ICC World Twenty20 Final - Sri Lanka v West Indies, Colombo, 7th October
Preview by Chetan Narula
On Sunday night, the fate of the ICC World Twenty20 2012 will be decided. While this statement holds true literally, for the final will be played between hosts Sri Lanka and some people's pre-tournament favourites the West Indies, there are other things to be considered.
One will come to them a bit later, for now, it is about Pakistan and Australia messing up their chances to be in contention. For the former, it was all about fighting back, twice in one day. They restricted Sri Lanka on a helpful pitch and then were easily commandeering the chase.
Everyone though feared self-destruction and they didn’t disappoint. 140 was par for the course on the first semis’ night and it was their match to lose. And they did, when Mohammad Hafeez stepped out to Rangana Herath, which he didn’t need to, never mind his ill-luck that the ball kept low.
For the latter, it was about keeping things tight against an explosive batting side and then hope that their bowlers mess-up the defence of their target. However there is hardly an attack in the world at present that cannot defend 205 in 20 overs.
And so the match had turned when their two left-arm spinners failed to contain Chris Gayle and company. Actually, ‘contain’ is a very light-weight word to use here, for surely atleast Xavier Doherty would have shed a tear at his plight, if not Brad Hogg.
Moving on then, for the Windies, the stakes are pretty high. They didn’t land here as sole favourites for the crown. In fact all the top eight Test nations were potential champions, it was that close between teams. Whichever way they have all fallen wayside, leaving these two to battle it out at the R. Premadasa Stadium and not many will be surprised - Lanka with their home advantage and West Indies with their awesome hitting prowess.
Seven of their first-team players in the semi-final turn out for T20 leagues across the world. The Australians were unlucky that everyone in the opposition clicked on the same day, but this is also their inherent weakness – consistency.
How often do you see the burden on Chris Gayle lessened? It wasn’t in the bowling or the pitch that Australia lost. It was in Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels and Kieron Pollard standing up and doing all the attacking, whilst Gayle guarded one end for 20 overs.
If only they can repeat this performance over and over again, 200 will be an easy par-score and no target will be too big for them. This however doesn’t happen too often. Even in this tournament, they have breached 190 only twice in six innings, both times against their semis’ opponents.
Against Sri Lanka, at Pallekele, this much-feared line-up of big-hitters failed miserably. They will be desperate to make amends, but on a worse pitch in Colombo, in front of a capacity crowd (hopefully!), against a full-battery of Lankan spinners, that is easier said than done.
The hosts have had a good run in ICC tournaments, finishing there or thereabouts for quite a while now, and it is high time that they have something to show for apart from their age-old 1996 triumph.
Only victory in the finals versus West Indies will satiate this hunger and moreover, will etch a permanent mark in the public memory, that they hosted a wonderful cricket tournament.
However, it has been one marred by a spate of problems, most persistent of them being scheduling in the initial rounds and crowd attendance. That the minnows did not enjoy participating and just made up the numbers will rankle for a long time, until another wholesome opportunity is provided.
The ICC has stated that due to the shrinking international calendar, broadcast partners’ demands and the national boards’ desires of specific number of warm-up matches, this is the best possible fixture-list they could generate. In that lies the problem, trying to please everybody, except the ones who matter – the spectators.
Even so, the fans were missing from most of the matches, even marquee ones. Forget the group stage matches between Test nations, for they had already been rendered moot by the thoughtless scheduling. But people in Sri Lanka failed to turn up regularly for Super Eights as well.
South Africa versus Australia on a Sunday afternoon was played in a near-empty stadium at Colombo. There was no one to watch as West Indies thumped Australia later in the second semi-final.
Yes, a semi-final match, of a world championship when tickets were priced from a dollar onwards. That the first semi-final featuring Lanka also only saw a 95 percent turnout clearly indicates that there is just too much cricket being played at the moment.
So, how will these people – overdosed on Sri Lankan Premier League – remember these three weeks? Any Sri Lankan associated with the World T20 is keen to remind you that this tournament is a great marker in their country’s history. It is the first time a championship of this magnitude has come home, never mind the 1996 and 2011 ODI World Cups, where they were only co-hosts.
They did hold the 2002 Champions Trophy, but the political and social structure has changed much since. And this World T20 is the significant marker in showcasing this progress to everyone.
As much as it is a matter of pride, problems listed above plus a little hide and seek played by weather has meant that this Sri Lankan sojourn might not be the best memory of cricket fans all over the globe.
But if that has to change, Mahela Jayawardene and company will want to bring the trophy home.
© Cricket World 2012
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