Bowlers bowl their heart out and secure many victories for their side and take wickets at crucial intervals. But many times, they are nowhere to be seen when the Man of the Match award is given out.
In India’s match against Bangladesh, their batting eventually fell short of about 20 runs. Virat Kohli who has been in good form this World Cup even though he hasn’t managed to convert his half-centuries into centuries, uncharacteristically got out in the 20s. Hardik Pandya, who has been in good nick and is counted upon to add testosterone to the scoring rate, fell for a duck. Rishab Pant played a crucial knock and MS Dhoni perished trying to add another six to his coterie before the sun went down. If not for Mustafizur Rahman’s 5 wicket haul, the score looked like it would race to 350.
In a previous match, Bangladesh chased down 321 against the West Indies at a canter with almost 9 overs to spare. No longer the minnows they once were and having already crushed India’s dreams in a World Cup in 2007, it was obvious that Bangladesh wouldn’t go down quietly. Although their chase was never allowed to take off, with wickets falling at crucial intervals, most Indian fans were at the edge of their seats when Mohammad Saifuddin began playing some delightful strokes and a match that was all but lost suddenly came alive. Hardik Pandya, who returned to the dressing room with a duck to his name didn’t finish the match empty handed. His 3 wicket haul included the crucial wickets of Soumya Sarkar, Liton Das and the most crucial of them all – Shakib Al Hasan.
But with Saifuddin still playing fearlessly, striking audacious shots, the match was by no means over. On air, Sourav Ganguly was saying all the Bangladeshi tail enders needed to do was give the strike to Saifuddin if they were to have any hope of wrenching out a victory from imminent defeat.
It was Jasprit Bumrah and his toe crushers, one of which also sent Vijay Shankar crashing out of the World Cup, that sealed the deal for India. The maestro of death bowling came to the fore and took out Rubel Hossain and Mustafizur Rahman in two consecutive deliveries as a Saifuddin watched helplessly at the other end.
To quickly summarize – Mustafizur Rahman’s 5 wicket haul helped restrict the Indian team score to 315, at least 20 runs short of what it could have been.
Hardik Pandya’s crucial strikes and Jasprit Bumrah’s final blows sealed the deal for India. If Bangladesh had managed to cobble a couple of partnerships, the match would have surely gone down to the wire.
Finally, who gets Man of the Match– centurion Rohit Sharma.
With all due credit to Rohit Sharma, he has been walking on water all through this World Cup. He has scored 4 centuries and doesn’t look like he is done yet. But without Bumrah and Pandya, his century might have gone in vain. In India’s match against West Indies, which they won a lot more convincingly, Mohammad Shami took a crucial 4 wicket haul, ending West Indies World Cup campaign.
Again, who was awarded the Man of the Match– Virat Kohli for his 72.
In the previous match against Afghanistan, where they got dangerously close to upsetting India, Shami became only the second Indian too take a hat-trick in a World Cup. This time, he lost the Man of the Match award to Bumrah but yet, it was felt he was more deserving of it.
What exactly qualifies for the Man of the Match award?
A performance that overshadows everything else?
A pivotal knock, or crucial wickets?
A stunning catch or run-out that changed the fortunes of a match?
Two things that we are seeing less of in cricket with regards to Man of the Match awards are:
- The award being shared by two players
- The award going to a player from the losing side, who played exceptionally well
When seen through that lens, in the West Indies and New Zealand match, Carlos Braitwaite who played a scintillating knock to almost take West Indies over the line in one of the most thrilling matches of this World Cup, should have shared the Man of the Match award with Kane Williamson, who scored 148 and got the award. Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah could have shared the award for their crucial contributions in the match against Bangladesh.
Over the years, especially with the advent of T20, the game has skewed heavily towards the batsmen. People are okay with a switch hit but raise a hue and cry when R Ashwin Mankaded Jos Buttler. Grounds are getting smaller, pitches flatter, all in a bid to get more runs on the score board and keep the fans happy. Even when it comes to awarding the Man of the Match, a batsman’s role takes precedence of that of a bowler’s.
I think the term Man of the Match is restricting in its own right. Some matches have one stand out performer and many have more than one player making a valuable contribution. When it is restricted to one player, it suddenly becomes subjective and the pressure to name one player results in debatable decisions.
Maybe every match should have the leeway for the award to be awarded to more than one player if each of them played a pivotal role in the match. And it can be renamed ‘Valuable Contributions’ instead of merely ‘Man of the Match’. Or, have an online poll and allow fans to decide. There is no one stop solution, but one thing is for sure – bowlers need a lot more recognition for the role they play in their teams.