The final of the ICC Men’s World test cricket championship is to be staged from June 18-22. Any potential victory for New Zealand over India though could come with a very bittersweet tang.
The reason is obvious with what is transpiring right now. And scenario-wise, there’s a type of parallel to what the All Blacks faced before the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, where, if they had won, it would have placed them among the most significant party-poopers in international sporting history. Perhaps even at the top- ahead of events like Germany winning 7-1 over the hosts, and football-mad, Brazil in a semi-final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
In that 1995 rugby final, especially once Nelson Mandela put on a Springbok jersey, the All Blacks were not just up against a rugby team. They were up against the awakening of a nation, seeking to erase memories of the ugly one of before. A sports match had suddenly become a pivotal point in christening the new South Africa following on from Mandela’s election as President in 1994.
The All Blacks had the phenomenon of the almost-invincible Jonah Lomu and a re-invigorated team with some other fresh faces. And they were playing exhilarating rugby. A lot of the team came down with illness the day before the match. It meant the Springboks were now slight favourites, and even more so when Nelson Mandela came out to greet the teams wearing the ‘6’ jersey of the their captain, Francois Pienaar. And once the low flyover of a 747 with ‘Good luck, Springboks’ on its underside had happened, the slight favourites had moved to pretty strong favourites.
That the All Blacks actually took the game into extra-time was a huge credit to them- they were out on their feet; exhausted and incapacitated by sickness. Adrenalin had got them to within an inches of winning. It was just about the most courageous All Blacks’ performance in their esteemed history.
We may not have quite appreciated it at the time, but losing that match became much more significant than winning it- it was an occasion that proved the power and unifying nature of sport. After all, if it hadn’t been big, Hollywood wouldn’t have bothered with their movie.
Getting to the Black Caps and the cricket- it seems like in this era with big finals that their stars just won’t align. The 2019 World Cup final had about a half dozen instances where a 50-50 tipping point in our favour would have hugely increased our odds of victory. That darned Super schmuper over would never have seen the light of that day.
Fast forward to the end of this summer, and we were all looking forward to the test cricket final being at the home of the sport, Lords, and the occasion of a lifetime for cricket in NZ; a potential crowning glory for a generational team. However, bubble safety requirements saw that off and a re-location to the thorny Rose Bowl at Southampton.
All that is now inconsequential. Currently there is a humanitarian disaster with the latest wave of Covid sweeping through and bringing death and heartbreak throughout India. It is crippling the country. On this, we could wonder how on earth a sporting final of any variety may even have a smattering of importance right now. Really anywhere on the planet.
As a day-by-day proposition, the test championship final could even be in jeopardy- at least regarding a start on the nominated date. It would be foolish to rule out a postponement with the Covid situation as it is in India. And who is to say the UK may not be beset by a new outbreak before mid-June? Covid is the ultimate snubber of decency and predictability.
Our cricketers are on a hiding to nothing. If the championship final does take place on time and they do win, you’d think it would be a muted celebration. in addition, they will almost look like villains of the piece for beating a country where cricket is a religion and that would be looking for any solace imaginable.
We do have an amazingly good national men’s cricket team who would be deserving of the title of world champions in any of the three forms of the game, but as far as the fickle fortune stakes go, they appear fated to be well out of luck
And right now, the way the pandemic has decimated India, my personal belief is that it’s right to really not give that much of a monkey’s about the result of any event, no matter how significant, and no matter how much we may want to win it.
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