The ICC T20 World Cup kept the Dubai Sport scene alight for a month and nobody had predicted an Australia-Kiwi final. At the start of the tournament, self-certified experts and commentariat felt that Australia was an ageing side that was well past her prime and the slide in the form of their talismanic opener David Warner summarised the inexorable Aussie decline.
Kiwis, forever the underdogs, with no chest thumping telegenic exuberance, would find it hard to reach the business end of the tournament. Alas, they were off-target by a mile, but one must grant it to their bravado that they still offer reams of explanations. To claim right when the wrong stares pointedly at you in capital letters, is a modern-day science.
Foremost issue was the preceding IPL. One half of these experts (sans frontiers, sans domains) felt that IPL was invaluable opportunity for India, the pre-tournament favourites, to acclimatise to local conditions.
After India’s below par performance the other half of know-alls saw the obvious ills of the IPL with a long tiring schedule and, yes, the bio-bubble. That the Aussies and Kiwis had players who went through the same grind was a minor point they conveniently glossed over. Pakistan’s brilliance, out of sight of international cricket, did not figure in any of those learnt opinions.
The science of toss
Then was the science of toss. Only chasing sides won and therefore, let us focus our attention to the dew factor and build an edifice of rationality there. A Shadab Khan came and took four wickets bowling second only to be soon followed by an unknown Mathew Wade striking 2 huge scoop sixes off arguably the finest seamer of the tournament, Shaheen Afridi.
Against Afridi, the probability of getting a six off a scoop at 145 kmph is less than 3 per cent (my guess) and to get 2 consecutive ones is south of one per cent but Wade did it. That really is the beauty of this contest where one over can turn the game on its head, all the facile statistical jugglery notwithstanding.
Modern sport and entertainment need stars and icons. Yesteryear stars spent a lifetime striving and excelling and only then acquired fame. Their name travelled, if it did, by word of mouth and very deliberately with the newsprint. A Sunny Gavaskar waited in the Mumbai Ranji side for 2 years without playing a match and only after proving himself worthy got an opportunity to be a part of that historic West Indies 1971 tour.
In today’s hyperconnected world, a 3 over spell or 4 good hits catch the ‘Expert’ attention and excessive commentary with over-analysis can make you look a star. The professional word-meister will dissect bowler’s run-up, action, use of crease, grip, ball-seam, use of fingers, fight, loop, seam position, dip, swing, movement off the surface, turn and bounce to explain why the ball did what it did when the honest truth is that no bowler can ever plan in such excruciating detail something as simple as short-of-length off-spin delivery that takes 1.5 seconds to bowl.
What it does for the ‘Expert’ is that it gives him room to wriggle out of a horribly wrong assessment by blaming it on any of these factors and then there is the dew, temperature, wind, bowling end and phase of the game to fall back on. There are so many inane variables available that he can explain anything and everything with something.
I am follower of cricket (not an expert) and think that the beauty of T20 lies in its unpredictability and spontaneity as also on degree of motivation, skill and sweat of those in the cauldron.
Most teams are skill-matched and the format is centred on rapid bursts of energy and inspiration. Sides that keep their head and harness these bursts better usually emerge triumphant. Of course, there is always a twist in the tale waiting to happen.
So let us all enjoy the sport for what it is and preferably play it ourselves sometimes (as amateurs) to capture its romance and the nuance first-hand.
Let us not create a predictable probability-based science with statistical subterfuge.
Dr Rakesh Maggon is a specialist ophthalmologist with an interest in literature