KOLKATA – Yesterday nineteen runs were required off the last over of a World Twenty20 final at Eden Gardens, and a rookie in his eighth T20 international stunned the world by doing it. If that was impressive, wait until you listen to him talk about it. To call it brute hitting would be grave injustice. This was the coolest execution you can imagine in such pressure.
It is a typical hot and humid Kolkata afternoon. We are at the Victoria Memorial for the official photo shoot of the champions. Darren Sammy and Stafanie Taylor, the respective captains of the men’s and women’s champions, are dressed in maroon blazers despite the heat. It has been a long night of partying, and they are losing further fluids by sweating under the mid-day sun. We get five minutes with Brathwaite, but in those five minutes, he shows how clear and smart his thinking was, and how well he reads the game. He displays great sportsmanship, too, in feeling for Ben Stokes, and in respecting Chris Jordan’s bowling. He is, in the truest sense, a “champiyaan”.
Can you talk us through the 19th over? Especially the dot at the end.
[We] Pretty much knew Chris’ [Jordan] plan. He bowls very good yorkers at the death. For that whole over he wanted to hit that length. [It] forces you to hit through to the off side, to the bigger side of the field. I was trying to get a scoop over extra cover or mid-off to get a boundary and take some pressure off Marlon [Samuels], who was in the 80s by then. It wasn’t to be. Off the last ball of the 19th over, I was hoping Marlon could do the job and get a boundary and make it a little easier in the last, but Chris bowled an excellent yorker.
First ball of the last over…
I know in between the overs – we always believe – Marlon came down to me and told me, “Whatever happens, I am running. Just swing for the hills.” Get bat on ball, make sure we use every delivery to get the maximum amount of runs we can get at that point of time.
First ball of the last over was a bit down the leg side. I played a little pick-up. I actually looked a little frantically, thinking that I had hit it to the big side. Fortunately, it went over fine leg, which is one of the shorter sides. Marlon was running. I knew there was still a big task ahead.
Second ball went over long-on. I think he just missed his mark, Ben Stokes. I actually had to bend to get under the ball, but I knew I had to swing. When I looked up and saw that it went for six, there was a little more feeling of ecstasy, knowing we were a little closer to home, but you can’t take anything for granted.
Seven off four, again told Marlon, bat on ball and we run. The third one was the best of the lot. It was also a mis-hit, but I think he [Stokes] executed it well. I just got it over, kind of spooned it over long-off. And then, I knew the West Indies are world champions, but I didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself. One run, and I knew I had to swing for the hills, because again, the field was coming in. I knew if I got it past the field, we were world champions. I watched the ball again, and made good contact. Even though the last ball went for six, until the guys told me four sixes is amazing [I didn’t know where the ball had ended up]. I knew that it went over mid-on, knew we were world champions, and then I don’t know…The feeling that got over me, I can’t explain it.
Did you feel for a moment that you should just deflect it for a single?
Last over, in a final, it is always difficult to bring it too far down, but after having done all the hardwork and getting three sixes in three balls, one run off three balls was needed, and I didn’t want to leave it too late. The field was in. In those situations, you can probably try to get a single, someone gets run out, then another good ball is bowled, and we may have a Super Over. My thing was just to get the ball over the infield. Thankfully, it went for six.
You stood so still, kept going into the crease. Were you expecting just yorkers and knew he wouldn’t bowl the slower ball or the bouncer?
I backed myself for the length slower ball. If that was the case, I would have backed myself to hit to the long side. But yeah, I knew it was basically two plans he could have used, which was basically the yorker, either wide or straight, or a slower ball into the wicket to try to hit me to the long side. So I was prepared. And from watching the guys scoring runs in the tournament – I like to watch a lot of cricket – those guys stay really still, and those guys react well, and I just wanted to stay still, forget the crowd, forget the occasion, and just concentrate on watching the ball. Thankfully, it worked last night.
Did the field set give it away to you that you were going to get just the yorkers?
In the last over, there are only two plans he could have had – slower balls into the wicket, or full and straight. Knowing England, they pride themselves on being a good death-bowling team, especially with the yorkers. It was very important to get away the first one or two balls and put the pressure back on him. Get the target down to a manageable score. But yeah, the two plans were going to be into the wicket, forcing me to hit into the big side, or yorkers. We don’t think he hit the mark as well as he would have liked to, but I still want to give God thanks for helping me to execute my plan the way I wanted to and get the balls over the boundary.
You didn’t nearly hit them as hard as you can, did you?
I miscued the third one. But a 65-metre six and a 94-metre six are still six runs.
You have had a night of celebrations. The morning after, do you feel a little for Ben Stokes?
Yes, Ben Stokes is an absolute legend in his own right. You shouldn’t forget what he has done for England in the past couple of months. Cricket is a cruel game, and a lot of people can be on him, but just remember Stuart Broad was hit for six sixes by Yuvraj [Singh], and his career has gone on the up ever since. To Ben, tough luck last night, commiserations to you and the England team. Wish he has a long and successful career ahead of him. (cricinfo)