A little over a week into the 2019 World Cup, two freak, unbelievable, mindboggling catches have sent beholders into a tizzy. As cricket lovers begin to side with their favourite grab, we ask two warring factions: Who
wore caught it better?
Team Cottrell: OK, so I have been hearing for days as you've been banging on about a Ben Stokes catch. You never once responded to the many YouTube links I sent you with better versions of that catch, but now right here in front of our eyes Sheldon Cottrell has just taken a more magnificent catch.
Team Stokes: This is recency bias at its worst. Someone takes a pretty little boundary catch, and you downgrade Stokes' beast pluck. You probably think Avengers Endgame is the best movie.
Team Cottrell: How are you still defending the Stokes muddle fluke? Everything went right in Cottrell's catch. First, there was the pace and placement of the ball, it was hit by Steven Smith, so he knew exactly where all the fielders were for this ball (and every single field he's faced since he was six), and he flicked it where he knew there was a six for taking. He even hit a six, the ball was over the rope; it was a crowd catch inside the field, after a world record fifteen-metre sprint, then high wire footwork to stay in, and the flick to himself to finish it. It involved balletic artistry and web-like hands.
Team Stokes: Yeah, it was good. He ran a bit, stretched a bit and flicked the ball a bit. It was a catch that any half decent professional cricketer should be able to take. Stokes' one could only have been made by him.
Team Cotterell: Yeah, but Stokes is a great fielder, he does things like this all the time.
He's perpetually horizontal, or upside down, with the ball in his hand. Earlier today Sheldon Cottrell ran around for a catch at full speed, fell over and the ball almost hit him on the back of the head. You cannot compare a person genetically bred to take catches like this to a wicket-taking performance artist.
Watch on Hotstar (India only) - Sheldon Cottrell's wonder catch
Team Stokes: The best catch is the best catch. Cottrell did something very hard to do, Stokes did something no human should be allowed to do. Penalising him for not being an average human is unfair. He's not a member of the Justice League; he is 'just' a cricketer. The ball was over his head, so he had to jump up,;the ball was behind him, so he had to jump back, and he did all of it with the wrong hand.
Team Cottrell: Yeah, he made a bunch of mistakes.
Team Stokes: That just set up the catch. If he were in the right position, it would have been a simple catch on his chest. Who wants that? We want cricketers to fly. Cottrell never even left the turf, how on earth is a grounded catch better than a flying one?
Team Cottrell: Stokes came in way too far.
Team Stokes: That's because he's a great fielder and was at once protecting the boundary and the infield. He can literally be in two places at once. He gives England an extra fielder. Are you now penalising him for being an omnipotent fielding presence?
Team Cottrell: No, just pointing out he made three mistakes.
Team Stokes: Three?
Team Cottrell: Stokes was in the wrong place, had to change hands mid-air and used the wrong hand.
Team Stokes: But he took the catch. It doesn't matter if he made mistakes because he executed the take in the most inhuman way possible.
Team Cottrell: But the catch wouldn't have existed without the mistakes.
Team Stokes: Then let us praise the fact he's too aggressive in the outfield. Let's be thankful that he has the ability like Michael Jordan before him to change hands mid-air, and let us get down on bent knee because he can take the catches with the wrong hands that most players can't do with the right one. That makes it better, not worse.
Team Cottrell: It makes it a bunch of mistakes with an athletic finish.
Team Stokes: You are hard to please.
Team Cottrell: No, I just like my best catch of the World Cup to be the best catch of the World Cup.
Team Stokes: That is Stokes; you can't fly like that and pluck like that and not be the best.
Team Cottrell: You can fly and pluck, but not when up against the sprint, pluck, balance and flick. It's like diving; there was a higher degree of difficulty in Cottrell's. The judges have to mark Stokes' down for the errors.
Team Stokes: This is not like diving; this is a visceral thing: you see the freak act and react.
Team Cottrell: I don't want a freak act; I want someone breaking a land speed record while getting the angle set square perfect with one hand pretty much in a someone's hot dog while managing not to touch the padded triangle of death and the stunning presence of mind to flick the ball up to himself and catch it. His was a catch, with a catch. He didn't jump up because he wasn't miles off the rope showing off; every single move he made was perfectly executed, with - dare I say it - military precision. His catch was a well thought out manoeuvre; not a freak catch.
Team Stokes: A freak catch sounds pretty good: a freak catch where no other human being could pull it off sounds like the best catch of the World Cup to me.
Team Cottrell: It did, until today.
Team Stokes: The only thing Cottrell did better was the celebration.
Team Cottrell: I salute you for at least admitting that.