The day before West Indies’ must-win, keeping-the-semifinal hopes alive fixture against New Zealand, Carlos Brathwaite made a customary visit to the Theatre of Dreams, just a good stone’s throw away from the cricket stadium. A staunch Manchester United supporter from childhood, he says the ground has always lifted his confidence.
In an interview last year to the club’s official magazine Inside United, he elaborated his love for the English club: “A club with a rich history of comebacks fits my narrative too. I have been on the brink several times and made comebacks. I had several ‘Fergie times in my career.” He was referring to his knock in 2016 World T20 final. he almost pulled off one against New Zealand too, only to be let down by teammates, prompting a Twitterati to comment: “He was living in Fergie era, but his teammates are in OGS time.”
Kane needs able support
Despite New Zealand’s unbeaten streak, media back home can’t shrug off their intrinsic cynicism. The New Zealand Herald strikes a striking parallel with the 1992 campaign, wherein they looked invulnerable before stooping to Pakistan in the semifinal. Here they go: “A captain single-handedly winning games and taking New Zealand deep into the tournament feels like 1992 all over again. Kane Williamson fits the Martin Crowe mould, elegant, determined batsman, waging lone battles. With his wonderfully-trimmed beard and gimlet eyes, he looks like a tragic hero in the making. Unless batting colleagues provide him support, his World Cup could end like Crowe’s.”
They can’t harp over the greasy fingers of their fielders. Wrote Wellington Post: “This should be the worst bunch of fielders the country has produced. In one of the matches, they’ll let the World Cup slip through their fingers.”
All this Mickey Mouse cricket
Even when West Indies were cruising, with Shimron Hetmyer and Chris Gayle putting the New Zealand bowlers to sword, Michael Holding had a sniff of the tragedy that was to unravel. In the same over Gayle struck Mitchell Santner for a brace of sixes, he was pleading caution. “Someone please tell them it’s a 50-over game. They are kicking along at more than six runs an over and I don’t mind if the next five are maiden overs. This is not Mickey Mouse, hide and seek cricket. You need to respect the good balls. The bad balls will come.” Vindicating his worst fears, West Indies batsmen committed hara-kiri, first Hetmyer, then Jason Holder and in the chaos, Gayle couldn’t but wilt. Mickey Mouse cricket, Holding kept fuming.
Cricket stops plane
World Cup matches have the power to bring countries to a standstill. In New Zealand, it even ensured that flights were delayed so that passengers on board could celebrate their team’s win. During the Black Caps’ tense World Cup encounter against WI, a fully boarded flight from Auckland was made to wait after passengers came up with a strange request: “Please don’t start the plane. We are watching NZ-WI match on live streaming and the Black Caps need just one wicket from 12 balls.” Kieran McAnulty, a New Zealand politician and MP in House of Representatives for the Labour Party, who was onboard, shared this story on Twitter. He tweeted, “My @FlyAirNZ flight was fully boarded, the plane loud from all the live streams. 12 balls left, 1 wicket needed. Please don’t start the plane. The @BLACKCAPS win! We all erupt in unison. Only then, amongst the cheers, did the plane start to move. It was a beautiful moment. #CWC19”
Bish you were here
Trent Boult plucked a stunner out of thin air and the Kiwis celebrated like manics. Carlos Brathwaite, the tragic hero, sank to his knees. And amid high drama, cricket commentary got its new Richie Benaud.
West Indies were one big hit away from an improbable victory and Brathwaite wheeled at a back-of-a-length delivery from Jimmy Neesham. For a good part of the ball’s journey towards the long-on boundary, pause prevailed. As the ball started its descent, Ian Bishop, behind the mic, rose to the occasion. “Down the ground but fielder underneath,” was followed by another mini pause… “And taken!” the former West Indies fast bowler-turned-commentator screamed. “New Zealand win,” he went on before pausing for a moment. “The dream is diminished for Carlos Brathwaite in Manchester.” Bishop paused again before saying: “The most agonising (pause) and deflating end to this contest.”
Three years ago, Bishop had asked the global audience to “remember the name”, as Brathwaite pulled off a heist in the World T20 final against England at Eden Gardens, hitting four consecutive sixes in the final over. At Old Trafford, Bishop was narrating Brathwaite’s glorious failure. And he did it with such grace and objectivity that ‘Ian Bishop’ became a Twitter trend. Current players prefer to keep commentators at arm’s length. But Bishop’s commentary wowed everybody including Stuart Broad. “That’s world class. Cricket at its best. Could listen to Ian Bishop all day long,” the England quick tweeted.