Cricket, much like any other sport, acknowledges the hero, as it should. A lot less is reserved for the beaten. Opinions, if any, are formed about the unsung. The ink on the paper and the word online tries to uphold the one who “played well, but just couldn’t pull it together that day.”
But tributes glow in admiration for the winner. He is, after all, the ruler of the contest and the getter of deserving praise.
Moreover, it is said, history is written by the victorious.
But are we sure we represent all equally and fairly when raising a toast to the winner?
Wouldn’t it be a great disservice to the importance of the collective effort if you acknowledged the one who took the team over the line, but not that of the others who contributed to the victory?
Frankly, there’s no written law that attests providence to one over another in Cricket.
Had that been the case, it would’ve been an individual sport; with 1 individual taking on another, not a team-driven sport where the 11 are just as important.
Perhaps there couldn’t be a better filter to assess the impact of cricket being a team game where each individual plays his part other than T20Is.
What target the team chases rests on how poorly the lead bowler does his quota of 4 overs just as how many dropped chances went the others’ way. Easy targets become un-gettable if openers depart early.
Your fielding could be brilliant but too many extras could prove the difference.
Likewise, you could be on a cruise-mode all throughout but a mid-innings collapse could spoil it.
And often, it’s here in tight-run chases where T20 cricket truly comes into its own rewarding the fans’ worth of money and time.
Because in the game’ much-loved format, the swingy pendulum swings rather irrationally at times.
It’s here that uncertainty reigns supreme.
The fate of a contest is sealed by the one who handles pressure during the death overs. But must we ask ourselves- what about the one who had held onto an end?
Nearly half a decade back, when T20Is were popular but not an obsessive reality as one finds today, the 2016 T20 World Cup offered us a brilliant spectacle at the spiritual home of Indian Cricket- the Eden Gardens.
England and the West Indies battled it out in a slugfest to capture ultimate glory.
It was a classic instance where one incredible effort late in the innings made all the headlines, while another was afforded a lot less importance one might say.
Strangely, this was when the magnitude of contribution was far more than the winning strike and frankly speaking, the passage of time in which it came, far critical.
But unsurprisingly, much of the attention remained with the thrill-garnering feat.
When 34 runs come off 10 balls, featuring 4 back-to-back match-winning, and in the end, World Cup-winning sixes, then how can the feat not be special?
Moreover, how many send Ben Stokes in a face-palm expression on the ground, absolutely obliterated?
A strike rate that’s 340? Phew, think of it has an English player’s blood pressure reading.
Only a Carlos Brathwaite could have made a monster of an ask- 19 needed off the final 6- seem like a child’s play.
The massive strikes struck England akin to the infamous carpet-bombing by the Allies that downed Germany in WWII.
The first one flying over backward point, the second thudded over long-on, the third, an ill-timed one, bisecting the mid-off and long-off region and finally, the massive six over mid-wicket knocking the final nail in the English coffin.
Ian Bishop exclaimed the line that made him the legend, Carlos Brathwaite was born both in the form of commentary box genius and unforgettable 22-yard heroics.
Whether you were a Hindu, Muslim, Jain, a fan of Zarathustra, an ultra-orthodox jew from South Africa, A Protestant living in Dubai, a Parsi from the Vatican or an atheist from Vietnam, or the next Sachin in the Marine Drive, there was only one word on your lips and one alone, “The West Indies!”
England were felt for but soon forgotten.
As was one man whose innings perhaps played the sheet anchor role for the team that pop opened the champagne whilst everyone in the world was beginning to dance with uncontrollable excitement to the tune then- “Champion!”
And therefore must it be asked, how often and widely is that 85 off 66 balls remembered?
In fact, do we remember the author of an inning that singularly pumped over 50 percent of West Indies’ team total?
In firing 85 of West Indies’ 161, the highest individual knock from either side that unforgettable evening- featuring in addition to 2 sixes, the most boundaries hit by a batsman in the finals, 9- Marlon Samuels was perhaps every bit the hero as Carlos Brathwaite.
Yet, the cricket world and its crazed fans chose only one that evening.
Rather un-sensationally, it didn’t occur to us that this was not the first time Samuels, 39 today, but 35 then, had starred in a major World Cup final.
Rewind to 4 years back in time, and you’ll find that Marlon Samuels- perhaps the giant killer who’s not attributed much attention for his exploits- chose a different team and a different venue altogether to script history for the West Indies.
If the 2016 World T20 win was Windies beholding the coveted crown for the second time, at the back of Brathwaite and Samuels’ show, in 2012, they laid their hands onto it for the very first time.
But then, on October 7, 2012, at Colombo, there was but one hero. It wasn’t Barbados’ giant, but a 31-year-old Jamaican who made Sri Lanka kneel on their own turf.
What was to have been a West Indies v Sri Lanka final, the hosts featuring greats like Jayawardene, Sangakkara, and Dilshan, turned into Marlon Samuels versus 11 Sri Lankans as Sammy’s side tasted glory.
But it wasn’t before a colossal effort courtesy a 56-ball-78 from Samuels took the West Indies to 136, a knock where a man who’s strangely unregarded despite mastering several decisive innings had tasked the very bowlers most had feared.
The 13th over of the West Indian inning, at which stage the team were clearly in trouble, 48 for 2, was the very over where Samuels pushed Sri Lanka over the cliff, gunning the world’s most dangerous bowler of yorkers for 3 sixes, combining forces to pick 21 from 6 deliveries.
But this widely regarded Colombo knock, where Samuels fired 6 of the team’s 7 sixes earned far better and lavish treatment than one afforded at the end of Kolkata’s under-appreciated act.
The critical difference, we mustn’t forget, is that in both signature innings’, did Marlon Samuels arrive into the middle with his team tottering.
And that’s precisely where, upon greater deliberation you realize exists a massive and uncanny similarity.
In 2012, Samuels was in the middle in just the 2nd over with Gayle at the other end for a company, Charles dismissed in the very first over.
In 2016, too, Samuels was in the middle in just the 2nd over, facing the music with Gayle for company, Charles dismissed, yet again early.
While the Jamaican, famously known for being reticent and awkwardly uncommunicative stayed put for 70-odd minutes during the unlikeliest of circumstances in 2012, he’d dig in for an important span of 92-odd minutes in 2016, his team once again in deep trouble.
All that changed from 2012 to 2016 was an improvement of just 1 run.
In the previous edition, the Windies managed to put a run on the board before Charles was sent packing making way for the right-hander while in their second title win, West Indies had lost their first wicket with 0 on the board.
In that aspect, that Samuels continued to bat, holding to an end (not only) when the chips were down (but when they lacked bite altogether) and stayed put until the very end does call for greater recognition than is awarded in the light of the circumstance.
The cracking strokes toward the cover and square of the region, the latter being his favorite, on Willey and Stokes, the use of the feet against Rashid, and the only man to raise the bat when the heads were buried in pressure, isn’t Samuels every bit the Dark Knight the West Indies deserved but not the one we happened to celebrate?
What a travesty of injustice than to hail just the firepower but not the flair when both were equally responsible for neutralizing an opponent that was very much in the contest until the start of the final over.