T20 World Cup: Kane Williamson’s men keep things simple and aim for another ICC trophy

In August this year, a terrific moment in sport took place. And that too, at the grandest of stages. 

At the stage, where the stakes are the highest. These were the Olympics. Athletes sweat hard in a four-year cycle in order to grab that half an inch from each other at the Games. There is not a second wasted in training and that one set process is repeated a zillion time. To win that coveted prize – the brightest of them all, the gold. 

But on 1 August, 2021, two high jumpers, belonging to two different countries, decided that they were not going to go by the rules and shared the gold with each other. They decided that they will not let rules pick a winner. Because as much as they are important in a sport, the fight of these two athletes had by now made the rules very irrelevant. The rules just could not decide the winner anymore.

So, Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi, brought together the human touch which is needed in sports, in moments like these. They tightly hugged each other before setting off for their individual celebrations. The rule took a beating that night and no one really complained. 

They could have gone for the sudden-death jump to decide the winner but one small query by Barshim solved the long puzzle: He asked if both of them could share the medal and the official said why not! 

It was easy. And it felt like a fair decision. There was nothing that could set these two athletes apart. There was not a winner or a loser on that night. So, two gold medals were given and there were two champions. And guess what no one really complained as no one must complain.

But not all sports have a fairytale ending like this. Ask Jimmy Neesham or Kane Williamson. In fact, ask any of the New Zealand players from that 2019 Word Cup final. That was the moment when the rules had a say over the human touch. Cricket was adamant to have one winner and one loser on that night. The silly laws had the last laugh and a winner was picked. But the human touch went missing.

As an outsider, it is easy to assume that a team led by Kane Williamson must have been over it by now. But guess what, sport is cruel equally to everyone and it hurts the same. Neesham, on the night of 14 July asked the budding cricketers to take up baking or something but not cricket. It’s cruel and it kills you at times, in ways that only a cricketer who lost the 2019 ODI World Cup final can tell.

BBC reporter Henry Moeran informed the world on Twitter, last night, that it was 850 days ago that Neesham had posted that tweet.

And there was a reason to mark the date yesterday. For life came full circle for Neesham and yet it didn’t. Another knock-out game in a World Cup and Neesham who bowled that decisive Super Over, some two years ago, was right in the middle of the pitch again. This is the end of the 16th over of the first semi-final of the T20 World Cup and Black Caps were still needing 57 off 24 balls. 

So far Daryl Mitchell, Devon Conway had only managed to drag the innings in the chase of 167. Conway soon left, Mitchell kept trying but there really wasn’t anything happening for New Zealand. It really felt like a long drag and that it would soon end in the same fashion.

Liam Livingstone had bowled what looked like a match-winning spell, England had done their homework right and bowled as per the matchups planned before. The execution was perfect. And NZ needed someone to break this template. Who knew who it will be? Who knew it will be Neesham. 

He stepped up. And smashed Chris Jordan for 23 in a single over, the 17th. Length outside off, a swipe over square leg for SIX. Fuller, under the bat, FOUR, down the ground. Slow, outside off, SIX. over long on, clearing only just.

This six looked like the replica from the 2019 World Cup final when one of Trent Boult’s foot touched the ropes while catching Ben Stokes, the hero of that game. This time it was Bairstow, his knees touching as the ball is still in hands and he had dropped the hero of this match, Neesham. The scenario had flipped.

Next over, Neesham smashed two more sixes before perishing while trying to hit one more. He was gone and he was thinking again: Take up baking or something, die fat and happy but never play cricket again. He was sitting frozen in the dugout. He thought his team will again fail to cross the line. The hurt of not finishing the game himself bit him hard inside. He knew it was still possible that the equation was well within reach and Mitchell would go on to unveil he is actually Grant Elliot from 2015. He will pull off two sixes and then finish it off in style to take his side into the final. 

We are assuming he knew 9 out 10 times, New Zealand would win from that situation but Neesham was still sitting the same way in the dugout when his colleagues celebrated, yelled, screamed. Numb, frozen, he was immovable. because he knew he had given England 1 out 10 possibility to snatch it back from his team again and he could not forgive himself for doing so.

The only guy apart from him who had not behaved like other Kiwis was Williamson. He was calm as ever. An unreal sense of calmness that goes well with a smile. He’s the one who has strung this side together. With no disrespect to this ridiculously brilliant team, they are made of some bits and pieces cricketers. They are not big stars, heroes back home but they are very tough, disciplined cricketers who do their homework properly, and believe, at all times, that they can do it. And more often than not, they pull it off. 

Neesham will surely come out of his thoughts. He does not have the luxury to be forever be lost in them.

NZ lost that 2019 World Cup final on 14th of July. They play this World Cup final on 15th of this month. There was that 15th when they woke up still in disbelief and a lump in their throat. But another 15th awaits them, when they can, metaphorically, make the sun rise again. 


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