WT20 : West Indies V Sri Lanka World T20 Preview

WT20 : West Indies V Sri Lanka World T20 Preview

Sri Lanka and West Indies have an interesting history in ICC World Twenty20s.

74242They have run into each other six times, and Sri Lanka has finished on the right side of the result on five occasions. But the one time West Indies won was in the final of the tournament – the 2012 edition – when Marlon Samuels played the lead in a game as memorable for the action on the field as it was for the celebration of the West Indies players afterwards.

Reminded of that stat the day before the ICC World Twenty20 2016 Group 1 game between the two sides, Darren Sammy quipped, “We won the most important one, the final in 2012 – simple.”

Does that automatically mean that non-finals are not important enough? Certainly not, and that was reflected in the seriousness with which the West Indies cricketers went through their drills on Saturday (March 19), at the National Cricket Academy nets and then out on the field at the venue for the fixture, the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.

Most of the eyes were understandably on Chris Gayle. Partly because of the unbeaten 100 in 48 balls he scored against England in West Indies’ six-wicket win in Mumbai the other day, and partly because, well, it’s Chris Gayle. The intensity with with which Gayle trains helped get an idea of how engaged the team was with the situation. And this West Indies side is as determined as ever. Gayle went from net to net to take on pacemen and spinners and then throwdowns for long stretches, which was followed by the rest of the training regimen.

The treatment the net bowlers, as well as Carlos Brathwaite and Sulieman Benn got from Gayle, would have struck an ominous note for Sri Lanka. Brathwaite and Benn, as well as Jerome Taylor, bowled long spells and mostly had things going their way. Not against Gayle, though. That sweet sound wood makes when hitting leather – there’s nothing sweet about the sound of ball coming in contact with Gayle’s bat. It’s a mini-explosion. Exactly the sort West Indies would hope to hear again and again and again against Sri Lanka.

If recent history is anything to go by, that could well happen. Sri Lanka has lost Lasith Malinga to a knee niggle, which has forced him to leave the World T20 and go home, with Jeffrey Vandersay, the legspinner, coming in as his replacement.

If West Indies was dominant in its win over England, Sri Lanka had many moments in its opening game, against Afghanistan, taken away from them. It was the inexperience in the Afghanistan ranks that helped Sri Lanka get through by six wickets. Tillakaratne Dilshan was the star of that win, batting through the Sri Lankan chase, but the authority with which Asghar Stanikzai played for his 47-ball 62 and the frequency of Samiullah Shenwari finding the fence would be causes of worry for the bowlers.

It was a win, though, and coming as it did after a sequence of losses, would have served to lift Sri Lankan morale.

Graham Ford, the Sri Lanka coach, stressed on the unpredictability of the T20 format when asked about the team’s chances against West Indies, while Sammy was gung-ho and confident. “We must come up with one or two plans to neutralise the big guns they have,” said Ford. “We’ve been chatting about those things, but the execution is more important.”

For Sri Lanka to win that execution has to work to plan. Not only because of Gayle, who has made Bangalore his home in India because of the Indian Premier League, but the rest of the men in that West Indian batting order. Johnson Charles, Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Sammy and Andre Russell are all strong T20 hands and can swing a match on their own even if Gayle has an off day. So, if the execution by its bowlers doesn’t work out, Sri Lanka could well be chasing shadows in the Bangalore night.

Teams (from)
Sri Lanka:
Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Shehan Jayasuriya, Milinda Siriwardena, Dasun Shanaka, Chamara Kapugedara, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dushmantha Chameera, Thisara Perera, Sachithra Senanayake, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Jeffrey Vandersay.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (capt), Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Andre Fletcher, Dwayne Bravo, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Andre Russell, Jason Holder, Carlos Brathwaite, Ashley Nurse, Jerome Taylor, Sulieman Benn, Samuel Badree.