Mighty Gayle stands between Sri Lanka & title
Colombo: Sri Lanka would look to rein in a marauding Chris Gayle, whose performance may be a determining factor when the dominating hosts clash with an upbeat West Indies in the final of the World Twenty20 here on Sunday.
Sri Lanka are aiming to win their second world title after a gap of 16 years as their first and only World trophy came in 1996 while the Caribbean side are playing a World event final after nearly 30 years, having last played against India at the Lord’s in 1983.
Sri Lanka should be favourites not only because of home conditions but also due to the variety of players from Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara to Thisara Perera who can change their game according to the needs.
The West Indies on the other hand have some very competent T20 players in Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard but all of them love to rally around Gayle who is the pivotal force in this Caribbean set-up.
Darren Sammy and his bunch of brave-hearts know that Gayle’s performance will be key in the outcome of the match.
The situation was summed up aptly by Australia captain George Bailey after suffering a crushing 74-run defeat against the Caribbean side on Friday.
“If Sri Lanka can get Gayle out under 20 runs, they are the favourites to win the title but if they can’t then West Indies are too strong,” Bailey opined when he was asked about the favourite team to win the Cup.
For the West Indies, a lot of things will be at stake in the match. It’s not that there will be a sea change in the declining cricket culture in the Caribbean islands but a victory on global stage might provide encouragement for the youth, who are more obsessed with basketball and dream of making the cut in the NBA league.
The win also help Sammy get some breathing space after constant speculation for the past year about whether he is good enough to lead the West Indies.
A gentleman to the core, Sammy has handled all kinds of uncomfortable questions with aplomb but a victory on Sunday might help him capture the imagination of the cricket loving public in the Caribbean.
Gayle, who smashed his way to a 41-ball-75 against Australia, knows too well that T20 is a game where luck plays a factor.
When Gayle was questioned whether he would be able to attack the bowling of Sri Lankan left-arm spinner Rangana Herath like he launched into Xavier Doherty, he replied, “He (Herath) has bowled really well but the performance depends on that particular day.”
For Jayawardene and Sangakkara, it will be the fourth final after 2007 World Cup, 2009 World T20 and 2011 World Cup and the two seniors are desperate to lift the trophy before their home crowd.
Jayawardene over the past few years have shown that T20 can be played successfully without playing any unorthodox shots. Sangakkara has also been in good form and on his day he can take on any bowling attack in the world.
If the duo clicks against West Indies, half of Sri Lankan’s worries will be taken care of. One of the major cause of concern for them is the form of their swashbuckling opener Tillakaratne Dilshan.
A lot will also depend on how Mahela uses his two all-rounders Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perrera. Although Jayawardene prefers pint-sized Jeevan Mendis for his ability to manoeuvre the ball, the big-hitters like Mathews and Perrera can turn the match on its head.
“People wish about playing one World Cup final and I am fortunate of being part of all four of them. This one is at Premadasa Sadium and it will be a special occasion,” Jayawardene said.
The bowling attack is a problem for the West Indies. While leg-spinner Samuel Badree did his cause no harm by picking up both Shane Watson and David Warner in the semi-finals, there is no guarantee that Sammy will persist with leggie knowing full well that how good Lankans are against spin bowling.
In that case, Fidel Edwards who bowls at a brisk pace will come in as Badree’s replacement. Marlon Samuels, bowling his fastish off-breaks and skiddy Ravi Rampaul can be devastating on their day.
Jayawardene is likely to go with the same team as he wouldn’t like to expose his talented boy wonder Akhila Dhananjaya in front of a marauding Gayle as it can dent the young boy’s confidence.