Proteas choke as ‘Men in Blue’ clinch their second T20 ICC World Cup
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Proteas choke as ‘Men in Blue’ clinch their second T20 ICC World Cup

July 2, 2024

By V.N. Prasad

Euphoria at the Kensington Oval rose to the zenith on the June 29 night as the ‘Men in Blue’ lifted the coveted ICC T20 World Cup Title. Heartiest congratulations to the ‘Men in Blue’ on clinching the ‘Nail Biter’ under the very nose of the Proteas in a scintillating finish, lifting the trophy, by merely seven runs.  Earlier, Skipper Rohit called the toss right and chose to bat.

Mood looked flamboyant as openers Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli put on 23 in mere nine deliveries. By the 5th over, gloom descended on the team and supporters of Bharat as three wickets fell — Rohit Sharma, Rishab Pant and SKY (Suryakumar Yadav), all falling to poor choice of strokes. In a stubborn partnership of 72, Axar Patel (47 off 31) played a stupendous knock. Shivam Dube (27 off 16) and Virat Kohli (76 off 59) added another valuable 57 runs. We ended on a respectable/ defendable total of 176.

Chasing a competitive 176, Proteas were reduced to 12 for 2 in the 3rd over that gave Bharat a glimmer of hope of running through the side. But, Quinton de Kock (39 off 31) and Tristan Stubbs (31 off 21) looked like ‘Stubbing us Out’ when Quinton got out to a regrettable pull shot off Arshdeep Singh. Later Heinrich Klassen essayed a masterly 52 off 27, with such a C(K)lass that even the supporters of Bharat envied his exhibition. It was a treat to watch as he smote 5 sixes and 2 fours in his classy essay. God knows what prompted him to fish a delivery off the 9th stump away from his body, off Hardik Pandya. That indiscrete rush of blood, for sure, cost the World Cup to the Proteas. Well, that’s cricket. Eventually, they wound up at 169 — losing by an agonising SEVEN runs.

Barbados is one of the greatest cricketing venues in the world and home to the likes of Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott, Gary Sobers, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, etc. A prestigious venue for the finals. Hats off to the curator and ground staff of ‘Kensington Oval’ on preparing a true and sporting deck on the central strip. Bounce was predictable and offered scope for both the bowlers and batsmen to exhibit potential skills. And, what an encounter! 

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It was a befitting tribute to the legendary Head Coach Rahul Dravid who relinquished his office on a momentous note, on conclusion of the finals. Tears rolled as Virat Kohli and Skipper Rohit Sharma announced retirement from T20 World Cup format. Thank you guys for all the entertainment you gave the world.

It was very pleasant to watch the entire team and staff taking the victory in a highly dignified manner. No fierce pumping of the air, no screaming and shouting etc. Each one spoke very maturely to accept the victory with all the humility, especially considering the very close finish. Every one round the world was aware that the encounter could have swung either way.

This edition of World Cup carried the record of two teams, Bharat and South Africa, that went past the ‘Group Matches’ and ‘Super Eight’ without dropping a match en route to finals. Both were ‘Neck to Neck.’ None of the legends across the world and/ or the commentators was sure which of the finalists had the edge over the other, in player to player comparison. They were equally poised. Eventually, our boys literally clinched the trophy as the pendulum swung heavily — leaving many a finger across the globe chewed off in unbearable tension. And, that’s how a final should be.

Just imagine. 16th over of the Proteas, ’30 runs in 30 deliveries.’ Frankly, it was more in favour of the Proteas. Many question went unanswered even in my mind as to the end result.

• Were Quinton, Markram and Klassen a bit too impetuous in the chase?

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• Was it the timely and sterling knock of 47 off 31 by Axar Patel that mattered?

• Was the cautious knock of Kohli, 76 off 59 deliveries, who dropped ‘Sheet Anchor,’ that consolidated our position?

• What if Shivam Dube had come to the crease 3-4 overs earlier?

• Was it the Bumrah’s two magical deliveries to get rid of Reeza Hendricks and Marco Jansen that were crucial? Both are good hitters of the ball.

• Was it the breathtaking catch of SKY, off David Miller, that turned tides in our favour? We know how dangerous Miller can be.

• Was it the ‘Boy with the Golden Arm,’ Hardik Pandya’s final over that nailed the victory?

• Was it the astute captaincy of Rohit Sharma?

Ultimately, it was the team effort — undoubtedly — that made us proud. Proud that Kohli was adjudged the ‘Player of the Match.’ Proud that Jasprit Bumrah was adjudged the ‘Player of the Tournament.’ Dravid was proud to the hilt.

Our bowlers were magnificent right through the competition. Without an iota of doubt, Bumrah stood tall as the best performer. His journey in this World Cup will go down in history as one of the greatest individual campaigns ever witnessed. In the haul of 15 wickets, Bumrah finished with an astonishing economy of just 4.17. In a splendid display in the ‘Super 8 Phase,’ Bumrah finished with 6 for 49 and was instrumental in getting Bharat to the finals. In fact, since the time he bowled Olli Pope with a brutal in swinging Yorker in Test Series against England (termed the ball of the millennium), Bumrah’s variations are incomparable even to the likes of Jimmy Anderson. He joins teammate Kohli (a 2-time winner) as India players to claim the ‘Player of the Tournament’ award.

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