Tuesday, May 18, 2010

England celebrate emphatic Twenty20 triumph

England, still the spiritual home of cricket, had not won a limited overs world title till Sunday evening. Since then, this island's cricketing fraternity has not stopped celebrating Paul Collingwood-led team's most emphatic triumph in the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies.

For decades, English cricket lovers have moaned about the marginalisation of the game in Britain's sports media, as football increasingly hogged the headlines. But in a number of UK papers on Monday, cricket was not merely the banner heading in the sports section, but the main photo feature on the front page. "England lift the World Cup!" was the caption in the Guardian, with an apologetic note in brackets saying, "OK, it's only Twenty20".

In its sports segment, the Guardian blared: "England conquer the world." The Daily Telegraph thundered: "England fearless and peerless." In an accompanying tribute to the former Zimbabwean batsman and England's coach Andy Flower, it declared: "Flower power fuels England rise."

It's a patently heady moment even for a country tied to tradition, where Test cricket still matters most, without ignoring the entertainment value of shorter varieties. With the Gillette Cup in the 1960s, England introduced one-day cricket. Earlier this decade, they launched Twenty20. Then came WT20 in 2007.

All these years it rankled at Lord's, property of cricket's founders, the Marylebone Cricket Club, which also houses the offices of the England Cricket Board, that half a century of innovation had been to no avail. Three times - in 1979, 1987 and 1992 - England qualified for World Cup final, but without success. In the past decade, they seemed to simply lack the aptitude for the instant stuff.

Flower, a brilliant wielder of the willow, has been in-charge for a little over a year. The results are beginning to show. Last summer, England regained the Ashes, over the winter it drew a Test series in South Africa and in the corresponding period began demonstrating greater purpose in over-limit cricket. These were no mean achievements, for they coincided with the infrequent availability and then retirement of Andrew Flintoff and a relative lack of form and long absences of Kevin Pietersen, both talismanic as well as invaluable components in the squad.

Adjudged the player of the World T20, Pietersen ominously remarked: "This team is hungry for success, we want to win."

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