By Denzil Fernandes
Oct 8: The T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka lived up to its reputation as yet another unpredictable affair with outsiders West Indies stopping favourites Sri Lanka to win the T20 Cup in astonishing fashion.
The ‘come from behind’ win for the Windies who struggled to prevail in the group stages with nail biting matches which would have gone either way especially against New Zealand and England meant that if you have the determination there is every possibility of lifting the cup.
Such a determination was missing from some other teams including India who evaporated when it mattered most. In crunch situations, West Indies showed the steel which helped them to overcome all odds.
In the T20 World Cup finals, facing mighty Sri Lanka who also had the home crowd behind them it was not going to be an easy affair at all. Everyone expected Chris Gayle to fire them to the top with another imposing score for the Caribbeans in the final. This is what he had done against the Australians in the earlier semi final. With Gayle gone as early as in the sixth over for a mere three runs, they found another star in Marlon Samuels who stayed and plundered 78 runs in 56 balls with the help of six sixes and three boundaries. So much so, from 32 for 2 wickets in the first 10 overs, West Indies managed to hammer 105 runs in the last 10 overs with Samuels taking charge. When the innings had ended, West Indies managed to reach a not so convincing 137 runs while losing 6 wickets. Samuels blasted top bowler Malinga in the 17th over for 19 massive runs coming with a four and two sixes. Malinga gave away 54 runs in his 4 overs despite some good work as a fielder. Unplayable spin bowling especially from Ajanta Mendis gave him four wickets for 12 runs and stopped the Windies from scoring more.
The Sri Lankan President who was watching the finals must have anticipated a quick win for Sri Lanka and would have planned an early dinner perhaps. Early dinner yes, but what would have been a memorable celebration turned out to be a disaster with the former finalists in the 50-over World Cup finals in 2007 and 2011 and two World Twenty20 finals in 2009 and 2012 putting up a shoddy display.
In reply to the low total, Sri Lanka had 2 quick run outs which were uncalled for. This apart, skipper Jayawardene (33 runs) who was brilliant till the finals made a mess of a reverse sweep and got himself out when his stay at the crease would have tilted the match in his favour. One was immediately reminded of England skipper Mike Gatting who did the same mistake against Australia in the 1987 World Cup final and England lost a great chance to lift the cup then. If only skipper Jayawardene remained unbeaten there would be a different story for the final. There were flashes of power hitting by Kulasekara (26 off 13 balls) late in the innings when he hammered pacer Ravi Rampaul in the 16th over although it was not enough. In the process, the islanders were shot out for a dismal 101 runs to give West Indies an unexpected World Cup win by 36 runs. For Sri Lanka, it was a classic case of ‘so near and yet so far’ when they missed the Cup which was almost in their grasp.
The T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka with 12 teams in the fray turned out to be hugely unbalanced as far as the standard of the teams was concerned. While West Indies sprang a surprise, top teams like Australia, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka did not put up a consistent show and did not get the desired results. One expected a lot especially from Team India but they faltered when required to perform. Despite the uncertain nature of T20 cricket, one expected the teams to know their strength and weakness and perform accordingly.
Spinners took the cake with the likes of Pakistan’s Ajmal, Narine from West Indies and Mendis of Sri Lanka excelling with their brilliant bowling. Pakistan were very impressive under new skipper Hafeez and a variety of bowlers and looked like going till the end. Afridi flopped miserably for Pakistan which undid all their plans to win. One almost felt that new Pakistan coach Dave Whatmore would help them in winning the World Cup. One must say that the team looked confident and keen to win all through. Similarly, India too looked good till players like Sehwag, Gambhir and Zaheer failed. Australia flourished but had to bow before the firepower of Gayle in the semi finals. Surprisingly, South Africa failed totally and went out of the tournament with a poor show.
Marlon Samuels of West Indies deservedly took the man of the match award for his brilliant knock in the finals. Australia’s super all rounder Shane Watson got the man of the tournament when he scored a total of 249 runs at an average of 49.80. He also took 11 wickets in the tourney with his medium pace. His brilliant performance got him four consecutive man of the match awards during the tournament.
All in all, it was good to see bang bang cricket with such top class international stars putting up a reasonable display for their nation. After the performances in the Indian Premier League (IPL) where the competition is fierce till the last ball is bowled by these famous stars, the T20 World Cup does not reflect a true picture of the quality of the competition. Nevertheless, it was a welcome change to see former super powers of cricket coming into their own and proving their status on the international front. One hopes that this win will augur well for West Indies cricket and there will new stars emerging in the Caribbean. Under skipper Darren Sammy West Indies have turned a new leaf in their cricket. A happy Sammy said at the presentation, ‘‘The Caribbean people wanted this. This moment we`re going to live forever.’’
The victory celebrations by the West Indies team singularly signified their relief and joy in their eye catching dancing at the end of the finals.
Back home then, the cricket loving Caribbeans must have emptied several champagne bottles in celebration after the great win by Darren Sammy and his boys. Former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd under whom they won the World Cup earlier must be a happy man without doubt. Lloyd’s inspirational email to the team just before the final encounter now assumes great significance and the win will only sweeten the entire atmosphere in the Caribbean islands where the calypso music and the accompanying liquid will be in full flow as they immerse in the unexpected World Cup glory.
Surely, the T20 World Cup win in Sri Lanka against the hosts by the West Indies will be one shocking story that will be remembered in the future for a long long time. For skipper Darren Sammy and his winning boys there will be plenty of stories to tell including the Sri Lankan food which helped them in their winning mission. The West Indies Cricket Board will be pleased and relieved that despite their quarrels with their players over players payments etc. their boys did not disappoint and gave them the T20 World Cup.
In the ICC Women’s World T20 played alongside the men’s tournament, Australia beat England in an exciting final by four runs. Australia piled up 142 runs for four wickets in 20 overs with Jess Cameron top scoring with 45 runs while Meg Lanning (25), Alyssa Healey (26) and Lisa Sthalekar (23 not out) contributing to the total. England went almost past the total but were stopped at 138 for nine in 20 overs.