The International Cricket Council (ICC) annual awards are meant to recognise the best in cricket during a 12-month period. Ben Stokes deserved the ICC Player of the Year award for his stupendous show in the final of the 2019 ICC World Cup final that steered England to victory. The selection of players for all the other awards too was spot on, except for the choice of Virat Kohli for the Spirit of Cricket Award.
If any person deserved that award the most, it was New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson. The manner in which he conducted himself after finishing as runners-up in the 2019 World Cup final was brilliant. While attending Williamson’s press conference at the Lord’s after the final, it was admirable to listen to him answering questions on the strange rule that deprived his team of the world’s most coveted trophy.
His responses were in the right spirit, and he sportingly accepted the rules of the game. It was one of the finest displays of the ‘spirit of the game’ from a losing captain. He tried to hide the disappointment of his team’s narrow defeat with a smile that won the hearts of everyone in the audience.
When Gulf News asked him whether it was the rules or boundaries that defeated his team, he gave his customary smile before answering, paused a little, and said that neither his team nor even England had thought about hitting more boundaries.
When his press conference ended, all journalists stood up to give him a standing ovation. As he walked away, I felt I had seen a captain who had upheld the spirit of cricket, that too on the biggest stage of the game. Not many captains could have controlled their emotions and conducted like Williamson did. It is indeed surprising that the ICC had not factored in that incident.
ICC’s choice of Kohli’s act of requesting the crowd to support Steve Smith and not boo him on his return to international cricket after his one-year ban in the ball-tampering scandal is really no comparison. It is also important to consider how a cricketer has conducted himself throughout the year, both on and off the field, even though he may be the greatest batsman in the game. Though many believe that nothing is wrong with Kohli’s conduct on the field and that his aggressive mannerism should be accepted as part of the game, his demeanour have not always been in the spirit of the game.
Kohli himself has admitted his surprise at winning this award after being under the scanner for the wrong reasons many times. While Kohli’s cricketing prowess is beyond question, Williamson, throughout his international career till today has been a gentleman cricketer and a captain.