David doesn’t beat Goliath every day. In the Biblical story, one shot from David’s sling found its mark, the latter’s forehead, and the unequal battle was over in a jiffy. His courage was exceptional but his victory was purely accidental. If we are logical and dispassionate we know this does not happen every day. But yes, we love our fantasies. We expect the underdog to win every time he is up against the top dog. Logic and hard analyses of ground realities do not make our world interesting, imagination does.
Now shift to cricket. Strip the ancient story off all connotations, replace David and Goliath with Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and view Thursday’s match as another version of the great battle. The minnows were taking on the three-time finalists and the current World Twenty20 champions. We knew the massive odds Afghanistan were up against. Their spectacular showing so far in the tournament assured them no victory in the contest. Yet one rooted for them, secretly hoping that they would pull off a surprise.
David didn’t beat Goliath but gave a good account of himself by putting up a brave fight. Afghanistan set a competitive target of 154, the second highest by an Associate against a top team, and Sri Lanka overhauled it with only an over and a few balls to spare.
If the latter thought it would be a walk in the park, the minnows ensured it won’t be so. Take away Dilshan’s 83 off 56 balls — it was not a fluent knock by any stretch. Did you notice how many times he was beaten outside the off-stump in the initial overs? It was almost an equal battle.
Had Afghanistan been less sloppy on the field and had a few more runs on the board — captain Asghar Stanikzai said after the end of their inning that they have fallen short by 15 runs — the result would have been different. Their batting shone through despite the lack of experience; the bowling, particularly the spin attack, was impressive.
The 17-year-old Rashid Khan was a revelation; he was clearly the best spinner on either side. Sri Lanka, to be frank, appeared the weaker side at certain points. They are rusty at several joints and need much more to do in the Super10s of the World T20.
Coming back to the original story and watching how the match unfolded, the fantasy of the underdog winning the big battle appears to be no fantasy at all. Twenty20 cricket is a format designed to throw surprises. One whirlwind knock from a batsman and a brilliant spell of bowling from any player can upset any biggie on any given day. A sling shot at the right target is enough to break formidable reputations in no time. Call it beauty or travesty of the game, T20 can be a great leveller. Perhaps one blinder of a knock is what separates David and Goliath, not anything else, in this format.
Afghanistan fought a good battle but didn’t get that one shot at the forehead right. Better luck next time guys!