Last night I kept waking up and seeing Stokes face after he bowled that final ball.
I thought I had to debrief myself or else I would sleep badly again tonight! I can't have that.
So this post may be muddled and make no sense to you. It may jump around from random thought to random thought. Just let me go with it.
I am not used to feeling sympathy for England when they lose in cricket. I am used to celebrating their losses. I know exactly the day my disdain for them started and yesterday I believe it finally ended.
It started in 2009 (Yes, I know. A long time to hold a grudge). It started when Strauss refused Smith a runner in the 2009 ICC Champions Trophy, saying he didn't think Smith was in enough pain to merit a runner. I wonder if he knew Smith at all, this was the man who batted previously with a broken hand... I reckon he knew what pain was, and if he said he was in pain from cramping, I reckon he was. Strauss said "It was a fitness issue" and "he wasn't cramping that badly," How did he know HOW MUCH PAIN he was in? Smith had just been fielding and then batting for over 3 hours!! It was certainly NOT a fitness issue!
"Cramping is to some extent a preparation thing and to a certain extent a conditioning thing and I didn't feel that he merited having a runner at that stage. My personal view is that you shouldn't get a runner, full stop. I didn't feel he was cramping that badly — he was still able to run.''
The decision was essentially up to him. Yes, he was within his rights to deny it, but if there is one thing that really p's me off its a lack of sportsmanship. This was that. It's like a bowler stumping the non-striking end batsman if he is out of his crease, when he bowls. You are within your rights to stump him... but it's unsportsmanlike to do it without a warning. Case in point, I think it was Kapil Dev against us in the first World Cup we were back in, in 92. Peter Kirsten wasn't on strike but he kept moving out of his crease, but I think Dev warned him two or three times, and then stumped him. I can't be angry with that. The guy was overly gracious in his warnings and Kirsten got what he deserved then.
After the runner incident England just plummeted to the depths of my list where Kevin Pietersen has kept them.
It's important that my feelings about the team is not misunderstood and taken to the nation. It's a bit like how I feel about the South African Provincial Sharks Team in the Super 15 (or however many it is now), they are just a team that can play quite dirty, but it doesn't mean I dislike everyone from KZN. If that were true, I would be in trouble since I have family there! :)
Anywaaayyyy..... this brings me to the last year. I first started getting to know this current English team during the ODI WC in 2015. I remember thinking that these guys seemed different to their other teams, and emotionally I actually felt some unfamiliar sympathy for them going out so early.
Then when they came to SA on tour just before this WC, of course I still wanted us to beat the pants off them, but I was so impressed by them. They were fighters and committed, they never gave up. There was the odd bit of rash disappointment from individuals when things didn't go their way but they are a young bunch and just need the experience and tools to deal with that. It would be unnatural to be without emotion in disappointment. Let's face it, all teams respond this way now and again!
Now today.. last night, waking up every hour with Stokes on his haunches after the game, reminded me of how our guys sat on the field after their defeat in last years WC game. The team was heartbroken, so were we.. how Stokes must have felt. The weight on his shoulders.
It was difficult reading the comments of some on the English Cricket FB page that criticised the captain and the death bowling. I mean, just before that, was this:
I have come to the conclusion that there are fickle fans of their teams everywhere... it would seem that Stokes would be the natural bowler to take the final over. Some days it works.... and some days it doesn't. Yesterday Braithewaite just wanted it over, and he did it. I hope Stokes doesn't take this too much to heart but rather chalks it up to experience. A tough day at the office - but we all have those.
It was a fantastic final. I was supporting West Indies to win, and after hearing of their lack of support from home, I am even happier for them. I had to make a choice last night though... I could choose to just keep England on the bottom of my list because "that's how it's always been for me" or I could say "It's a new team. It's a new day. I can't tar this team with the brush of their predecessors", and move on.
I decided to go with the latter. HOWEVER, make no mistake, I will still savour beating them more than any other team and hate losing to them more than any other team - but the motivation behind that now is different. It's based more on a type of 'sibling rivalry' ... rather than a desire to see them lose. I know we are going to see some great cricket from this team and I look forward to it.
Sometimes going with things, no matter what they are, just because it's always been that way, doesn't make it right.
New beginnings are good too.