When Glenn Maxwell went largely unseen and the Narendra Modi Stadium went anticlimactically unheard – the surprisingly good World Cup final that no-one asked for

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If you’d asked anyone, at any point in the last year, how this ever-so-predictable World Cup would climax, they’d have all given exactly the same answer. It was always going to end with Welcome to the Jungle blaring out over the PA as Marnus Labuschagne punched the air with 58 off 110 balls to his name.

We don’t know who chose the music, commentators or plot for this final, but they were presumably hired at late notice without having paid much attention to what had been going on in the preceding weeks and years.

The sound

The match was played in front of 92,453 fans, most of whom appeared to have splashed out on a blue shirt, and this made for quite the atmosphere early on. (The size and enthusiasm of the crowd, not their attire.)

The loudest person was obviously Ravi Shastri, who delivered a personal tour de force at the toss, all tongue-in-cheek bombast and boxing match hyperbole. His extraordinary delivery succeeded in cracking both captains up. (Cummins held it together until he was hit by the totally unjustified level of drama imbued in the line, “Andy Pycroft, the match referee, who has a job on his hands today.”)

There may well be good reasons why the Enormodome named after India’s Prime Minister is not quite your favourite stadium, but the fact that India can fill a receptacle of this size for a cricket match is nevertheless something to be celebrated.

Crowds matter, crowds make matches feel like a big deal – and this was, after all, the World Cup final. We have no idea what form the Saudi T20 league will eventually take, but good luck buying these sorts of attendances if they’re planning on holding it in the Kingdom.

Much has been said about the incredible lack of sound when Indian wickets fell or when boundaries were hit by Australians, but when there is noise in an Indian ground, it is incredible. We went to an IPL match once and at one point our friend Dan literally shouted something directly into our ear at the top of his voice and we couldn’t hear him. He later told us that he had been saying: “This is loud.”

So the Ahmedabad crowd – more so early on – really gave this event its sense of occasion. It was worth drinking it in. When Rohit Sharma laced Mitchell Starc for six or whatever, the audible reaction was exceptional and needed no embellishment… except, perhaps, a few bars of Let’s Get It Started by The Black Eyed Peas, concluded someone.

Even worse sound

We assume it was the same someone who hired Matthew Hayden to do some commentary. Matthew Hayden with his habit of starting one sentence and finishing a different one. Matthew Hayden with all his extra words.

At one point Haydos (“The Big ‘Dos” he called himself at one point) identified some supposed theme in how the game was being played and observed, “That’s been the narration of the last five overs.”

We highlight this particular line only because it’s such a pure and perfect Haydenism. He’s like a thesaurus-reliant piece of homework or some shonky translation software. Narration? Why use a perfectly normal word that fits perfectly if you could instead use a semi-related one that doesn’t actually quite fit?

The plot

The overarching story of this World Cup had been tired and derivative and lacking in any real tension. India were winning every game and had massive home support and it was going to be a whole big thing for them.

If there was an outside chance of a plot twist, we all assumed that Australia’s batters would have to do something pretty special. Glenn Maxwell had hit the fastest World Cup hundred and that insane double hundred. Maybe it would be him.

Turns out those innings weren’t key preparation for the final because all he had to do was saunter in at the very end and wang a two. No, the really crucial knock from the group stages – the performance that really honed a method and truly foreshadowed what was to come – was when Marnus Labuschagne had nrrdled 46 off 74 balls against South Africa. That was what the final was all about: just sort of not getting out.


We feel quite bad for everyone who went, hoping to see an India win. These sartorially and emotionally blue people aren’t the BCCI, trying to shape both cricket and its storylines. They’re just fans, and tens of thousands of happy people in one place would surely have been preferable to the global black hole of disappointment we got instead.

But it was good to have a twist in the narrative. That in itself was refreshing and there were of course entertaining moments within that story arc too.

There were some Rohit Sharma shots. There was some high quality fielding. There was Virat Kohli morosely racking his brains as to how he might possibly be not out after being bowled. There was a pleasingly ambiguous first innings total that warranted baffled shrugs if anyone asked you whether it was enough. There was Travis Head. There was Travis Head’s look. There was Welcome to the Jungle.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. Unfortunately, for those of us who have been conditioned since birth to hate Australians, Travis Head seems like a modest, self-deprecating and thoroughly good egg.

  2. Perhaps Pakistan concluded the best chance at staving off an Indian world cup victory was helping the Australians find their form when they met in the group stage. Not that I actually believe that.

    I enjoyed the tournament (other than that I regard the exclusion of the West Indies–regardless of qualification criteria–as shameful). I was expecting a bunch of batting-practice roads, and was pleased that the matches had more variety than that.

    1. Yeah we enjoyed it too. The structure is obviously bad and people have complained about the lack of close matches, but it’s the only time all of cricket – most countries, most of the best Test and T20 players – are all in one place. Plus there were still dramatic upsets, even if they didn’t necessarily have a colossal impact on the outcome of the group stage – Afghanistan in particular really contributed a lot to this tournament, we feel.

      1. Yes, I very much enjoyed Afghanistan’s performance, and the Netherlands had their moments, too.

  3. I thought it was a shocker of a tournament personally. The good part was that it was cricket, and cricket is good. But the scheduling, the logistics, the tone, the outfields, the lack of close matches (particularly due to the rules & pitches favouring batsmen) and, of course, the format…so much of this tournament was really, really poor.

    1. As awful as the format is, it was the same as last time and there have also definitely been worse. To be honest, complaining about the lack of tension and the ridiculous way they’ve set it up is a traditional part of the experience.

      At the same time, there’s a game a day and quite often those games featured Afghanistan and quite often Afghanistan won. The Netherlands beat Bangladesh and South Africa too.

      We also don’t agree that the pitches favoured batters. Some did. Plenty didn’t. Just look at some of England’s results. Afghanistan defended 284. India defended 229. Australia defended 286.

      We’d argue it was a fairly typical World Cup. If you think it was really, really poor, we honestly don’t know which was the good one.

      1. I think the overall batting records of the tournament, many of which broke previous records, and the regularity in which scores over 350 were reached strongly suggest that there was a lean towards batsmen. Yes, of course, there were matches which went the other way, because different venues play differently. But this tournament had the highest batting average and strike-rate of any World Cup, continuing a trend that has been largely linear for four decades.

  4. The Big Dos definitely at one point during the chase said “at the interval, it was 50-50 in India’s favour”.

    Re: poor World Cups – With this format you are essentially always going to think its rubbish if you dont qualify (unless perhaps you come a good 5th) beacuse it means that you have to watch 2 weeks of your knocked out team trudging round a country. I can’t imagine West Indies, South Africa or Sri Lanka enjoyed 2019 much, it’s just we didn’t care. Editions with more knock out games are always more fun, whatever form the group stage take I hope we get QF’s in 2027.

    1. 2027 will be 14 teams in two groups of seven, top three into super six, then semis and final. So same number of knock-outs, just with more teams and an extra group stage, because that’s what we’re all asking for…

      1. Actually think the first bit might work out sort of okay before a big deceleration for that second group stage where it’ll take a whole bunch of matches to lose just a third of the remaining teams.

  5. I was there!

    That’s not strictly true, or at least, it is true if you are prepared to widen your definition of “there” a bit. I was in India for a week, during the league bit. I sat in the open courtyard of the hotel (in Kashipur, UP) watching whatever match was on the big screen, with waiters who were more interested in the match than with serving me, which I really liked. Extra spicy butter chicken (which sounds like an oxymoron but is what you have to do when the menu bears little resemblance to what you get) and Kingfisher beer, and cricket.

    At Delhi Airport, the x-ray security chap had a screen in front of him with grainy black-and-white images of pens and laptop cables, and an iPhone to the side of him with India’s match on. This might or might not constitute adequate security, but as with much in India, you get what you get. It’s best not to complain.

    Then it was Diwali, so we ate nine million calories of sugar (two sweets).

    Overall, it was ace. Most of the people in the hotel thought we were Australians, and it was pleasing to see their faces when we said we were English. I put this down to Englishmen being more nicer and stuff than Australians, and not to the England team being far less of a threat to India’s chances of winning the World Cup.

    1. Bert I was “there” too, in that I was in India and in host cities but not at the same time as matches were on. My flight there departed the UK midway through the England-Afghanistan match and my flight there left just after the England-South Africa match.
      I enjoyed the Indian guys drinking in a brewery in Bengaluru watching the Netherlands-South Africa match unfold.
      Did you find the many types of Kingfisher confusing as well? I couldn’t tell the difference between them and there wasn’t a lot of cost difference either.

  6. I find it baffling when people complain about the lack of close matches. How in the world can anyone guarantee a close match? You could make an excellent bowling track, increase the size of the outfield, give everyone plastic bats, and you would still find most matches are one-sided. Such is the nature of competition. Close matches are awesome precisely because they are rare.

  7. I engaged very little with this World Cup. It happens sometimes. More about me and my other commitments than the tournament.

    Actually, when I think about it, I have heavily engaged with a minority of Cricket World Cups – perhaps five or six of them. I just think of Cricket World Cups as something that is very much my thing because I engaged so avidly with the very first one.

    There is no universally satisfactory format. I can see pros and cons in the “single round robin” and the “two groups becoming a super six”, although the presence of more than 10 teams in the tournament makes the latter a marginal preference in my mind.

    Australia, over the decades, have been exceptional at doing just enough to get to the semis and then performing at their very best when it really matters. Since 1992, England have been utter shite at doing the first bit of that, 2019 excepted of course.

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