Cricket: Double Negative
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16 July 2019

It could not had ended any other way. It had to be this way. For a tournament that started off with its usual hits, the usual featherbeds and its casual 300s, it certainly was a move gutsy when it decided to chuck the pre-rehearsed playlist to the side and suddenly wanted to improvise, right in the middle of the gig, to throw up some very interesting results. For such a maverick move in the middle, a safe, tame and a predictable ending would not have any justice. Consequently it conjured up every possible weird, unthinkable, rule defying, trailblazing, shocking move it could think of to end in a way that wasn't just memorable. It was unprecedented and historic. And for all of that to happen in a game of cricket, the mathematical probability should hover barely over 0, the physics equivalent has to decree the Chaos princinple to collide with the Murphy's Law by the way of the Uncertainty Principle, the literary side should prepare its best of irony to join hands with Deus Ex Machina. Else, there is no other possible explanation for a ball that should have gone on to hit the stumps and run out the batsman in the dying moments of the game and decide the winner fair and square, hit the bat of the diving batsman instead and run off to the boundary to bring his team from certain death back into contention, the umpires miscalculating this unexpected twist and rule it incorrectly with none realizing the folly, the mistake suddenly forcing the match take a sharp turn to push it into sudden death zone, and even in those dying moments could not separate the victors from the vanquished, and so had to decide the eventual champion on a notion that is as arbitrary, obscure and outlandish as deciding the winner of a poetry contest on the number of steps he has taken to reach the auditorium. Whoever had said 'cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties' wouldn't have imagined this even in his wildest dreams when he coined it. Sad, tragic, and like all great tragedies, this is one for the ages.

In what was planned as the most democratic of formats, sans the pools and the associative crazy calculations, the first monkeywrench was thrown in by the weather. A few drizzles during the English Summer were as fair as DLS calculations - largely acceptable and cannot be contested. But when entires games were washed out altogether, the calculations quickly game back into play when easy matchups were voided forcing the tougher contests to become must win situations. And the craziness had just begun. The gloomy weather, touted as the bleakest and wettest in decades for the month of May, brought along with it a gradual slow down of the pitches, which immediately threw the entire fare into the retro gear, where anything over 240-250+ batting first became a "sure thing". ICC should surely be applauded here for restricting the tournament pool to just 10 teams, instead of throwing open the doors to Associate Nations, as this ensured that teams with decent enough bowling and with modest returns in the batting front can give a run for the "sure thing"s. Worst fears came realized when the mighty shook at the resolve of the minnows and thin margins sounded death knells to foregone conclusions. Right until the last league game, nothing was decided and the ones waiting in the wings waited with bated breaths for results to go their way. And as leagues moved into knock outs, again the weather intervened, the pitch intervened, the totals were small and the batsmen were waylaid but disciplined bowling. While one knockout knocked the wind out of a sure sail, the other blew away the contest with the ease of a breeze. And so it came down to the final match between two sides who, at one stage, looked like they had no business being in the big boys' leagues. Record showed that whoever won would win it for the first time, and whoever lost continued to remain the also ran. Everyone waxed eloquent about how history was going to be made regardless of the winner, but none could have imagined that history would be made alright, but it had nothing to do with the win nor the winner. For, for the first time in the history of the game, the winner couldn't gloat on the number of runs his side scored nor on the wickets the other side was defeated by.

Sure, one team lifted the cup. But the win would always have an asterisk in its superscript. Whoever talks of this final win henceforth could no longer stop at merely recounting the stats and the records of the game, they are obliged to rant or rave about the postscript of the game, they are decreed to take sides but without any malice or prejudice against the opponent, they are doomed to relive the final fateful moments of the game with some wistfulness. In the coming few decades, when cases for reparations would be reopened and historical injustices would be addressed with the objectivity of hindsight, 2019 would be declared as epochal year that had no losers, it just had two winners.

One evening, far into the future, during an MCC dinner event, where ex-players gather in tuxedos and recount about their fulfilling life and career in the exhibition and service of the game grabbing the first opportunity to express remorse at something they had done knowingly or unknowingly that would had pained their opponent, a designated dignitary from ICC is surely going to rise up, take the podium and talk about this game and declare that the 2019 World Cup had joint winners. History is rarely about stats and figures, history is about stories, ones that get passed through generations to become myths and legends. And this final game is as mythical as it is going to be legendary. The sport could not have asked for a better advertisement nor a more potent shot of adrenaline!

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