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The Light Roller

India won the T20 World Cup, but who were the real winners?

Our correspondent hands out his awards for the tournament - to Gulbadin Naib, the ICC's fixtures planners, and others

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
03-Jul-2024
BCCI secretary Jay Shah and ICC cheif Greg Barclay get out of the way for India to celebrate their World Cup win on the podium, India vs South Africa, T20 World Cup final, Bridgetown, Barbados, June 29, 2024

If you didn't root for India to win the World Cup, do you even care about the game's future?  •  Phillip Brown/Getty Images

After a glorious month of scrappy batting and occasional upsets on the sticky wickets of cricket's wild western frontiers, the T20 World Cup finished in the most beautiful way possible - with a win for the sponsors, TV broadcasters and marketing guys (and 1.4bn Indians, of course). Truly, the romance of it all was something to behold.
Anyway, now the applause has died down and the winners have stopped posing for pictures with Jay Shah, it's time to come together for the serious business of handing out the Light Roller's awards.
Best laid plans
Pakistan went into the World Cup having prepared meticulously. They had played more T20Is in 2024 than any of the other teams involved. They had coaxed Mohammad Amir and Imad Wasim out of retirement - adding to their formidable knowledge bank of conditions from their time at the CPL. Sure, they had a new coach taking charge a few days from the start of the tournament, but this is Pakistan, right? Things should be a little crazy.
Then they dropped their bundle against USA and not even qudrat ka nizam could save them. Never mind all that CPL knowhow, they never even made it to the Caribbean.
Pluckiest underdogs
Puff out your chest, put on your angriest face and scream into the sky: "USA! USA! USA!" In another magical moment for the sponsors, TV broadcasters and marketing guys, the inspired collection of cricketing waifs and strays bona fide stars-and-stripes heroes who represent the world's biggest economy snuck through to the Super Eight thanks to memorable wins over Canada and Pakistan, with a little helping hand from the Florida weather. The ICC's American dream - i.e. cash, and big piles of it - remains alive and well.
Luckiest overdogs
Talking of feel-good stories… India broke their 13-year drought at World Cups, after which Rohit Sharma planted a weirdly undersized flagpole on the Kensington Oval outfield. All it took, after several near-misses, was the right combination of coach, captain and mindset. Okay, and a schedule where all their games started at the same time didn't hurt. Yep, and playing their first three fixtures at the same venue (having had a warm-up match there, too). And sure, knowing where their semi-final would be several months in advance. That might have been a teensy bit useful.
But still, Goliath smashed each and every David put in his path, no question about it. What's that? No, we don't have any more angles on the SKY catch, sorry.
Best element
No sport loves its conditions more than cricket - be that the effect of rain, cloud cover or sun (which it's possible to have too much of). But you didn't need to tune in for long to observe which meteorological phenomenon was the star of the show in the Caribbean. What direction were the crosswinds coming from? How strong was the gale? Could either team use it to their advantage? England seemingly hired Kieron Pollard explicitly to tell them which way the wind was blowing - not that it helped them as they dropped their title for the second World Cup running.
Growing-the-game-(sort-of) award
Jomboy was on commentary. Drake was posting about his bets (on India, obviously). Chuck from Boynton Beach was getting involved. The West Indies as a whole felt reinvigorated by the efforts of Rovman Powell's charismatic team, though they only went as far in the tournament as Team USA. Which doesn't make up for the fact that attendances were seemingly affected by the ICC's own price-gouging (particularly in New York), and the early start times to cater for TV audiences in the subcontinent. As they don't quite say on Mandalore: "This is the cricket way."
Star allrounder
Hardik Pandya was good, Andre Russell had his moments. But really, who could top the efforts of USA No. 11 Saurabh Netravalkar, the Super Over superstar of the win over Pakistan? Sure, he batted twice in the tournament and made zero runs. But this guy not only does a tidy job with his left-arm swing opening the bowling, he's a qualified computer engineer who can play the ukulele and also belt out a tune. Could do with working on his catching, though.
Best theatrical performance
Afghanistan's final Super Eight encounter with Bangladesh contained more tension and drama than an episode of CSI: St Vincent. Rashid Khan chewing out team-mate Karim Janat for declining a second run was pure Hollywood star-vehicle material, while the regular rain interruptions kept the plot twisting and turning until the end. But the Oscar, of course, has to go to Gulbadin Naib, whose sudden attack of cramp just before the rain started to fall harked back to Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and the golden age of silent movies. Was he following team orders? Was there a shooter on the grassy knoll? Perhaps we'll never know.
Life-comes-at-you-fast award
One week you're openly musing about the possibility of helping to engineer your oldest rival's exit from the tournament by rigging the net run rate in your group - and shame on you, desperate scoundrels of the media, for faithfully transcribing the words as they came out of Josh Hazlewood's mouth - the next you're pinning your hopes on Bangladesh doing you an NRR favour in the final game of the Super Eight. Advance Australia fair? Not this time.
Undisputed champions in their field
Did you see it coming? Perhaps you imagined that a run of eight wins in a row, several of them by close margins, had put an end to the curse. Perhaps facing the might of India in the final would free them up, giving a free pass to have a crack and damn the consequences. Perhaps you thought they were safe, thanks to the Heinrich Manoeuvre… But never mind the c-word, character is destiny and South Africa know things that we don't. Like how to stuff a requirement of 30 from 30 balls with six wickets in hand.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick