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ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

ICC’s ridiculous boundary count rule reduced World Cup final to ‘gully cricket’

Makarand Waingankar

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England defeated New Zealand by the barest of margins for their maiden World Cup triumph.

Mumbai: July 14, 2019, will be known for two epic finals, which were played in the city of London.

One was the Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, which stretched for nearly five hours, and the second was the cricket World Cup final between hosts England and New Zealand.

The two spectacles forced the audience to shift vehemently between the two channels on which they were beamed. Both matches were played at an exceptionally high level. Another thing common in both were the battle of nerves.

Chasing a small total wasn’t easy, considering the enormity of the occasion, and lopsided record for the team batting first. Before the semifinals, the chasing teams had lost 17 of the 21 matches.

Once England were tasked with a target of 242 runs, one thought that it wasn’t going to be easy at all for them.

Matt Henry was moving the ball of a length beautifully. The degree of swing was wide. His variation and control over the swing was remarkable and he utilised fully the considerable juice the pitch offered to the pacers.

Throughout the World Cup, New Zealand captain Kane Williamson’s field placements have been spot on, exhibiting sound judgement and proper planning on the field.

Though Kiwis scored less, they had the arsenal to defend that small score. They have a quick bowler in Lockie Ferguson, a swing bowler in Trent Boult, decent medium pacer in Matt Henry.

They stuck to their plan of bowling tightly and never showed keenness to experiment.

While batting, the Kiwis were once comfortably placed at 100/1 but lost three quick wickets but managed to post 241/8.

England, barring Ben Stokes, crumbled under the scoreboard pressure as well as the pressure of expectations.

Stokes is a different kind of character. He relishes the challenge of excelling under pressure and was the home side’s standout performer in the final.

But all noteworthy performances were swept under the carpet by the final’s bizarre outcome and rules which declared England the first-time champions on boundary count.

How on earth can the ICC decide—based on a school boys rule—that the team that has hit more boundaries will win?

If it’s a tie, it’s a tie, trophy to be shared. The ICC’s rule has reduced the World Cup to gully cricket, where rules are made and twisted according to convenience.

How can ICC’s cricket committee not think of anything more suitable to decide a tie? If there is no consensus in choosing a winner what is wrong in saying that the Cup is being shared?

There are enough instances in several sports, individual and team, of sharing the trophy between the finalists.

England hit 24 boundaries, New Zealand hit 16. Hence England were declared the winners. New Zealand players must be hurting, because they were dealt a cruel blow by the rules, something on which they had no control over.

The ICC has a penchant for changing format and tweaking rules. For the 2019 World Cup, they went back to the round robin format, which was used in the 1992 World Cup.

Followers of the sport could be confused and could lose charm of the game. Rules can’t be altered randomly.

From 1975-1999 hardly any rules were changed. But after that many additions and subtractions have been made.

Teams have often complained on it and there is some rationale behind it. The sooner the ICC takes care of it the better it is for cricket.

New Zealand were well led by Kane Williamson, whose simple batting style and uncomplicated technique helped him become the player of the tournament.

His team, in Sanjay Manjrekar’s language is composed of “bits and pieces” players. The phrase could backfire if used loosely, as Manjrekar found out courtesy Ravindra Jadeja.

New Zealand too showed it. They don’t have superstars but only one experienced batsman in Ross Taylor, the 35-year-old. The other boys had not much to count on.

Despite that what was puzzling was why NZ sent an out-of-form Martin Guptill to bat in the Super Over?

The right-hander has been an utter failure in this tournament. I wish they had sent Tom Latham, who was stroking the ball well.

In the Super Over, there is no margin for error and Guptill was a wrong choice. But then cricket is always played on hindsight, and people are always wiser after mistakes.

Apart from this marginal error, New Zealand were very impressive. They knew their resources, their strengths and weaknesses and played accordingly.

As far as England is concerned, one felt it would be a cakewalk for them because they had the right combinations in place.

Two openers were striking the ball well for the entire tournament. Then there was Joe Root at No. 3.

But he struggled against the swing of Matt Henry. The normally fluent and elegant Root took 30 balls for his seven and before the delivery he got out charged out of his crease to free the shackles, which highlighted his struggle at the crease.

New Zealand executed their plans with precision, sticking to line and length bowling that frustrated the fancied English batsmen, who chocked in search of runs.

The spectacle that was the final was evenly contested until the end of the Super Over.

The ICC must introspect on its rules because hitting more number of boundaries for wining a World Cup, which comes every four years, is not something anybody would appreciate.

The governing body has already faced a lot of criticism and they deserve every bit of it.

Dr. Makarand is a cricket journalist for more than five decades contributing to Sportsweek, Sportstar, The Hindu and The Times of India. He did his PhD on the “History of Bombay cricket and its impact on Indian cricket”. He initiated the Talent Resource Development Wing (TRDW) for the BCCI to unearth talent from small towns. He was the CEO of the Baroda Cricket Association and consultant to KSCA.