ON SUNDAY, T20 DISCOVERED BEAUTY
Life is short. Twenty overs-a-side cricket is shorter. One would have expected that the brevity of things make them more precious, more valuable. But even as T20 has firmly become the most preferred delivery system of choice of cricket for the masses, the 'truncated' form of the sport has lacked the serious stare, the gaze of the lover of the game, the critical attention that make raptures and disasters in a sport be registered as raptures and disasters. T20 lacked all this, until this Sunday. Perhaps it was watching a non-India team take on a non-India team for the T20 World Cup champion title that allowed us to sense a new kind of pleasure following the shortest format of cricket usually drowned out by the carnivalesque, the burlesque and that notoriously dodgy indicator of sporting greatness called 'loyalty'.
But that still doesn't explain how what, till the other day, was considered correctly as heave-ho 'toy cricket' took an a new level in the West IndiesEngland final.
In this abridged format of 20 overs, we saw fortunes turn with the violent swing of a pendulum on a boat in a storm. The dismissal of England opener Jason Roy by a tweaker from Samuel Badree with no score on the board and Alex Hales going seven runs later were standard T20 Russian roulette stuff. What wasn't was the tempo slowly -- a relative term here in a format where slowness is sin -moving to the England camp as Joe Root dug in, especially after the dismissal of England skipper Eoin Morgan. The 61 runs partnership that followed with Jos Buttler and Root had the look of an anchor. But the West Indies bowlers disrupted things, with leg spinner Badree giving us a glimpse with his two wickets -- and the match's only maiden over -- that T20 cricket could also have a bowler's interlude, with his f lat, asphyxiating deliveries leaving a mark. The best way to gauge the West Indies innings that followed a moderate England recovery is to zone in to the first three fall of wickets -- at 1, 5 and 11. To have so many oscillations in a 40-over match requires either a very poor show of cricket or a brilliant contest.
And at the Eden Gardens on Sunday, it was the latter. Marlon Samuels' extraordinary innings of 85 not out was a feast in a bento box. And what overnight turned the T20 format's brevity from its frivolous nursery rhyme aura to that of an exquisite haiku was Carlos Brathwaite's 6-6-6-6 in that last over. At the end of any format of any sports, the fundamentals of the game are the same and are tested -- with perhaps the zen-ness of battling for a draw as in a Test taken out of the equation.
The beauty of a great novel is different from that of a magnificent short story. And yet the ingredients are the same. What West Indies showcased in their grit and play was the beauty that a Twenty20 game of cricket can unfurl -- despite the carnivalesque, the burlesque and the shortness of the game. On Sunday at Eden, aided by the anger that West Indies captain Darren Sammy spoke about in the post-match interview -- which was so reminiscent of the fuel that fed Clive Lloyd's squad in England in the summer of 1976 when Tony Grieg had infamously said that the English hosts would make the visitors "grovel" -- we didn't only see a new West Indies becoming world champions, and (again uncannily like 40 years ago) show the ability to transform from happy-go-lucky 'Calypso entertainers' to swaggering assassins on the pitch. We also saw popular, populist, jokey Twenty20 cricket take on sporting beauty that only brevity can conjure up.
At the Eden Gardens on Sunday, it was the latter. Marlon Samuels' extraordinary innings of 85 not out was a feast in a bento box
CARLOS BRATHWAITE YOU BEAUTY