Commonwealth Games T20 Cricket: Mandhana helps India beat Pakistan | Commonwealth Games 2022

So India won. But there is always more to cricket than scores, fours, sixes and a wicket. You have to be an expert in history, sociology and politics to understand all the subtext when they play Pakistan, although the state of relations between the two nations means that the meeting now only takes place in tournaments.

The planners always make sure to pair them up in the group stages, be it the World Cup, Champions Cup, World T20 or the Commonwealth Games. This match, which was lit up by Smriti Mandhana’s brilliant batting, had more going on underneath it than even most of these.

These games are part of the ICC’s attempt to convince the International Olympic Committee to include cricket in the Olympics. There are a billion and a half good reasons to do so, and about 20 million more in the diaspora. India’s relative lack of success in other sports (they have won 10 gold medals in 120 years of Olympic competition) has held the Games back in this market. But the individual athletes who won gold medals recently, rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra and javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, have become so famous after that that the IOC has a pretty clear idea of ​​what it would be worth if they could break into it.

Which is one of the reasons it recently agreed to hold its next annual session in Mumbai. The introduction of cricket will also do so. The problem is that sports aren’t all that well-suited to the current goals of gaming. It is complex and obscure, impenetrable to outsiders, and often seems ridiculous even to those in the know. Tokyo, Paris, and Los Angeles will require large, complex, single-use establishments that the locals won’t benefit much from. And that brings with it a huge number of players who all need to be accommodated in the athletes’ village, but very few of whom actually have a chance to win the thing.

Moreover, the schedule is already so congested that it is not clear whether the ICC can even guarantee that its star players will even be free to compete in it. This is why the Commonwealth Games only hosts a women’s tournament. There just wasn’t room in the men’s program to accommodate that. And the last thing the IOC needs when trying to sell the game at the Olympics is a tournament that their top players miss out on because it’s so low on their priority list. Oh yeah, and it’s completely at the mercy of the weather, so if it rains, the TV companies have nothing to show.

Sneh Rana dismissed Pakistan's Muneeba Ali and Bismah Maroof in one over.
Sneh Rana dismissed Pakistan’s Muneeba Ali and Bismah Maroof in one over. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

The flip side, as any right-thinking person knows, is that cricket is the greatest sport and ranks somewhere between the Mona Lisa and the moon landing among the pinnacles of human achievement.

India vs Pakistan, the match of the tournament, brought out some of the best and worst of it. The start was postponed twice due to rain and for a while it looked like they might struggle to play at all. It finally cleared 35 minutes after the scheduled start which meant the innings was reduced to 18 overs each, the powerplay reduced to five overs and three bowlers from each team could bowl four overs each and two others could bowl three . Just try to fit all of this into a concise 30-second video to explain the laws to a new audience. Not that they needed that at Edgbaston.

There were a lot of people here, but it wasn’t the sell-out crowd that the organizers had promised. Midway through the day they offered everyone free entry for the second match of the day as well, between Australia and Barbados, a sensible response to the fact that sales weren’t going as well as they could have been. They sent out a press release midway through, saying the Games had broken the record for total ticket sales at a women’s tournament, but the stadium still wasn’t half full. Rumor has it that the people who bought tickets then didn’t come, maybe because they didn’t realize it was a women’s match, maybe because it clashed with other events.

Fool them more. Because it was a brilliant match, with more than enough action in it to make up for the fact that India won it so easily. Pakistan’s innings turned in the ninth over bowled by Sne Rana. They were one to none after nine balls, but Muneeba Ali and Bismah Maroof rebuilt the innings with a 50-run partnership.

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Rana then dismissed them both in one over, Maroof lbw, Ali caught and bowled. A couple of run outs later in the innings meant Pakistan never really rallied and they lost five wickets in the last eight deliveries trying to take their total past a hundred.

Mandhana then bowled a spectacular power shot, fours to all corners, sixes down the ground and over mid-wicket. Her 50 came from 31 balls and the match was all but over when she reached it. In the stands they laughed, danced, roared and chanted as she did it, and perhaps, far away in its headquarters in Switzerland, the IOC watched and listened, with one eye on India’s TV viewing figures and the other on the schedule for LA 2028.