The bunting has been furled, the rubbish swept from the terraces, a lone empty Carib lager bottle rolls beneath the seats and tolls the end of the Cup.
The end of the Cup. At issue is whether that end is for four years, or for all time. The World Cup has thrown up everything that is shameless, corrupt and wrong about cricket. There has been poor organisation, over officious umpires, a bathetic final, vast stadiums as empty as Andre Nel’s skull. There has been a superfluity of lop-sided matches, one team so dominant that they deserved two victory celebrations, and dodgy pitches where the toss decided the game. There were awful performances from every team except the two finalists. Like a looming Caribbean squall there was also Mammon in the form of polyester-suited broadcasters and a schedule tailored to their needs. And behind the tragedy of Bob Woolmer, and the colonial farce of the Jamaican police investigation is the spectre, perhaps, of match-fixing in slithering malevolent form.
The ICC World Cup was abject. There were moments of greatness, sure – Malinga, Gilchrist, Hayden, Jayawardene all cemented their places in the Pantheon. And there was the comic genius of McGrath who was asked how he was feeling as Australia celebrated in the gloaming. “Bit dark at the moment” he deadpanned, “but loving every minute.”
ICC’s Malcolm Speed and Percy Sonn were booed on the podium, which says as much for the eyesight of those at the Kensington Oval as it does about their dissatisfaction with cricketer’s administrators. The fact that true greats like Everton Weekes and Garry Sobers were cheered at the same event shows how much Bajans and cup tourists love real cricket played with style, verve and honesty. Cricket in the West Indies is normally loud, joyous, colourful, life-affirming. Instead (again) the pallor of Lord’s was transplanted in the Caribbean.
Will world cricket be the same after this? Probably. There is a lack of adventure and passion within the people who run our game. We have the 20/20 World Cup later in the year, as if anybody cares except those with the attention span of a guppy. It will be moderately successful, probably well run, and maybe Australia will lose that one, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Me? I’d take the nag out the back and shoot it. Limited overs cricket has always had the fatal flaw of potential being decided within the first quarter of the match. This has happened in most of the matches played. There are formats that could alter this. 20/20 isn’t one of them.
Test cricket is the peak of cricket. In the 45 flaccid days it took to decide the winner of this tournament each team could have played up to eight test matches. That may be a stretch, but surely two groups of 5, a semi, then a final. And I venture to suggest that Astle, Warne, Martyn and Langer would not have retired on the eve of that kind of tournament.
Will New Zealand cricket be the same after this? Almost certainly. We are the test nation with the smallest available population to select from. The talent rises and stays put. There are very few people waiting to replace the under-performing Black Craps. Scottie Styris is the only player with any right to be proud of his performance. He was brilliant.
But in the end, even with a daisy cutter like Shane Bond we were not good enough. The moment Ross Taylor raised his bat to the ironic cheers of the crowd when he finally put bat on ball I felt the campaign being folded up like a table cloth. By the time Macca was at the crease I knew the only way New Zealand could have won the cup was if it was made of chocolate.
To end this blog with an anti-climax, just as the World Cup ended, I would like to thank everybody who wrote encouraging words to us. We think we performed pretty well over the tournament. Grant consumed every one of his microwave sausage rolls, and didn’t miss a ball bowled by Chris Martin in the entire tournament. Alex now has Jimmy Franklin wallpaper on his computer. And I am still chuckling about saying Paul Nixon has Tourette’s in my very first article, but then laughing at my own jokes is one of my main failings.
If only the ICC would laugh at theirs.