotla had an overwhelming attendance. India-England women's game at Dharamsala was a packed house. West Indies turned tables to defy Australia. If at all, this tournament was a visa to revolution, reformation and resulting evolution.

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World T20 2016: Five things we learnt
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Oleh