A World Cup and a Wimbledon, fans had plenty to savour and talk about
Over a week has passed since that super Sunday in England when two nail biting sporting contests went through triggering a volcano of emotions which, it can be said, was unprecedented in the annals of sporting history.
One could understand the feelings that followed the Wimbledon final where the veteran of very many a battle and a distinguished player Roger Federer lost out or better still made his opponent Novak Djokovic, the current world number one, snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Two match point advantage aside from forehands and backhands that had reflected his known flourish notwithstanding, Federer showed that it still required that extra to reach the winning post. He has been through this before but on all most of those occasions it was his hapless opponent who would look up in despair.
But like manna from heaven, Djokovic was able to draw the required inspiration and shall we say got one foot on to check the closing door of destiny. The rest is history, the Serb ensured the crown was his notwithstanding the overpowering cries of 'Roger and Roger'all around!
If that was touching enough where tennis fans at the Wimbledon and the world over watching on the television would have commiserated with the great legend for everyone knows age is catching up with him and this perhaps was the closest he could have gone at winning a Grand Slam again, it seemed a pity that at the World Cup final, just kilometers away from this mecca of tennis, New Zealand too should have been left with similar feeling of having perhaps gone closest to grabbing the glittering trophy!
A humdinger of a final which had a bizarre finish, that in short summed up what perhaps was the greatest moment in cricket. Two teams, host England and New Zealand fighting for honours, ended up with tied scores and then an effort to break the deadlock or put it simply through a tie-breaker with a super-over also failed to break the ice. Can a contest have gone closer!
Then the world of cricket admirers, young old and the infirm and perhaps even bed-ridden watched with astonishment as England are declared Champions, when New Zealand did not deserve to lose! How was it declared but through one of the most unexpected rules__ counting on the number of fours each side had scored in the match!
Needless to say that triggered an avalanche of opinions, discussions, debates that still continue to trickle in. Indeed, that moment was perhaps the greatest anti-climax that any sporting contest could have met with and surely cricket did not deserve this. May be ICC perhaps did not think a contest would ever come to this pass but the rule it laid out certainly did not go well with the followers of the sport.
A mere look at the way FIFA faces this issue in World Cup football would have given food for thought. Football world Cup too has this 'drawn final' syndrome but the way FIFA resolves it is through a series of penalties. An initial tie breaker involves a set of five penalty kicks to each of the two teams and if still the scores remains tied then the phase of 'sudden death' is introduced. Under this each team gets a penalty kick each until one fails and the other scores.
Sure enough there are critics aplenty on this rule, calling it a 'Lottery' more than a show of skills but at least there is a touch of justice since the action was still on field at the goal-mouth where what happened at the Lords ground in the final moments of growing excitement was something that was witnessed not on field but off it, for everything had been reduced to mere calculations! As some legends of the sport opined, may be the 'super over' phase should have been continued until a winner was identified.
Fight and win or lose, there is a rationale in it but not creating a situation where one team is given the feel of being denied the honours. New Zealanders had every right to feel that. This is not for a moment to grudge England's win. The team deserved to make it big on its fourth visit to the final in this prestigious event. It had beaten New Zealand in the league phase too and in the final none personified the yearning more than Ben Stokes, that muscular and tattoo-limbed hero who had for long been in the news for all the wrong reasons. That Sunday he emerged as the new idol of fame and respect but even he felt saddened that the English win should have come thus. And there were reasons.
If the end rule to break the tie-breaker was bad enough then the interpretation of the overthrow was worse. The Umpires of this all important match failed to see that that the overthrow which saw the ball hit Stokes bat and go off for a boundary, cannot fetch six runs as the two batsmen taking the runs had not completed two runs when the fielder had thrown in the ball. The signal should have been for five runs and that would have made New Zealand a winner straight away?
When in doubt should not technology have been invoked? The VAR (video assistant Referee) in football for instance had helped catch many seemingly honest attempts near the goal area as foul acts at the World Cup in Russia last year. This is not to put down the footballers, some of them well known in the sport, for while in play and in the thick of action, things can go out of control and the Referee's eyes may not catch all.
Similarly, in cricket too where the facility of a third Umpire being there, may be his services could have been utilised to make the judgement. Alas, when it was pointed out by an eminent official of yesteryear, Simon Tauffel, all was not just over but it added poignancy to New Zealand's exit.
A great World Cup thus ended with a touch of sweet and sour but England deserved its moment. May be on the next occasion four years from now and incidentally in India, the ICC would have tied up all loose ends and ensure that the wholesome entertainment remains so, unblemished by any such rigmaroles.