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T20 World Cup dodges storms to deliver and break new frontier | Ali Martin
Cricket Sport

T20 World Cup dodges storms to deliver and break new frontier | Ali Martin

After the golden ticker tape settled on the outfield at Kensington Oval on Saturday, Barbados was placed on a state of high alert. At the time of writing, Hurricane Beryl is barrelling towards the region and the early hours of Monday are when potentially “life-threatening” winds will be at their strongest.

The Met Office here has issued warnings of power outages, flash flooding and storm surges on the coast, while people are being urged to stock up on essential supplies and non-perishables. “It’s better to plan for the worst and pray for the best,” said the prime minister, Mia Mottley, her attention very much switched since delivering the T20 World Cup trophy at the final on Saturday.

While a storm this potent is said to be highly unusual so early in the year, the hurricane season did officially begin at the start of June, the same day USA and Canada played out that thrilling first match in Dallas. And so Beryl’s unwelcome arrival not only serves as a reminder of the broader climate challenges faced in the Caribbean but highlights cricket’s chutzpah in taking them on with a four-week, 20-team Twenty20 carnival spread across seven countries.

In the end just four out of the 55 games were washed out without a result, meaning the International Cricket Council – or rather the most powerful boards, to whom all such queries should always be sent – will feel vindicated by the scheduling. And in fairness, the ICC events team did a pretty sound job delivering what was their second World Cup in less than a year in a challenging part of the world as regards to logistics. But as folks here batten down the hatches just 24 hours after Rohit Sharma and, slightly curiously, Jay Shah lifted the trophy for India, it can equally be said that the administrators who plumped for June possibly got away with one here.

This slightly foreboding epilogue comes after a fun if slightly odd tournament, one that looked to explore the American frontier to the west but was really all about the television audience 9,000 miles to the east. It slightly meandered through the first round and then, when the quality was condensed into the Super Eights, stepped on the gas. The knockouts – logistics and integrity affected by the rule that India must play in Guyana – were like a part-time spinner pilfering a cheap early over for their captain, rattling through three games in three different countries in just four days.

The cricket itself was a welcome shift down the gears from the monster scores of the recent Indian Premier League and an overall batting strike-rate of 109.96 was the lowest of all nine T20 World Cups to date. Some of the pitches went awry, like that semi-final in Trinidad when Afghanistan arrived after missing a full night’s sleep in transit from Saint Lucia and crumbled to South Africa’s Test quality attack on a surface with capricious bounce. The pop-up stadium on Long Island clearly had issues with its drop-in, leading to what my colleague, Andy Bull, called “Victorian scores” in his dispatches from that leg.

USA fans savour the atmosphere in New York.View image in fullscreen

But generally the better balance of bat versus ball served up a better spectacle, as did the very nature of nation versus nation. World Cups, while far too regular these days, still touch the parts franchise leagues cannot reach. A personal highlight on this front was watching David Rudder deliver those three spine-tingling renditions of Rally ’Round the West Indies before his team’s night games in Trinidad, Barbados and Antigua. A year on from his Parkinson’s diagnosis, the great calypsonian’s unconquerable spirit in delivery was the very essence of the lyrics made flesh.

While games were shoved into unhelpful times to suit the broadcasters, there was still a heartening buzz on the islands I visited. This was a very visible tournament on the ground; far more visible on billboards, posters and the like than the 2019 World Cup in England, for example. “Here for the cricket?” was a regular ice-breaker from the locals, before delving into forensic explorations of things like Akeal Hosein’s arm-ball or Virat Kohli’s (eventually rectified) run of low scores. That said, as per a report in the Nation newspaper in Barbados, local businesses hoping for peak tourism in an off-peak month said they did not quite see the economic uplift expected.

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The ICC probably will have done, not least given India’s surge to the final. And, as heartbreaking as it was for a South African side that broke new ground in men’s World Cups, Sharma’s team of galacticos were full value for the silverware that preceded a raft of retirements. Jasprit Bumrah was also a worthy player of the tournament, those bullwhipped zingers returning 15 wickets at eight runs apiece, with an economy of just 4.17, marking him out as the greatest T20 bowler in history.

Twenty20 can sometimes feel like a McDonald’s but this World Cup produced some pretty memorable fare. USA beating Pakistan in that dramatic Super Over in Dallas was clearly among this – a shock for the ages, no question. Likewise Afghanistan’s run to the semi-finals through that stirring first victory over Australia and then the sheer madness of the Bangladesh game in which Gulbadin Naib auditioned for a spot on a daytime soap. The final was a white-knuckle ride played out in three and a bit hours, the pendulum swinging wildly before the might of India prevailed.

All that is left now while hoping to fly home on Monday is to heed Mottley’s advice and hope Beryl veers away at the last moment like a ball from the remarkable Bumrah.

Source: theguardian.com