The 2022 T20 men’s Cricket World Cup – some reflections
I have been following the finals of the 2022 T20 men’s Cricket World Cup, taking place in Australia, and have enjoyed doing so. Today is the final of the finals; I write while listening to BBC TMS.
Very soon, the 2022 men’s Football World Cup will take place in Qatar and, while this, along with the Olympics, would have been, back in the day, the highlight of my sporting calendar, that is no longer so and, while money, politics and commercial interests play a part in top level cricket as well as football, I rather surprised myself, not only did I follow the T20 finals but did so with relish.
These days my cricket following is done mostly via BBC TMS (while not a fan these days of BBC coverage of the news, I like their sports coverage) usually on my desktop linked to the Internet while doing other things, which for this tournament has included live audio commentary and end of game podcasts, along with regular written comments on the appropriate page along with the occasional visual clips of sixes hit and wickets taken. I admit, I am a Test match snob and in the past was rather dismissive of the one-day form of the game, meaning this shorter more dramatic format, where luck plays an even bigger part, didn’t got much of a look in.
An example of my old school mentality is I loved the commentary team of yesteryear, led by John Arlott and Brian Johnstone, assisted by Henry Blofeld and Christopher Martin-Jenkins, with expert analysis by Fred Trueman, Trevor Bailey and Geoffrey Boycott with Bill Frindall the stats man. It is led nowadays by Jonathan Agnew and has tried to adapt to the times, including bringing in women to commentate. In fairness, it hasn’t detracted too much from my enjoyment; I liked Alex Hartley, for example. Now retired, I had the luxury I can follow the live commentary, which I thought was good.
Going back to the tournament, there were two groups of six teams who play each other with the top two from each group playing each other in the semi-finals. Four in each group qualified automatically based on past performances with the remaining two having to qualify by playing in two groups of four qualifying groups. Sadly, the one-day kings of yesteryear, West Indies, failed to qualify but Sri Lanka, Ireland, Zimbabwe and Netherlands all did! The two groups were headed by New Zealand and England (one group) and India and Pakistan (the other group), setting up New Zealand versus Pakistan (one semi-final); England versus India (other semi-final).
Before we get to semi finals and final, I should say I followed some of the live commentary of several games and for all at least reports on the outcome with interest. It is true luck played a part, including some games rained off and the sharing of the spoils, even if it was between a strong and weak on paper team. While luck played a part, so did skill and as often happens the team starting well did not finish well and the other way round. One felt New Zealand and India played solidly and deserved to get through, whereas England and especially Pakistan rode their lack. England, defeated by Ireland and drawing their next game against Australia (rained out) was staring defeat down the barrel. Pakistan should have been eliminated and had to rely on unfancied Netherlands beating South Africa to secure their place in the semi. As for Australia (like England W3, D1, L1) their score rate did not match that of England and were eliminated, despite being fancied and playing on home turf. The way I saw it, Australia failed the thrash much weaker teams and paid the price.
Semi-finals proved the truism of teams beginning slowly often coming good at the end. On paper, it looked like India and New Zealand (both looking impressively solid) would go through but it wasn’t to be. Both sides scored too slowly at the start (one lesson to note that with only twenty overs there is little time to play oneself in). In India’s case, they were blown away by the opening England batters. In the New Zealand case, they found themselves up against an outstanding Pakistan bowling attack. Which brings me to today’s final (which I couldn’t follow live because of church lol) but what I could follow, either at the time or catching up, indicated it was a great game with superb individual performances, especially by the English, with Stokes, Curran, Rashid and Jordan outstanding.
As I told my Indian brother-in-law, I hoped England would win but only if they turned out to be the better side. As far as the semi-final and final went (the games that mattered most) England were the better side and while they had some luck they won because they outplayed the opposition. When it comes to cricket, England often flatters to deceive and have never, unlike Australia and West Indies fielded a consistently great side. It is too early to say regarding this one, despite adding the T20 to their 50 over trophy, and while the summer just gone saw much improvement in the Test team, and winning this trophy despite loss of key players, I still hope there will be a truly great England team for all forms of cricket in my time.
It is not just enough being able to report that my team won this tournament but I have come to the view T20 is an acceptable form of the game, linking skill and entertainment, to complement Test and 50 overs cricket, deserving a place in the future of the game.