Z to A of ICC World T20: Madness of the 27-day tournament recapped with 26 letters - Firstpost
Firstpost

Z to A of ICC World T20: Madness of the 27-day tournament recapped with 26 letters


Carlos Braithwaite lofted that shot into the stands and the West Indies team ran onto the field while Ben Stokes buried his face in his hands.

The dramatic final delivery of the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 was a fitting end to a dramatic and thoroughly entertaining championship.

It's tough to encapsulate the roller-coaster ride of a tournament in a few words, but we bravely attempted to describe the 27-day excitement in 26 letters. In true tribute to the topsy-turvy T20 format, here's Z to A of the ICC World T20 2016. (Alliteration intended.)

Z – Zadran(s)

The Afghanistan team did not lack in spunk, enthusiasm and Zadrans, featuring not one, not two but four (Shapoor Zadran, Dawlat Zadran, Noor Ali Zadran, Najibullah Zadran) of them.
And the Z-factors were crucial to their campaign — Najibullah had their highest batting average at 51, topped with the Man of the Match performance that powered them to a win over eventual champions West Indies. Noor Ali was among their highest run-getters. Dawlat and Shapoor, the strapping fast bowling duo who had made their mark at the 2015 World Cup, were among the most popular players with the crowds.

Afghanistan's Samiullah Shenwari celebrates with Mohammad Shahzad, captain Asghar Stanikzai and Najibullah Zadran.

Afghanistan's Samiullah Shenwari celebrates with Mohammad Shahzad, captain Asghar Stanikzai and Najibullah Zadran.

Y – Yorkers, and the art of death bowling in T20

Jasprit Bumrah got it right against Bangladesh, Wahab Riaz failed at it spectacularly against Steve Smith, Chris Jordan did it for England against Afghanistan, though his teammate Ben Stokes couldn't quite get it in the final, while South Africa almost completely forgot it. Death bowling is a martial arts form when it comes to T20 cricket, and yorkers are its sucker-punch. You win when you get it right as we saw with England (till the final), you don't, then goodbye (as we saw with England in the final).

X – X-Factor

Many believe there is no such thing as an X-factor in sports. But in cricket, we call them "glorious uncertainty". This World T20, one of the biggest win factors was also the one quite out of anyone's control — the toss. As Dhoni said after the match against West Indies, it was a bad toss to lose.
Fun fact: Since the start of the Super 10s, the team winning the toss has won 17 out of 22 matches, a massive 77 per cent. Of course, it's no coincidence then that Darren Sammy has won the toss in every one of his last 10 T20I matches.

W – Women's World T20

Holding the Women's World T20 along with the men's, with several games being held on the same day at the same venue turned out be a masterstroke. While women's sports don't need to be compared to men's sports to justify themselves, women's cricket does need more exposure. Be it seeing the West Indian women celebrate with the men after their triumph or the Indian women staying back despite their loss to see the 'Men in Blue' play Pakistan, one hopes the women's games get the audience they deserve.

V – Venue issues

Security concerns. Legal tangles. Ticketing mess. The venues for the ICC World T20 were far from ready for the big event. The drama over Dharamsala hosting the India-Pakistan game, lack of tickets at main stadiums, the conflict over Kotla hosting the semi-final were among the many factors that contributed to the mismanagement of the tournament, as Peter Miller pointed out in an earlier Firstpost article.

U – Usain Bolt

Turns out the fastest man alive is just like us when it comes to cricket. Usain Bolt heartily cheered for the West Indies team like everyone else, sending them video messages before matches and indulging in a shirtless 'Champion' dance after the victory.

T – Taskin and the task of being Bangladesh at ICC events

The case of Taskin Ahmed sums up Bangladesh's campaign at most ICC events — huge potential, tapped, but not quite at the top. No one expected the Asia Cup runners-up to reach the final, not even the ICC who scheduled their first qualifier on 9 March in Dharamsala, mere days after the Asia Cup final on 6 March. Bangladesh qualified for the main draw, but ICC's suspension of two of their main bowlers — Taskin Ahmed and Arafat Sunny — was a body blow that moved their captain to tears and their fans to conspiracy theories. Yet, the 'Tigers' damn near got India out in the most nail-biting match of the tournament.
PS: Several fans on social media have got it in their 'heads' that Taskin would have been the key to beat India, hence was suspended. Who knows?

S – Steve Smith's shot side of the stumps

Australia captain Steve Smith had a forgettable tournament by his standards, yet he manages to find a place in this list on the virtue of that one shot. Leave aside the brain fade that Wahab Riaz suffered and admire the innovation — Smith took guard outside off-stump and continued inching aside, exposing all three stumps and then dispatched Wahab's extreme wide ball in full video-game mode for a boundary. Watch it to believe it!

R – Run out to Remember One ball left, two runs needed to win. Hardik Pandya bowls outside off. Batsman Shuvgata Hom is beaten but runs, non-striker Mustafizur Rahman responds, wicketkeeper MS Dhoni collects the balls and runs. It's a race between the two and MSD, a tracer bullet if ever there was one, reaches first. India win and we get a perfect photo of the run-out of the decade. Years later, we will remember this run-out alongside the Jonty Rhodes and Gary Pratt and other fielding efforts which changed the game. Watch:

Q – Qualifiers

Here's a shout out to Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Afghanistan, Scotland, Bangladesh, Netherlands, Oman and Ireland. The quintessential underdogs who featured in the qualifiers, and with their performances, quickly proved that they deserve more cricket exposure. We hope the lack of matches doesn't quell their talents.

P – Proteas misfire, again

If there's one thing we have learnt over the years at various ICC world events it's this - there's no Protea Fire without choke. Entire books can be written on South Africa's failure to make it to the final front and the 2016 World T20 was just another chapter. By now, even the word 'choke' is a joke as is apparently their ability to perform at ICC events.

O – Oldies who? Nehra and co prove age is just an number 

In the second game of the Super 10 stage, the ageless (but definitely old) Shahid Afridi was the star against Bangladesh. This was followed by 36-year-old Chris Gayle scoring an unbeaten century against England, while Tillakratne Dilshan, touching 40, single-handedly took Sri Lanka home against Afghanistan. But the biggest surprise package was the almost 37-year-old Ashish Nehraji, India's breakthrough bowler in almost every match. And though he took only five wickets, he was economical and was even included in ICC's Team of the Tournament. And you said Twenty20 was a young man's game?

N – New Zealand – eternal bridesmaids

Always the bridesmaids, the nicest and most spirited ones, but never the bride (again). New Zealand did a South Africa in this World T20 by choking at the end of what was a brilliant cricketing campaign that pitted them as favorites (again). Beating hosts India in the opener and making it to the semi-finals against England unbeaten, the Kiwis, lead by the astute Kane Williamson, stumbled at the cusp once again, losing the semis from a strong position (again).

M – Marlon Samuels vs the world

West Indies's finals' hero doesn’t seem to like Shane Warne. Or Ben Stokes. Or press conferences. Or on-field banter. While his stupendous performance deserves a salute, his volatile attitude makes him that rare Caribbean cricketer you don't have an affinity for.

L – Last over antics

How many matches were won in the final six balls? About eight, including the big final and second semi-final. Pandya's last over against Bangladesh took India home by one run, Abbott's last over against England that could not take South Africa home, Kohli's last over against West Indies that ended India's hopes, Stokes' last over against...you get the drift.
The shortest format of the game lived up to its billing, giving us several thrilling finishes that were great for the game but not so good for our blood pressure and nails.

K – Kohli, enough said.

No, seriously, there is nothing more to say about Virat Kohli.

J – Joe Root, the Virat Kohli of England.

Or is he Kevin Pietersen again? But on a serious note, he has been instrumental in England's resurgence, translating his Test class to T20 performance. Despite ending up as the runner-up, this World T20 will be one of the highlights of Root's career. His 54 off 36 balls in the final ensured England reached a decent score, and an equally stunning 83 off 44 balls against South Africa helped them chase down a record 230. The part-time off-break bowler even took two wickets in the final, including the big one of Chris Gayle.

I – India’s record against Pakistan

What was that song ? Mauka, Mauka again? Yeah, another Mauka to maintain the perfect winning World Cup streak against Pakistan. The venue changed from Dharamsala to Kolkata, the rain reduced the game to 18 overs, Sami and Amir struck early, but cometh the hour, cometh Virat Kohli. The streak now stands at 11-0 in World Cups and World T20s, and each of those 11 matches have given us moments to remember.

H – Hair-raising hairstyles

Move over Malinga, there were several contenders for the craziest hairdo in this World T20. From Andre Russell’s coloured mop of hair that bore a strong resemblance to an actual mop to Dilshan's red highlights that did nothing to hide his age, Pandya's typical Indian-youth mohawk to Mithali Raj’s flamboyant streaks. Before the tournament, it was Dhoni and hairstylist Sapna Bhanavi who promised outrageous in an ad, but he ended up with completely (and suspiciously) jet black hair.

G – Ganguly and the changed face of Eden Gardens

Anyone who has watched Indian cricket for long enough will know — rain before a match at Kolkata's Eden Gardens means no match thanks to waterlogging. But surprise surprise, the all-important India vs Pakistan match was hardly affected despite a whole day of rain. And it's thanks in no small measure to CAB chief Sourav Ganguly. The stadium now sports better equipment, including zero-point grass cutters, super-soppers, an inflatable new pitch cover and a better drainage system.

F – Ferris, the journalist who took a ‘bullet’ for others 

What is with MS Dhoni and journalists these days? After the semi-final loss to West Indies, Australian journalist Samuel Ferris "took the bullet" and asked the dreaded R-word question and was subjected to Dhoni's 'Cool' side. In characteristic style, Dhoni decided to 'have some fun' and called Ferris up on the dais to sit next to him. The tables were turned, the interviewer was on the hot seat now and MSD did the grilling. What happened next was on every news channel for days after.

E – England’s resurgence story

In early 2015,  England lost to Bangladesh and were knocked out of the World Cup in Australia. Thirteen months later, they were runners-up in the World T20. And though they could not cross the final hurdle, their resurgence — with a new management, coaching staff and young players who know their roles and back their selection with performance — will give them a lot of hope and heart.

D – Duckworth Lewis heartbreak for Indian women

Going by their form and familiarity with the conditions, the Indian women were among the favorites to win their maiden title. However, the Mithali Raj-led unit lost several close games and were knocked out in the group stages. Their loss to arch-rivals Pakistan in a rain-curtailed game by a mere two runs hit the hardest as the women had turned the match around and were on the verge of victory. In the end, it all came down to rain and Messers Duckworth and Lewis.

C – Champion (or Chaampiun)

There are two types of cricket fans - the ones that wanted West Indies to win for sporting reasons and others who wanted West Indies to lose, just to avoid listening to Champion on loop. Dwayne 'DJ' Bravo's song, that became the unofficial anthem of the team, went from viral to a ear virus that spread to Brian Lara in Pakistan and Usain Bolt in Jamaica, to the Afghans and English players doing the hand-pumping step on field. The song may have started as an excellent marketing move, but became the perfect tune for the Caribbean cricketers — both teams went home as 'chaampiyuns'!

West Indies celebrated in style, dancing to Bravo's 'Champion'.

West Indies celebrated in style, dancing to Bravo's 'Champion'.

B – Ben, Braithwaite and the boundaries

Ben Stokes is the bowler, Carlos Braithwaite is the batsmen. Six balls to go, 19 runs needed.
Boom. Bam. Blast. Bang.
Braithwaite has hit England's best bet for four sixes and West Indies have won the World T20 with two balls to spare.
Ben Stokes cannot believe it and squats down in tears. Braithwaite cannot believe it and punches the air as his team mates run into the ground.
Four balls and four boundaries and a bombastic win.

A – Afghanistan

The biggest winners of the 2016 World T20 were not West Indies or Bravo's singing career, but an associate team from Asia. As coach Inzamam ul-Haq and countless Twitter users pointed out, Afghanistan were the only team who could beat eventual champions West Indies, because (as Mohammad Nabi summed it up) they have had enough of winning the hearts of cricket fans. The team, which  has constantly impressed in the last World Cup, qualifiers and Super 10 stages, have more than announced their arrival, they have showed their intent and cricket will be changed, for good, when Afghanistan's exuberance will meet experience.

First Published On : Apr 5, 2016 17:28 IST

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