Items in The Island, 25 June 2021
A country of 5.5 Million, people far removed in the Pacific Ocean, has within two years scaled the dizzy competitive heights of World Cricket in the most exemplary fashion, narrowly conceding the 50 over championship to a freak incident, and annexing the Test championship in a final worthy of the best in Cricket!
They went from dignity in a painful defeat in July 2019, to being gracious in victory in June 2021!
The spirit in which that Test match was played throughout, the sportsmanship of the Indian team, who did not resort to any negative tactics even as the game was wrested from their control, and the humility of the New Zealand captain and his predecessor Ross Taylor after the winning runs were made upheld the spirit of the noble game throughout!
What was more appropriate than to see that demonstrated in the first ever World Test Championship final !
While more than a billion cricket mad Indian fans take time off to cope with their disappointment New Zealand will deal with their success with the modesty that has always embraced their game!
For us in Sri Lanka there are lessons to learn from the success of the New Zealanders who prior to this prestigious win destroyed England on their home soil in a Test series as well!
First the players were very professional, inspired by an administration focussed meticulously on long term planning. Second was the presence of officials of the highest integrity, totally competent in their fields.Third was a sense of pride in being a New Zealander, proud not only to represent their country but also an Administration that the players respected and trusted implicitly!
All of this combined inspired them to great heights and is indeed what one expects to see replicated in Sri Lanka in the not too distant future !
A hopeful Cricket Fan!
TWO: Rajitha Ratwatte: “The Mace for Aotearoa,” in The Island, 25 July 2021, … https://island.lk/the-mace-for-aotearoa/
Two years of Test matches to find the World Test Champions came down to a one-off six-day Test match in Hampshire. The English weather of course playing a part and everything down to the final session of play on the last day. On a freezing cold winter day in Aotearoa, hunched over the TV, New Zealand needing 100 runs in the last session with the Baharat army in full voice, the drums pounding and New Zealand’s two most experienced batsmen at the crease.
Technically a sixth day wicket although less than four days have been played on it, slowing down, showing uneven bounce, and making shot playing difficult. Ravichandran Ashwin of India in the middle of a brilliant spell of spin bowling backed up solidly by Mohammed Shami. Even the experienced Sunil Gavaskar in the commentary box, rooting for India!
New Zealand with its five million people holds America’s Cup for sailing and is runners-up in the World Cup of Rugby and Cricket in the one-day format. Overachievers some may say and others say the opposite.
Small town boys can’t handle the pressure and choke at vital times is an assessment we have often heard. Kane Williamson the captain and the number two ranked Test batsman in the world in his bubble and fighting hard.
Ross Taylor the most senior batsman showing signs of panic at a minor collapse orchestrated by Ashwin and the resultant inability to get ahead of the run rate required. The best possible combination for NZ but notorious for running each other out under pressure!
Commentators speculating on a change in the batting order for the Kiwis with maybe Colin De Grandhomme or even Tim Southee coming in early with a license to hit and break the back of this relatively small target.
A much-hackneyed phase but this is the ultimate form of the game and although it is scoffed at by younger and more populist sports reporters and others, Test cricket will never die in the hearts of the purists and true lovers of the game.
Virat Kohli the Indian skipper playing the crowd and chatting to his bowlers all the time. A marked opposite from the conduct of Ajinkya Rahane his deputy who did such an exceptional job in Australia.
The New Zealand public doesn’t rate cricket very high. It ranks way below rugby union of course and probably below rugby league and netball, with sailing also giving a good fight in the eyes of the sponsors.
India forced to rest the best bowlers and the advent of Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja to the attack resulted in a few runs and an eerie silence from the Bharat army.
Cheteshwar Pujara dropped Taylor off Jaspreet Bumrah, a sitter at first slip in the 20th over with 60 runs needed! Have they dropped the mace?
Drinks break before the last hour of the game and New Zealand were needing 35 runs in 15 overs to win with eight wickets in hand. Do the Gods of cricket and the “glorious uncertainties of the game” have any more surprises to deliver?
A flurry of runs off a Sharma over forced the Indian skipper to bring back his best bowlers. Williamson pulling Shami imperiously from outside off-stump for two, skipping down the track and driving Jadeja classically through the v and getting a little carried away with a wild swing that goes straight up in the air but eludes Bumrah.
Even Mr. Ice Cool is human after all. The small Kiwi contingent at the ground starts to believe and the chills of winter begin to get less depressing at home. Ross Taylor finishes it off with a regal front flick off his pads tmiwicket region to prove that sometimes the nice guys win!