Ben Stokes will be hurting for a long time. Some will say he is a tough lad and will get over it. Yes, he is strong but he is human too and it is going to be a while before he recovers from what happened in the final over.
It is hard to lose when you are so close to picking up a trophy. When that final over started the England lads in the field would have been thinking about winning and standing on the podium. It is only natural when you are on a sports field and so close to achieving something special.
But now they just need to let the dust settle then sit down with Ben to assess mentally what went wrong. Only he knows the answer. He has to be open and honest with himself and admit “this is what I was thinking” and just try to learn from the experience.
As a captain you try to talk from the heart to someone in Stokes’s position and put an arm around the shoulder. You tell them they will be back stronger for the experience. But Stokes is not the sort of lad to take that kind of stuff. He will be spewing for a long while so you have to allow him time to hurt. I am afraid that is high-level sport.
He will lose sleep for days going over it in his mind, asking: “Why didn’t I do something different?” I have respect for anyone who bowls the last over in a final. It takes real guts. The good thing is that Stokes is young and has experienced highs and lows in his career already so he will be able to handle this in time.
He will mull over what he should have done differently. A wide yorker or slower-ball bouncer perhaps? His first ball was a bad delivery and that is when momentum shifted. It put huge pressure on the next ball.
The second ball was not far from the blockhole but it was an amazing shot. Once that flew over the ropes you knew the game was gone. I don’t know how Stokes bowled the third ball. He must have been shaking.
When they analyse the game England will be honest with themselves and admit their stronger suit was batting and 155 was not enough on that pitch. It did not do a great deal and actually it got worse when West Indies batted. If England had made 190 then Stokes’s final over would have been irrelevant.
I was also a little disappointed with Adil Rashid. I am a massive fan of his but, faced with his first turning pitch of the tournament, I felt he bowled too cautiously by relying on his googly. He had to be braver. As soon as a slip was brought in he dropped the ball short rather than aimed for a full length to beat the outside edge.
He needs more confidence and belief in himself. He is a wonderful leg-spinner and does not need to bowl the wrong ’un so much when he can rag a leg-spinner 1½ yards.
He will learn and the critical thing for all of England’s players is how they react when they are in a similar situation again. They will start the Champions Trophy in England next year as favourites. Performances in India have raised expectations and you do not want to be known as a team that loses in close situations. It has haunted South Africa down the years but the fact this England side contains just one player over 30 – Liam Plunkett – is encouraging. They are young enough to move on and become stronger for this.
They have all the ingredients with a dangerous combination at the top, power throughout the order, bowlers who have grown into the job and players who love the big stage. They lost in the final but they did not freeze. We will see them in more finals in the future. It is why we have to put these talented guys at the front and centre of English cricket going forward.
This tournament has reinforced why Twenty20 is such a brilliant game. It is saving cricket and can galvanise Test cricket as well.
I think this has been a great year or so for cricket. The World Cup in Australia was brilliant, the Ashes a great spectacle, we had 81,000 at a Big Bash game in Melbourne, the Asia Cup was good entertainment and England produced a fantastic win in South Africa. This tournament tops it all. It is the best tournament I have seen. Ten out of 10. It was well staged, the pitches got better, the crowds improved, we saw outstanding talent on show and some of the strokeplay was simply breathtaking.
For Carlos Brathwaite to hit four sixes like that to win a final is like a golfer sinking four 25-footers to win a major. It should never happen. The levels of athleticism in cricket now rival any other sport. Watching cricket is fun again so let’s hope the game can grab this moment.
The West Indies were motivated by criticism to win this trophy and you cannot begrudge their joy after the final. This is a group of cricket islands that have gone through turmoil with the worst board in the world alienating their own players.
They have talent at all levels and can be strong in all formats if supported and rewarded properly. If that anger and determination to prove people wrong can be channelled the right way then the West Indies can be a force again in Test cricket.