The World Cup final between underdogs New Zealand and hosts and favourites England was an exceptional end to a wonderfully competitive tournament. One might run out of superlatives to explain a game which got tied twice - first in regulation time, and then in a Super Over. Who would’ve thunk? England managed to win the game due to them leading on the boundary count-back, as per the stipulated rules issued by the ICC. The boundary count-back hurt New Zealand who must have not actively thought about the eventuality emerging, more so in a World Cup final, and batting accordingly, as the arbitrariness of the rule destroyed their hopes. While what’s done is done, many questions emerged about the fairness of the rules, even more so, as the team batting second automatically got to bat first in the Super Over. Getting to bat first in a Super Over seemed like a massive advantage which England enjoyed as scoreboard pressure mounted on New Zealand in the final Super Over. ESPN Cricinfo also pointed out that the fortuitous six runs awarded to England (when a throw got deflected off Ben Stokes’s bat onto the boundary) were an incorrect decision. Ben Stokes displayed elite level sportsmanship by apologising for the overthrow as soon as he got up, and seeing that he did not change his line of running, it was not an intentional occurrence. Elite umpire Simon Taufel, currently part of the MCC’s laws sub-committee, confirmed that five runs should have been awarded as per the rules. Man of the series and losing captain Kane Williamson was graceful and eloquent in his post-match interview, not once mentioning “luck” even though his side did not enjoy the rub of the green in crucial moments, which he termed as a “real shame.” A day later, New Zealand’s head coach Gary Stead, and Craig McMillan, batting coach, suggested the possibility of the two teams sharing the trophy would have been an ideal finish. The ICC needs to go back to the drawing board and revisit the rules so as to avoid a repeat of the farcical concerns which determined the outcome, in the future. At any rate, nothing should be taken away from the England players who managed to do the needful and finally land the cup for the first time in their cricketing history. The fact that England had their largest TV audience since the 2005 Ashes, after Sky opened the match beyond pay-per-view subscribers, suggests that there is still hope for the longer formats of the game, in a setting where T20 is increasingly becoming the most popular style of cricket. There was pandemonium in the stands at the end of the match, and many impressionable young children who might have been intrigued by the intensity of competition in the ODI format will become the stars of tomorrow. For New Zealand, who enjoyed a spectacular campaign and upset India in the semifinals, this was another case of so close, yet so far, as they had already lost the final in 2015. It could not have been closer, and another World Cup final like this will never happen again. I’d eat my hat if it did, and the odds are stacked in my direction.

For England, this victory was a vindication of their long-term planning and resolve after the humiliation they faced against New Zealand in 2015, and Eoin Morgan’s calm captaincy allowed the development process to flourish as the English completely changed gears to accommodate a more aggressive style of play. The Kiwis, except for the minor blip in the latter stages of the round-robin, proved that they have a never-say-die attitude, and possess a strong backbone for the future, especially in the bowling department. The Indians, need to shrug off the chokers tag now as they have lost in their meaningful knockout games in 2015, 2017’s Champions Trophy, as well as the current World Cup, after dominating thoroughly in the earlier stages, reflecting a lack of psychological strength to the carry the momentum. Australia were consummate professionals, and while their squad seemed to have operationalised a siege mentality after last year’s horror show with the ball tampering scandal, they could not capitalise on their superior showing in the round-robin, losing all phases of play in the semifinal. Pakistan beat both finalists in the group stage, and can take heart from their performances but must now build for the future with a view to undoing their tag of being too ‘mercurial.’ The South Africans completely wilted at the World Cup and the manner of some defeats was shocking. Bangladesh showed heart in the earlier stages but ran out of steam at the end. The West Indies beat Pakistan convincingly, and almost beat New Zealand, but were extremely disappointing elsewhere. Minnows Afghanistan could not win a single game, although they did come close to upsetting India and Pakistan.

Losing semi-finalists Rohit Sharma and David Warner top scored at the World Cup, with 648 (averaging 81) and 647 (averaging 71.88) respectively. Shakib al Hassan came third with 606 runs at the average of 86.57 and with 11 wickets in 8 games, proved to be the premier all-rounder at the tournament justifying his ranking as the topmost all rounder in ODI cricket. Mitchell Starc topped the bowling charts with 27 wickets, followed by Lockie Ferguson, with 21, and Jofra Archer, with 20. David Warner’s 166 against Bangladesh in the round-robin stage was the highest individual score, while Shaheen Shah Afridi bagged the best bowling figures of the tournament with 6/35 at an economy rate of 3.81 against Bangladesh, too. Joe Root, Faf du Plessis, and Johnny Bairstow topped the catching charts with 13, 10 and 9 catches, respectively, while the level of fielding was exceptional though-out.

While the ICC, in line with commercial considerations, billed this World Cup as an extravaganza of big hitting and the possibility of 500 being scored, the empirical evidence suggested that the tournament turned out to be exactly the opposite. Not even 400 was hit, while there were too many conventional style low scoring affairs. Crucial matches, including both semi-finals and the final, were closer to Test matches than T20, with 250 often becoming a par score and leading to high-pressure on the chasing teams. On the other hand, if the ICC chooses to persist with the round-robin stage at the next World Cup in India, due consideration needs to be given to ensuring that there are reserve days for matches abandoned due to rain, even though that seems like a logistical nightmare. Not many cricketing enthusiasts would have been disappointed with what was an exceptional World Cup - both in terms of its competitiveness, and the high level of entertainment that it provided. Until the next World Cup, there will be new threads to follow as bilateral series and franchise cricket will continue through the years, and with them, as the developmental processes of squads and individuals. Seven weeks of non-stop action, and an opportunity to go on a transitory retreat from mundane everyday life, this was a fantastic World Cup - as good as it gets.