They say that the only thing that matches the passion for cricket in India is the craze for films. So as the curtain falls on the 2015 World Cup and the Aussies get into celebration mode, what better way to look back at the tournament that through a Bollywood-tinted lens. Without further ado, here are our best and worst of the tournament, with a filmy touch:
The Dabangg Award for best innings
Well, AB de Villiers made the West Indies wish they were back in the Carribean when he unleashed batting hell during that 66-ball 162, and Chris Gayle and Martin Guptill carved out double centuries, but know what, we think that if we had to pick one innings that stood out in terms of occasion and opposition, it was New Zealand’s Grant Elliot’s sublime 73-ball 84 not out against South Africa. He came in with his team 149-4 and just about half way to its target against the mighty South Africans, and then proceeded to play with ice in his veins and the devil in his willow, finally carving the man many had considered the best bowler in the world going into the tournament, Dayle Steyn for the winning runs in the last over. What he did after that winning stroke won him another award from us, but for sheer importance of runs scored, this 84 was our knock of the tournament.
The Toofan Award for best bowling spell
Oh yes, we think that Wahab Riyaz was brilliant in THAT spell against Australia in the quarter finals but at the end of the day, he did not have too much to show for it (2-54 are not exactly epic returns). On the other hand, Tim Southee took seven against England without ever looking like a human flamethrower (except perhaps in the mind of a much rattled Stuart Broad, who seemed to be applying for a job as square leg umpire). If we actually had to pick one spell in which a bowler not only bowled very well but also got rewarded for it, it would be Mitchell Stac’s stunning 6-28 against New Zealand in the group stages. The Aussie pacer steamed in and clean bowled four out of his six victims, and almost won an epic victory for his team.
The Kick Award for most amazing stroke
The World Cup saw its share of slogs, sweeps (reverse as well as straight), scoops, drives and cuts, but if there was one stroke that will remain etched in most fans’ minds, it will be the sight of Rilee Rossouw of South Africa, seemingly floating on air, as he unleashes a stroke that has been since christened the upper cut, against the West India. Cricket purists quailed, fans applauded, and South African gymnast coaches grinned wryly at a talent that might have missed its true calling!
The Singham Award for most ferocious on-field exchange
It began with a query about whether Riaz could bat by Shane Watson. And graduated into perhaps the most compelling battle between two individuals in the World Cup. For almost half an hour of terrific cricket, Riaz bounced, swung and yorked away at Shane Watson, with the Aussie all rounder barely managing to hang in. Words were spoken, glares were exchanged, bouncers hurled, boundaries struck – you would have been forgiven for thinking this was a West Indies-Australia match from the eighties. In the end, Watson survived to see his team through. But Riaz went home with his head held high. Oh, and an ICC fine. Some people…
The Phata Poster Niklaa Zero Award for star who failed to shine
There are quite a number of contenders for this one, led by the two bowlers who many had championed as being the best in the world in January – Messrs Dale Steyn and James Anderson. But nothing matches the dampness of the squib that was the man who his fans consider to be the biggest matchwinner in ODI history. Shahid Afridi came in to the tournament burdened with expectations. And rather than shouldering them, seemed to shoulder arms. He scored 116 runs in six innings, never went beyond 28, took two wickets, and also managed to drop a crucial catch. His World Cup jinx doth continue – seldom has any player played so much in the World Cup for so little. (And yes, we know that the film was actually called Phata Poster Nikla Hero, but we took a bit of artistic licence as this fit the award SO well).
The Lootera Award for team that felt robbed
Every tournament hath its team that feels that justice had been denied it. Generally, it comes from the southern part of the African continent. But this time around, it came from Asia. Bangladesh went to the streets (literally) complaining about quirky umpiring decisions that it claimed cost it the match against India. Yes, the decisions were not exactly crystal clear, but considering Bangaldesh lost by the not-inconsiderable margin of 114 runs, wethinks they doth protest too much
The Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna Award for best farewells
Brendan Taylor, Misbah Ul Haq, Kumar Sangakkarra, Mahela Jayawardene and Michael Clarke get to share this for signing off from not just the World Cup, but one day internationals, with a lot of style. (No, we don’t know whether Daniel Vettori is calling it a day yet, and we so do NOT want to ever give the bespectacled one an award like this – so see you in 2019, Danny!). And no, we refuse to believe rumours of Shahid Afridi’s retirements. We have heard THAT one before.
The Goliyon ki Raasleela: Ram Leela award for most explosive relationship
When was the last time a team’s failure was blamed on the relationship one of its leading players had with a celebrity? The Virat Kohli – Anushka Sharma went from Koochy Koo to Yah Boo Sucks in the eyes of Indian cricket “fans” as many blamed Kohli’s failure in the crucial semi-final against Australia on the Indian actress. The Aussies might have felt a bit annoyed at that (hey, they were the ones who bowled brilliantly and pushed him into playing a shot that bordered on lunacy), but they were not complaining as Indian fans went from mauka mauka to dhokha dhokha!
The PK Award for best newcomer from seemingly nowhere
This has got to go to Afghanistan, which played some very good, if naive, cricket. Most countries with Afghanistan’s recent bullet-and-bomb riddled history would have been happy enough to have a cricket team in the first place. That it did so well made its achievement nothing short of staggering. The team bowled outstandingly in almost all its matches and showed that while it did not exactly belong with the big boys (in terms of cricket standards – in terms of physique, the players certainly were a notch above many of the top teams), it could manfully scrap away and make even the best sweat.
The Delhi Belly award for worst sledger
He might be the chirpy sort (standing behind three sticks wearing gloves for extended periods of time can do that even to the strongest) but even then Brad Haddin won very few friends with some dubious catch claims and his penchant for trying to give players a ‘send off.” A little less lip would be appreciated. I mean, he is not even a disgruntled pace bowler, is he?
The MSG: The Messenger award for team no one could figure out
Oh England, my England, as some Pom poets might have been moved to say after one of the founding fathers of the game was dumped right out of the tournament in the initial stages itself. Rarely has a team puzzled observers so much with its penchant for self-destruction. It sacked perhaps its greatest one day player ever (Kevin Pietersen) as part of its preparation plans and then followed it up by sacking the man they had announced would be leading them in the tournament (Alastair Cook).
The Buddha Hoga Tera Baap award for veteran who belied his years
Kumar Sangakkara and Misbah ul Haq tie for this one. The latter took a lot of flak (most notably from a retired pace bowler from his country) but quietly kept knocking the runs over, while the former set a new a record by scoring four consecutive centuries in the World Cup. Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Matthews confessed he had been on his knees imploring Sanga not to retire from ODIs. If there is room on the floor, we would like to join him in his request.
The Bewakoofiyan award for strangest tactical move
Virat Kohli came into the World Cup with the reputation of being one of the best batsmen in the world, a reptutation he promptly embellished by notching up a ton against ye olde enemy, Pakistan. However, even in a world as uncertain as that of one day cricket, we wager he would not have known that he would be bowling early in the semi-final against Australia. It was one of MSD’s surprise moves. It surprised everyone, definitely, as Dhoni had in the past turned to Raina, and not Kohli for part time bowling requirements. Kohli bowled a supremely inefficient over. And was never seen as a bowler again. Raina on the other hand, did not bowl at all even as most other bowlers (Ashwin aside) were put to the Aussie sword. Makes us wonder what that was all about then…
The Haidar award for the team of tragedy kings
Who else can it be but South Africa? The team could write a manual on how to exit the World Cup in an unexpected manner. They were conned by the rain rule in 1992, forgot to read it properly in 2003, misjudged opposition in 1996 and misjudged a crucial run in 1999. And well, this time around, actually ended up defending a score they did not make, thanks once again to that rain rule. Once again, they fought valorously till the very end. Once again, they won hearts. Once again, alas, the tears that flowed when it was all over were their own.
The Dosti award for best sportsmanship
Go right back to the first award we gave. Yep, to Grant Elliot taking New Zealand to victory against South Africa by putting Dale Steyn (the man many considered the best bowler in cricket today) to the sword. Well, guess what Elliot did after hitting the winning run? He walked over to the crestfallen (and also literally fallen) Dale Steyn and helped him up with a kind word and a friendly pat. In a tournament whose most popular ad revolved around celebrating the defeat of a rival, this was sportsmanship of the highest order.
The Dedh Ishqya Award for most lovable team
Yes, we loved the Afghans and their enthusiam. Yes, the Irish and Scotsmen had their moments. And we did feel bad to AB and his troops after the heart-wrenching defeat in the semi-finals, but in terms of quality of conduct and cricket, no team really came close to matching New Zealand. They applauded opponents, seemed ready to have a laugh, refused to lie down and die, and till the very end, refused to sledge their opponents. Cardus and Arlott would have approved and waxed eloquent. We will just ask Baz and his boys to take a bow. And to never change.