So, on reflection, who were the stars of ICC Champions Trophy final day at Edgbaston?
Ravi Jadeja? Ravi Ashwin? Inspirational captain MS Dhoni?
Plenty, particularly among the vast Indian support in Birmingham that day, would no doubt suggest that. But they’d be wrong.
The main men of that rainswept but ultimately thrilling day were chaps whose names do not spring so readily to mind.
Gary Barwell. Rob Franklin. Mark Johnston. Jon Holmes. Tom Targrass. Dave Keen. Arthur Jones.
It was those guys, the Warwickshire groundstaff – along with three part-time helpers and 16 volunteer “Cricketeers” recruited for the tournament – who were the real stars.
Without them, Dhoni and company would never have left the dressing room and the day would have been a horrible damp squib, not to say an embarrassment to the ICC who bizarrely allocated no reserve day to a showpiece final. And 27,000 people at the stadium, plus a global TV audience of around a billion, would have been disappointed.
There was a bit of pressure, then, on head groundsman Barwell and his team as the weather forecast lived down to expectation and shower after shower hit Edgbaston.
And that pressure stretched beyond supplying such a huge number of people with the cricket they craved.
There was also the little matter of Warwickshire County Cricket Club having effectively staked their entire future on attracting such huge occasions to Edgbaston. The consequences of messing up were unthinkable. But nobody messed up.
The weather finally relented having thrown down enough rain, surely, to torpedo any prospect of cricket. Not so. At 4.20pm, James Anderson bowled the first ball and the final was under way. Five hours later India’s supporters were cavorting in joy and somehow, on a dark, dank afternoon, the final had been played out.
And head groundsman Barwell had every right to feel very proud. And very tired.
“My staff were outstanding,” he said. “Outstanding for the hours they put in, not just that day but over a period of weeks, and the quality of their work. I am really proud of them.
“The Cricketeers were brilliant too. It was all very new to them, of course, so I said ‘be steady and don’t rush because, if you rush, things happen slower’. I just said ‘do your best’. And they did brilliantly.
“You always have to put up with the odd jibe, like when it’s not raining, people saying ‘why aren’t the groundstaff out there?’ But if the umpires have said let it dry for half an hour there’s no point having lads out on there watching the grass dry.
“You will always get stick. After it was all over I had an email from one England supporter blaming me for England losing because the wicket turned! But the vast majority of feedback we had was positive and that was much appreciated.
“It was just a fantastic effort from the whole team. They can be really proud. And now have a good rest.”
No-one deserves a bit of downtime more than Barwell, who replaced Steve Rouse as head groundsman at Edgbaston in December 2010 having previously worked at Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.
Barwell arrived highly recommended and has vindicated those recommendations.
One small example – his willingness to allow the Bears players to net in the middle last year was a small but significant factor in them bringing the title to Edgbaston.
Barwell is a skilled man, happy to help where he can, and a hard worker. But he admits that Warwickshire’s co-hosting of the Champions Trophy pushed him to his limits. He lost a stone and a half during a tournament in which, at times, wife Claire and daughters Megan (three) and Evie (seven) became almost strangers.
“I love what I do,” said Barwell. “But it was the first time I have seriously questioned what I do for a living. At one point I didn’t see my children awake for six days. Some working days were 4am to 10pm.
“The scrutiny was unbelievable and I didn’t enjoy it. We had a lot of praise and support, both from within the club and people from all over the world – the feedback was well over 90 per cent positive. But when you get a tiny percentage who look at your pitches and say you have an ulterior motive, it’s hard to take.
“I’m a groundsman. All I want to do is prepare decent wickets that are fair to everyone. For the final it was the hardest I have ever worked on one pitch. And over the three weeks it was the hardest I have ever worked in my life.
“Every day from May 26 to June 23 we had either one or two international teams here and before the main tournament began we had three warm-up matches for which the pitches had to be to international standard too.
“I think the pitches were good. The first one for England v Australia was a belter and although the pitch in the final turned a little bit more than I liked, it wasn’t bad or dangerous. Considering the rain and the limited preparation-time I think we did okay.”
Better than okay, actually. On the day of the final, India coach Duncan Fletcher, not a man to issue praise lightly, hailed the net facilities as the best he’d seen. Meanwhile, tournament director Steve Elworthy was highly complimentary after the heroics of Barwell and his boys meant the ICC’s scheduling gaffe did not come home to roost.
“All the match officials were very good,” said Barwell. “Especially Rob Tucker. He kept saying, just do what you can. He knew we would do everything we could to get a game on.
“Colin Povey has to take a lot of credit too. He has his critics but, since I have been here, everything I have needed I have been given. We had the tools to do the job.”
True. But you need the workmen too. Gary, Rob, Mark, Jon, Tom, Dave, Arthur and the Cricketeers – take a bow. Messrs Povey, Elworthy, Fletcher, Dhoni and about a billion other people each owe you a drink.