Perfect image of sportsmanship amid drama rightly being celebrated

Perfect image of sportsmanship amid drama rightly being celebrated

24/03/2015 at 13:06Updated

All too often it's the negative aspects of sport that become memorable: the shocking, the embarrassing, the controversial.

But occasionally a moment comes along which perfectly encapsulates all that is good about healthy competition and the contrasting emotions that are so often found at the very biggest sporting events.

When such a moment emerges, it is rightly cherished - and one such image emerged in the wake of New Zealand's thrilling Cricket World Cup semi-final victory over South Africa, with fans across the world hailing the sportsmanship and compassion of New Zealand's Grant Elliott in the heat of battle.

Ten years on from that photo of Andrew Flintoff and Brett Lee after the epic Ashes Test at Edgbaston, this scene - captured by Reuters photographer Anthony Phelps - is already being hailed as the image for the new generation.

"Twins in Cricket: Dale Steyn Grant Eliot CWC2015 , Andrew Flintoff Brett lee 2005 Ashes— Ashu Shahi (@Nowateronmars) March 24, 2015"

Fresh from sealing a dramatic win with a huge six in the final over, man-of-the-match Elliott immediately turned his attention to his vanquished opponent, fast bowler Dale Steyn, who had bowled the decisive over.

Elliott, who had every right to be off cartwheeling around the outfield in front of the adoring Auckland faithful after his masterly 84 not out from 73 deliveries, instead decided to console Steyn, who was lying on the ground utterly crestfallen, with his head in his hands.

The Kiwi batsman reached down to offer a hand to Steyn, hauling the exhausted paceman up with an embrace which was captured perfectly by the cameras and subsequently circulated around the world.

"This is what sport is all about.— FirstpostSports (@FirstpostSports) March 24, 2015"

The image of sportsmanship in the heat of battle quickly spread across social media and was duly lauded as being representative of everything that's good about competitive sport and all it stands for.

Tears were shed by South Africa's crushed players, but Elliott and his team-mates recognised how easily their place in the final of a tournament they so dearly want to win could have been snatched away.

New Zealand's Grant Elliot consoles South Africa's bowler Dale Steyn (Reuters)

A wonderfully modest Elliott, who was himself born in South Africa, explained, "I felt sorry for Dale Steyn hence why I consoled him afterwards.

"You have to be humble in victory and defeat."

Indeed, it is that humility in the midst of glorious celebration that has marked this out as a magical sporting moment.

What makes some cases of sportsmanship more memorable than the many others which go unnoticed? At the pinnacle of sport, certain big events throw up classic matches when emotions are particularly high - and it was at this juncture that Elliott's embrace came, highlighting what had been at stake.

It is always timely and welcome to have a fresh image of what true sportsmanship really is at a time when the emotions were so starkly contrasted following an enthralling battle.

This was sport at its best, both before the conclusion of a memorable game, and in its immediate and emotional aftermath.

Dan Quarrell - @Dan_Eurosport