When Ben Stokes began his run up for the first ball of his final over on Sunday, it looked like England were 6 balls away from winning the World Twenty20 Final. 19 runs from 6 balls seemed an all but impossible task for the West Indies. Four balls later, the West Indies had made history by becoming the first team to become two-time winners of the tournament courtesy of 4 consecutive sixes from Carlos Brathwaite.
To hit a 6 at any point is a great achievement. To hit 4 in a row is fantastic. To do so in such a high pressure situation… I don’t think there is a word to do such a feat justice! This is a moment for the history books.
And yet when I glanced at Twitter, all I could see were comments saying that Ben Stokes had bottled it, that he had lost England the game.
I’m no cricket expert, but watching that last over from Stokes, I didn’t think that the balls were that bad. I’m sure if he could have them back he would try to do something different, but they did not look like the kind of balls that were destined to be hit over the boundary. We’ve just been lucky enough to witness moment of sporting greatness, yet all we’re doing is battering someone who was clearly gutted at his part in the event.
But why was Ben Stokes getting all the blame? Substitute fielder Sam Billings dropped Dwayne Bravo at 73-3, with the ball eventually crossing the boundary for 4 runs. Bravo was eventually caught out for 35, but not before hitting the first 6 of the West Indies innings. But despite this, England could have still won if they had been able to reach a higher total themselves. England lost three of their top order batsmen for a combined 6 runs. As captain Eoin Morgan said post match “We’re all in this together… We enjoy our wins and suffer with our losses.”
That said, to focus on England’s loss is to take away from the West Indies’ achievement. The headline here should be the great finish, whereas we make it an English failure. And this isn’t a one-off. When it comes to British sport, we are more inclined to negativity and finding someone to blame than we are enjoying the great spectacle.
England’s 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign was certainly below expectations, becoming the first hosts to exit the tournament at the group stage following losses to Wales and Australia. With 77 minutes gone and trailing 25-28 against Wales, captain Chris Robshaw chose to kick a penalty to the corner rather than take the attempt at goal. He chose to go for the win rather than the draw. England won the line-out but were promptly driven into touch and that was the Welsh victory confirmed. It was a positive move from Robshaw and showed the trust he had in his team, but he took a lot of abuse from rugby ‘fans’ who blamed him for the loss. He was also heavily blamed for a couple of losses earlier in his captaincy after similar decisions at late penalties also did not pay off.
When the England football team were placed in the same group as Italy and Uruguay, FA chairman Greg Dyke was seen to be making a cut-throat gesture. Rather than coming out and suggesting that playing such difficult opponents would bring the best out of Roy Hodgson’s team, he was effectively suggesting that the team stood no chance. Not really the vote of confidence you want from the man at the top.
And lets not even get started on when a questionable refereeing decision affects the result!
Players thrive on the support of the fans, if the fans are going focus on the negatives, how can they be giving the players the added boost that they deserve. It is understandable to be disappointed in a result, but there does not always need to be someone to blame, often the better team won. Look at the positives and the event will be so much better.
Rather than focusing on a gutting loss for England, think instead where this team was a year ago as they were dumped out of the 50 over 2015 Cricket World Cup. They have come so far in a short space of time and, with the right support, will only get better.
So lets all try to stay positive moving forward, all we can ask is that the players out there representing us do the very best they can. And if it doesn’t work out, let’s get behind them and get ready to cheer them on again the next time out.
As the classic Monty Python song goes: Always look on the bright side of life…