Should a World Cup final be decided on a rule so buried in the fine print that New Zealand captain Kane Williamson did not even know about it when he lost the final on the field? “Rules are rules,” said Williamson with typical self-control. Much of the cricketing world was more abrasive. From Gautam Gambhir, a parliamentarian now and a cricketer once, to his former teammate in two successful World Cup campaigns Yuvraj Singh; from Australian Dean Jones, part of the team that won the first World Cup outside England, to his compatriot Brett Lee who won it in 2003; from Scott Styris to Dion Nash, former New Zealand stars both, to Rohit Sharma, this World Cup’s highest run-getter, they all got on social media to voice their displeasure on the boundary count rule.
Heck, it even got former internationals turned pundits Sanjay Manjrekar and Michael Vaughan on the same page. (Well, almost, since Vaughan has said he has been blocked by Manjrekar on Twitter).
“Don’t understand how the game of such proportions, the #CWC19Final, is finally decided on who scored the most boundaries. A ridiculous rule @ICC. Should have been a tie. I want to congratulate both @BLACKCAPS & @englandcricket on playing out a nail biting Final (sic),” said Gambhir.
“I’ve got to say that it’s a horrible way to decide the winner. This rule has to change,” said Lee, after New Zealand lost at Lord’s on Sunday because they hit fewer boundaries than England—which was the only way to decide the winners after 100 overs and a Super Over couldn’t break the deadlock.
Nash and Styris went a step further. “I feel really empty, and a bit cheated. Clearly, it’s ridiculous… really absurd. It’s about as random as tossing a coin,” Nash was quoted as saying in stuff.co.nz. And minutes after Jos Buttler ran out Martin Guptill in the Super Over, Styris tweeted: “Nice work @icc…you are a joke!!!”
Manjrekar and Vaughan felt there should not have been one winner but two because no one lost. The sentiment was shared by Mathews and Bishan Singh Bedi, the former India captain, selector and legendary left-arm spinner even urging the International Cricket Council (ICC) to do what not many give it credit for: think.
Britain’s Olympic hockey gold medallist Samantha Quek called the boundary-count rule the “crappest rule in sport” and Jones asked why, if the rain rule looks at runs and wickets, should a final be decided on boundaries.
Ditto said Kyle Mills, part of the New Zealand squad that lost the 2015 World Cup final to Australia. “The real measure that was used for generations was least amount of wickets lost. So why have we changed that? I guess the game of cricket is about runs and wickets and when the runs are tied, it’d be ideal then to take it back to how many wickets were lost,” he said.
Yuvraj agreed with Gambhir, but like Nash added the caveat that rules are rules. That is what Sharma wants amended. “Some rules in cricket definitely needs (sic) a serious look in,” said the man who scored 648 runs this World Cup. For Shane Warne the solution lay in having as many Super Overs till the deadlock was broken. One Twitter handle said, going forward, the winners in such situations can be decided by how good their beards looked.
English writers though have pointed out that winning by more boundaries felt like a vindication of the aggressive cricket Eoin Morgan’s men play, how they have re-tooled their game from when against New Zealand in Wellington in 2015 they looked like a team playing an ODI wearing wellingtons. That day, New Zealand needed 12.2 overs to beat England.
Like with the farcical rain rule that calculated that South Africa needed 22 off one ball back in the 1992 World Cup (with England being the beneficiary), maybe this too will change before the 2023 edition begins in India. Till then let what Kane Williamson— that understated, calm, leader of men and ambassador for sport—said in another context be the final words on this: “Unfortunately, that is the game we play, these things happen from time to time.”