Writing on the same WhatsApp chat as his erstwhile captain, Valentino Singh, former QRC opener Zafar Khan opts not to focus on the tiebreaker and the seemingly unfair outcome. He does not say so explicitly but it is clear that he agrees with Singh about how unsatisfactory the eventual outcome was.
Khan targets the misfortune of the Ben Stokes overthrows. Stokes’ bat, he suggests, changed not just the direction of the ball but the direction of the game, which was headed New Zealand’s way.
And he goes further to make an insightful observation about the flawed rule.
“If I run three and get three overthrows,” he remarks, “and then I run two and get two overthrows, the scorebook shows a six and a four. But are those two boundaries?”
The implication is clear. The boundary countback business is bad business.
But let us be clear: Even without the Stokes boundary, England might just have found a way. It’s the way they play. It’s the way would-be winners play.
Practice makes perfect. Or put another way, yuh could make track fuh gouti to run on but lappe does make he own track.
Having scampered twos off balls 1, 3 and 4 and a single of the fifth ball, Martin Guptill never for one minute considered not trying for a second run off the last ball of Jofra Archer’s Super Over. I imagine he and Jimmy Neesham would even have tried for two byes if Guptill had made no contact!
The same cannot be said for Mitchell Santner at the end of the New Zealand innings. Who needs 242 when 240 will do?
In stark contrast, the English batsmen at the crease were acutely aware that every run counts. With Jos Buttler, an already exhausted Stokes ran 3, 1, 1 and 2 off balls 1, 2, 4 and 5 of Trent Boult’s Super Over. And the pair would certainly have gone for three had the converging fieldsmen contrived to prevent the boundary off the last ball.
Whatever the truth of the CWC19 final matter, it is clear that the issue raised by the Stokes incident has to be dealt with expeditiously. The England hero on the day made it clear that he would have declined to take any overthrows after the ball had struck his bat, which is the current practice.
But it’s not the law, merely the practice and, in this case, it proved far from perfect!
I wish to digress here for a minute to call attention to a related issue.
In the Saturday Express of 13 July, there is a bearing the uninspired headline “Improving cricket umpiring decisions.” The writer is well-known cricket analyst and statistician Noel Kalicharan.
Putting fingers to keyboard even before the semi-finals, the university lecturer begins with this statement: “The 2019 Cricket World Cup has been marred by several wrong decisions.”
He focuses on “batsmen being ruled not out when, in fact, they were out, and vice versa.”
He cited as his example Aleem Dar’s error in ruling England’s Jason Roy not out in the 11th over of the England versus India round robin match on Sunday 30 June and even calling a wide even though replays confirmed that Roy had in fact nicked the ball.
“I use this example to highlight the sheer idiocy of the International Cricket Council (ICC) rules as they pertain to reviews.”
“I have long advocated,” he continues, “that the system of reviews (…) be scrapped and all close calls (…) be referred to the TV umpire.”
Like Marais Erasmus’ not out call off the very first ball of the England innings. Or his erroneous call against which Ross Taylor had no recourse, his team’s single review have already been utilised.
And being Kiwi rather than a Brit, he dared not remonstrate with the umpires a la Jason Roy lest he be banned from cricket until the next World Cup!
“ICC,” as America’s Blow-your-own-Trumpet might say, “if you’re reading, please find the missing reviews.”
And I too have a recommendation for you. It concerns the World Cup final.
Think back to the recent Mankading controversy sparked by Ravi Ashwin’s run-out of Rajasthan Royals’ opener Jos Buttler in the IPL. Although Mankading is widely deemed to be against the spirit of the game and the Kings’ XI Punjab off-spinner’s action met with widespread disapproval, Buttler had to be given out because such action is not currently against the Laws of the so-called Gentleman’s Game. In the end, Rajasthan lost, Punjab won.
So is action on overthrows going to have to wait until someone wins a World Cup semi-final or final by taking a frowned upon but legal overthrow?
The solution, however, is obvious: disapproval has to be enshrined in the Laws.
On the model of Law 220.127.116.11, Law 18.104.22.168 should stipulate that the ball becomes dead when, on being thrown in by any fieldsman, it accidentally strikes the person, clothing or equipment of a batsman who has made no deliberate attempt to deflect it and who is not then run out as a result.
I am prepared to let sleeping dogs—and politicians—lie. Which is a part of the reason why I am happy that the ICC will continue to ignore all calls for them to retroactively decree that the CWC19 trophy be shared.
However, like Kalicharan, Singh, Khan and the millions of dissatisfied New Zealand supporters and disgruntled fans around the world, I am convinced that there is need for cricket to proactively plug the holes that CWC19 has so clearly exposed.
If the millions of us all raise our voices, the ICC Big Three may just agree that it’s time to move out with the old and in with the new.
But only if, of course, we are lucky.