ON SUN­DAY, T20 DIS­COV­ERED BEAUTY

The Economic Times - - Sports - In­dra­jit Hazra

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

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