KOLKATA For a format that encourages big hits to maximise entertainment value, it was perhaps fitting that the World Twenty20 final culminated with Carlos Brathwaite blasting four sixes in a row to win it for West Indies.
When the 27-year-old Barbadian's final shot soared into the stands at a raucous Eden Gardens on Sunday, the undeniable attraction of cricket's youngest competition was given a thumping seal of approval with a breathtaking closing sequence.
"It was a stunning end to a stunning tournament that showcased the best of the modern game," former England captain Mike Atherton wrote of his countrymen's heartbreaking loss in his Times column on Monday.
The success of the tournament will convince many that the brevity and action-packed nature of Twenty20 cricket make it the only feasible format able to break new ground and gatecrash multi-sports events such as the Olympics.
The sixth edition of the fast-paced extravaganza was far from flawless, however.
Delays in issuing tickets and the uncertainty over venues in Delhi, which left it late to get the necessary administrative paperwork in order, and Dharamsala, deemed unsafe by Pakistan, added unwanted tension to preparations.
Doubt over Pakistan's participation lingered for months before foreign ministries and the organisers managed to cajole the 2009 champions into agreeing to play by shifting the Super 10 contest against India from Dharamsala to Kolkata.
Once they eventually took to the pitch, Pakistan may have wished that negotiations had broken down completely and they had stayed at home for the entire tournament.
They managed to win just one of their four Group 2 matches before beating a hasty retreat with Shahid Afridi subsequently relinquishing his T20 captaincy in the aftermath of a dismal campaign.
Australia fared little better in a competition that continues to frustrate them, failing to reach the semi-finals despite boasting of one of the most explosive batting line-ups in world cricket.
Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand peaked early, winning all of their group matches to cruise into the last four, where they surrendered meekly to an unpredictable England side.
A transitional Sri Lanka's lack of resources ensured their title defence was doomed to fail, while hosts India were dealt a knockout blow by the big-hitting West Indies in the other semi-final, despite the brilliance of a talismanic Virat Kohli.
Player-of-the-tournament Kohli and his English counterpart Joe Root proved that it was possible to score freely without completely sacrificing aesthetics, even though brute strength prevailed in the end.
After three weeks of intrigue and excitement, the summit clash pitted Twenty20 pioneers England, who introduced the format to the world in 2003, against its most free-spirited practitioners.
Sunday's showdown was a classic encounter and after 39.4 overs of plot twists and shifts in momentum, the men from the Caribbean triumphed in a tournament they too, almost boycotted over a rumbling pay dispute with their board.
England's fearless brand of cricket was rewarded by a surprising run to the final, completing a remarkable turnaround in white-ball fortunes after an embarrassing loss to Bangladesh at last year's 50-overs World Cup led to an early flight home.
There was also a tinge of sadness about South Africa's habitual ability to grab defeat from the jaws of victory at global competitions that culminated in another group stage exit.
Australia will host the next edition of the tournament in 2020 after it shifts from a two-year cycle to a quadrennial one, meaning the illustrious trio of AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn are likely to never play in a World Twenty20 again.
While it seems like an agonisingly long wait for the next instalment to arrive, lasting memories of the one just finished will remain etched in the minds of those who witnessed them for years to come.
The sight of a hamstrung Angelo Mathews going above and beyond a captain's call of duty in a heroic yet futile attempt to rescue Sri Lanka's cause against England will probably be regarded as one of the tournament's more defining moments.
Equally as dramatic was India's group stage victory over Bangladesh, when the hosts took three wickets off the last three balls to record a one-run win as their opponents lost discipline when a historic triumph was within easy reach.
Everything, however, paled in comparison to Brathwaite's blaze of boundaries in the last four deliveries to ensure West Indies became the first team to win the title twice.
"Anyone who was here witnessed one of the great T20 matches. It was won, it was lost, then won, then lost. No side really deserved to lose it," former England captain Nasser Hussain wrote in his Daily Mail column.
(Editing by John O'Brien)
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Published Date: Apr 04, 2016 04:04 pm | Updated Date: Apr 04, 2016 04:04 pm