The lessons that New Zealand taught us


So near yet so far for Kane Williamson and New Zealand.

by Rex Clementine

Many cricket teams in 1980s were quick to grab Allan Border’s Australian style of play. It was something to the tune of play hard but fair. What it didn’t say was that the Aussies were prepared to stretch the limits. Decades later it became intolerable and last year’s ball tampering saga in South Africa exposed them well and truly. When it comes to fair-play, you will not find a better place than Australia. Their cricket team of course weren’t representing the values that the ordinary Australian citizens cherished. With the common man up in arms - desisting foul play by their cricketers - Cricket Australia was left with no alternative but to clear up their house. Steve Smith and David Warner, two of the finest batsmen to wear the Baggy Green ended up with one year bans and possibly will never lead their country again. The buck didn’t stop there. Their long standing CEO James Sutherland had to step down as well.

Nobody wants to play these days like the Aussies. But everyone is full of awe at the game the New Zealanders play. Almost all neutral supporters who watched the World Cup final wanted Kane Williamson’s side win. And they were denied victory by the most silliest of margins.

However, they won the admiration of cricket fans all over the world. All Sri Lankans who love the great game want their sons to lead like Williamson. We want our politicians to be as honest as Martin Guptill. We want our public servants who strike more often than Trent Boult to put up with unfair decisions like Ross Taylor, who was wrongly give out in the final but walked off without creating a stir.

That incident where Guptill’s throw ricocheted off a diving Ben Stokes’ bat and went to the boundary had it happened to a Sri Lankan side, you and me will be complaining for the next ten years. Our cricketers would have cried foul, our administrators would have taken match officials to task while our Sports Minister would have travelled all the way to Dubai, where the ICC headquarters is, asking the final to be replayed. Wimal Weerawansa would have wasted no time in blaming a foreign conspiracy while our President would have threatened bungling match officials with death penalty.

But what a magnanimous sporting gesture it was by the Kiwis. Not just Sri Lanka, had it happened to any other team, all eleven players of the fielding side would have given the umpires a torrid time. But how well Williamson handled the situation. Only he spoke to umpire Kumar Dharmasena and he wasn’t at the face of the match official. He was in pensive mood unable to believe New Zealand’s luck.

What happened moments before that has not got the attention of the fans. Trent Boult completed a good catch under the Pelham Warner Stand but lost balance and appeared to have touched the boundary triangle. The video evidence wasn’t conclusive. It would have taken some ten camera angles to come to a conclusion. But Guptill, who was backing up had seen that the catch wasn’t legal and immediately signalled six runs. People could hardly believe what they were seeing. The batsman was not Adil Rashid. It was Ben Stokes. Such honesty won New Zealand many admirers.

Talking of honesty and setting examples, can there be a better trend setter than Sri Lanka Cricket itself. A few years back, the ‘A’ team was returning home from West Indies and one player, famous for troubles even during his school days, tried to force the cabin door open at 30,000 feet. The public wanted Sri Lanka Cricket to hold a fair inquiry after British Airways made a complaint. SLC did conduct an inquiry but the outcome was hilarious. They claimed that the player had a sickness called somnambulism or to put it plainly sleepwalking. Ramith Rambukwella is his name. Nishantha Ranatunga was not only capable of giving unfit players a clean bill of health but he could do vice-versa too. Today he is shedding copious amounts of tears at the state of Sri Lankan cricket. The rot, it must be told, started with him.

New Zealand were undone by some atrocious umpiring decisions, tournament rules and bad luck. At the post match media briefing, everyone expected Williamson to point fingers at some of these aspects. Yet, he blamed no one. He put up a brave front and only said that New Zealand had finished second best to England.

Every time we lost a World Cup final, we have blamed it on something or the other. In 2007 it was Adam Gilchrist’s squash ball. In 2011, there was this conspiracy theory of then government wanting the team to lose to India. We have been never gracious in defeat. There’s plenty for us to learn from New Zealand.

And after all that, England all-rounder Ben Stokes, who ended New Zealand’s dreams in the World Cup final has been shortlisted for the title of New Zealander of the Year. Stokes was born in Christchurch and moved to England at the age of 12.


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