What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?
The iconic quote from CLR James' 60-year-old book pretty much sums up Ben Stokes' effort against a fired-up Pakistan bowling line-up. If you go by purely cricketing standards, it was probably the ugliest half-century by an England player in recent memory. It was a chancey knock. He survived run-out scares, almost got out caught twice, the ball went past the outside edge so many times leaving him dumbfounded.
But he was there till the end despite all that. Stokes even gave up running at one point after hitting the ball in the air but the ball fell short of the fielder. Probably it was the 'qudrat ka nizam' the whole of Pakistan had been talking about. Probably it was all written in the stars. Nasser Hussain said on air, "It's always Ben Stokes with the winning runs." He had to be there.
Ben Stokes had to be there for another reason. When he walked out to bat, the situation was all-too-familiar for him. He's been England's go-to man when it comes to pressure chases. Be it the 2019 World Cup or the Headingley Test the same year. Been there, done that.
But a box was yet to be ticked.
T20I has been Stokes' weakest format and up until Sunday, probably his most memorable performance in this format was the Carlos Brathwaite hammering in the 2016 T20 World Cup final at the Eden Gardens. So, when Stokes walked out to bat at number four against Pakistan, a finish with Ben Stokes in the middle felt like a compulsion. He had to tick the "iconic T20I finish box" as well as bury the ghosts of the 2016 final.
Stokes literally started from where he left off in the T20 World Cup finals involving England (certainly not in terms of performance). He bowled the last ball of the 2016 final and the first ball of the 2022 final. No wonder it was a nervy start. Stokes started off with a front-foot no-ball (England's first in the tournament) and a wide. But the nerves settled down soon.
The target of 138 was well below par and England, having the deepest batting line-up maybe in T20Is, took that gladly although the middle-order had been untested.
England had to do a lot of pondering about how to accommodate Stokes in such a dynamic line-up. Stokes is not England's best player in T20Is and hadn't played much 20-over cricket internationally leading up to the tournament. There were even suggestions of leaving him out of the best XI.
But the skipper Jos Buttler backed Stokes, saying that he affects the game in "all three facets".
Stokes repaid the faith by playing an important knock of unbeaten 42 off 36 against Sri Lanka to get his team home. The southpaw had to repeat in the final what he did against Sri Lanka in that game.
Stokes is a swashbuckling player. You can't keep him quiet for long whatever the format is. He always looks to get on top of the bowlers.
But on Sunday, Stokes was prepared to take the ugly route, a route he won't take 99 out of 100 times. At one point, he was beaten by Naseem Shah in three consecutive deliveries. The youngster from Pakistan was on top and Stokes was just hanging in there. After being beaten for the third time straight, Stokes just smiled. It was not the Stokes the world knows. But you know, "anything for the World Cup," said Wasim Akram in a talk-show.
45 off 31. It was getting tense. Stokes was up against the home boy, the Melbourne maverick Haris Rauf, Pakistan's best bowler on the day. And Stokes hammered the ball through the covers, like he does so often. The real Ben Stokes - albeit late - had arrived and he arrived at the right time.
Pakistan's talisman Shaheen Shah Afridi injured his knee while taking a diving catch. He was in pain but returned to bowl the 16th over. But it was too hard for him to continue and he walked off after bowling one ball in that over. Babar Azam now had to complete that over by someone. It was the part-timer Iftikhar. It wasn't the best match-up (Stokes strikes at 160 against off-spin in T20Is) and Stokes hit a four and a six off Iftikhar to bring the equation down to just 28 off 24.
He timed a Mohammad Wasim full-toss beautifully to get to his maiden T20I fifty. Surely a lot of people were surprised to know Stokes didn't have a fifty in this format before this match. And the winning runs, most fittingly, came off Stokes' bat.
England are now the only team in history to hold the 50-over and the 20-over World Cup simultaneously. Stokes has been an integral part of England's white-ball revolution since the 2015 World Cup exit although he has already retired from ODIs and may not feature in the T20Is for long. But he'll be remembered by the cricket romantics as one of the most impactful cricketers in modern-day cricket.
It was not the most controlled innings by any stretch of the imagination. His first boundary was off a lucky under-edge. Even the only six that he hit just went over the head of the fielder at the boundary. But you know, Stokes had to be there. And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. Stokes wanted to be there till the end.
Statistically, it wasn't maybe your ideal T20 innings. For video analysts, it wasn't the best knock in terms of control. But for Ben Stokes, it will be one of the innings to remember. Don't just see the scorecard. Feel the struggle. It was not easy to be Ben Stokes on that night in Kolkata six years ago. For someone who has seen the worst, a 52* off 49 in a World Cup final on a winning cause will be like gold. For understanding cricket, it's important to understand a lot of things beyond it. What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?