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-Sankalp Harikrishnan.

For decades together now, the Aussies have firmly grasped their tag line of being the favourites. In spite of their glittering history, global domination in the T20 format always evaded them. Yet, the 2021 T20 World Cup was a totally different story. Questionable team selection, woeful injuries, banter regarding their lack of adaptability to the conditions and a poor run of form left the side in a beleaguered situation, heading into the grandest stage of the shortest format. But as the gritty lads from Down Under always do, Aaron Finch and his men embraced the challenges that were thrown at them, and conquered the world on enemy territory. After a month’s worth of heart-throbbing cricket, the men in yellow scripted a fairy tale that will be narrated for years to come. It was undoubtedly a tournament to reminisce.

The West-East Connect: England and Pakistan shine bright like diamonds, run out of steam

For England, the competition presented an opportunity of a lifetime. Ranked as one of the best T20 setups in the world, the ODI World Champions embarked on a mission for white ball supremacy. Led by a phenomenal think-tank in Eoin Morgan, the Englishmen romped towards gigantic victories to top their group. Unfortunately, untimely injuries for their marquee opener Jason Roy as well as top wicket-taker Tymal Mills cost them. England suffered back-to-back defeats in the group stage and then the semifinals, meaning that the side went back empty-handed after a tournament fondly remembered for Jos Buttler’s heroics. Pakistan, on the other hand, were in fine touch. Yet, they were always considered minnows in front of the rock-solid nations. In Babar Azam, the green brigade have found a gem of contrasting abilities – a thing of ethereal beauty with the bat; and a warrior with no fear on the field. With the spunk of a veteran, Babar played his cards perfectly. Helped by the likes of Matthew Hayden and Vernon Philander in the team management, Pakistan was the only undefeated side heading into the knockouts. In the aftermath of a magnificent knock from the ailing opener Mohammad Rizwan, Matthew Wade sent a dagger through the Pakistani hearts in the last-4 stage.

West Indies and India: Heroes of the past fall miserably short

The West Indies have built an unmatched legacy in the shortest format. The unassailable kings of the T20 World Cup, this tournament was a farewell to a generation of entertainers that made tons of young kids fall in love with the sport. The effervescent glow on the faces of the Windies when they play their cricket, is a sight to behold in itself. Landing in the group of death however, posed a mighty challenge in their path; and they couldn’t live up to their bidding. Managing a solitary victory, West Indies bid adieu to iconic duo of Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle in bitter-sweet fashion.

Speaking of farewells, the World Cup presented a peculiar challenge for Team India. It was the last T20I competition under the leadership of Virat Kohli. In a captaincy period filled with ups and downs, Kohli finally decided to hang up his leader’s boots in the format. In spite of the captain repeatedly stressing on fearless cricket, India’s first two games were starkly contrary. The men in blue looked a shadow of themselves, leading to despondent losses against New Zealand and Pakistan. Although Ravi Shastri and co. garnered resounding wins against the rest of the playing field, there was a sense of disappointment as the Indians failed to reach the knockout stage.

Kiwis fall agonisingly short yet again

Year in and year out, New Zealand manage to retain their ‘underdogs’ tag. What goes relatively unnoticed, is the team’s impeccable consistency over many years now. Kane Williamson has developed an empire of Kiwis cricket, and his contributions can never be tarnished. Finalists in the ODI format, winners in the greatest format of them all, and now finalists in the T20s. Post the era of Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori, so on and so forth, the Black Caps continue to succeed. Barring a fighting loss to Pakistan, Williamson’s men reached the final-4 unscathed. While Daryl Mitchell’s blitzkrieg sent England packing in the semifinal, another Mitchell shattered their hopes in the summit clash. But as Kane Williamson, who played an absolute blinder in Sunday’s final, always demanded of his brigade, the team accepted the loss with utmost grace and dignity.

Form is temporary, class is permanent!

If we were to pen down the number of doubts raised on Team Australia leading up to the World Cup, we could’ve written a novel in itself. So many inspiring stories, so many unsung heroes! David Warner – the man who has inspired southpaws all over the world to pick up the bat and smash the ball out of the park. For over a decade, he has sent chills down the spine of oppositions, and it was no different on this occasion. After being counted out and sent to the stands by IPL franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad, receiving the Player of the Tournament award was the glorious silver lining for the ageless Warner.

Apart from David Warner, Australia kept getting better and better overall. A couple of cameos from the rest of the batting order, the deadly fast bowling trio that has shone for years, the silent spin assassin Adam Zampa, and an other-worldly innings from the negatively critiqued Mitchell Marsh. Unlike the rest of the squads, the 5-time World Cup winners had unforgettable contributions from each and every one of their players.

Last but not the least, another master class from the Finch-Langer pairing. One of the most underrated coaches in the world, Justin Langer has been the epitome of patience and belief since the commencement of his stint. Putting aside the fiery nature of his playing days, Langer has evolved Aaron Finch into a collected leader; one who knows his players’ strengths and weaknesses, and backs them to the fullest. Referring to the term ‘white noise’ on hundreds of occasions, Langer has always believed in cutting off from the words that are spoken outside the four walls of the team room. It continues to pay off, and how! There’s no better way to describe the Australian victory than Marcus Stoinis said himself: this was a setup that loved each other through and through. Congratulations to Team Australia!


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