World Cup 2019: The fairest of them all?

Last Updated: Wed, Jul 17, 2019 15:22 hrs
World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan

There are some matches which are so close, so heartbreaking, that it seems wrong for anyone to be happy at the end.

It happened four years ago, between South Africa and New Zealand – the South African innings was interrupted by rain just as AB de Villiers was set to go in for the kill, with big-hitters like Rilee Rossouw and David Miller yet to take the crease, and New Zealand's target was cut short from what looked certain to be over 400 to just under 300, courtesy of South Africa's nemesis, the Duckworth-Lewis system; New Zealand looked set to lose, when Grant Elliott played the innings of his career, and steered them home, no small thanks to some miserable fielding from the South Africans, including a bizarre attempt by JP Duminy to claim a catch Berhardien was about to take; the match left Morne Morkel and A B de Villiers in tears. Most of the South African team knew this would be their last chance at World Cup glory.

On July 14, at Lord's, there was a near-repeat, except it was even closer.

No one is even sure which team actually won the day.

There are two big debates – first, how is it fair for a team which lost more wickets on the day to win on boundary count, of all things? How is "keeping the scoreboard ticking", the mantra of most commentators and experts, less than hitting the ball to the fence? Second, if Stokes had been awarded five runs on the overthrows rather than six, as he should have – since he and Rashid had not yet crossed when the ball was picked up – New Zealand would have won by at least a run in the main match; they might even have won by more, since Rashid and not Stokes would have been on strike for the last balls of the game.

But, there can be little doubt that the cup went to the best team – if not on the day, certainly throughout the tournament.

Ironically enough, England had lost out four years ago to a similarly controversial umpiring decision. It was after their failed 2015 campaign that they decided to change the way the team would play. Over the last four years, they have averaged the highest in the slog overs while batting first; they have completed many a hard chase successfully.

If we were to look at the facts fairly, we must take into account that while New Zealand scraped through to the knockouts, and then to the final, thanks to Williamson and the weather, England got there almost before anyone else.

Every time their backs were up against the wall, a different member of the team pitched in to save England.

In the fifth decade of the Cricket World Cup, it has finally been claimed by the country which invented the game, and no one can grudge this particular team its victory.

My favourite thing about this tournament has been its changed format – each team had to play every other, and the top four were truly the top four.

Instead of three rounds of knockouts, where – quite bizarrely – eight teams out of ten play each other again, we had just two. The best performers of the tournament made it to the last four.

The better ones on the day made it to the last two, and arguably the best ones on the day won.

More crucially, the World Cup has exposed the weaknesses of each side – for New Zealand, its reliance on luck and good bowling; for India, its reliance on the top four, its selectors' and management's deference for the captain's word, and the captain's deference for Dhoni; for Australia, its bizarre selection formula which gives endless chances to the likes of Maxwell and Stoinis and the Marsh brothers, while giving others hardly a game to prove themselves; for Pakistan, its tendency to collapse at the most crucial times; for South Africa, its inability to defend a small total and its extreme reliance on AB de Villiers to dig the team out of sticky situations; and so the list goes on.

How strange for the final of the World Cup to end in a tie, and then for the super-over to end in a tie!

What, one wonders, will New Zealand take away from this?

Some years ago, the idea of New Zealand in a World Cup final, leave alone two consecutive ones, was laughable. Vettori, who played in the first of those, made his debut into a team which was dismissed as one of the minnows of the game, along with Zimbabwe. His career ended on a high, and New Zealand had lifted themselves up from the bottom of the table to near the top.

They folded against Australia last time, but this time they came agonisingly close; technically, they might even have won. They certainly did better all round.

But England won every other game of the tournament decisively, and the fact that they lifted the trophy in the end is testament to just how fair the tournament was.

Nandini is

The author of Invisible Men: Inside India's Transmasculine Networks (2018) and Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage (2013). She tweets @k_nandini. Her website is: