Kumar Sangakkara (left) and Mahela Jayawardene will look to sign off from playing T20Is on a high © Getty Images (File Photo)
Sri Lanka and West Indies clash in the ICC World T20 2014 semi-final at Mirpur and this tale has many subplots that will unfold in the space of three hours. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes about what one can expect from this game.
Can Sri Lanka exorcise the ghosts of the ICC World T20 2012 final when they meet West Indies in the semi-final at Mirpur? Back in 2012, the West Indians danced their way to glory by strangling the Sri Lankans on home soil in the final. Darren Sammy, the West Indian skipper did emphasise on the present, but added that the previous final and the recent warm-up clash will play on the Sri Lankan’s minds. Here is a side that doesn’t have a good record in finals in recent times, but coach Paul Farbrace is confident about his unit.
Feel good factor for both sides
Things may change a touch for the Sri Lankans, at least on the psychological front. A few weeks ago, they won the Asia Cup 2014 on this very ground. That should help them shed some of the psychological barriers ahead of the upcoming game. As Farbrace mentioned, they not only won it, but clinched it convincingly. This victory was their first in a tournament final in a long time and that will give them confidence. The familiarity of the surroundings will breed in a bit of comfort.
Having said that, West Indies have a few things going for them. They have been stationed at Mirpur for the whole tournament and have adjusted well to the conditions. In their last game, they trumped another side that plays spin quite well. Pakistan were left shell-shocked by Samuel Badree early on. And then to back him up, there was Sunil Narine waiting to unleash his art. The West Indian spin-twins are ranked No 1 and 2 in the ICC T20 International Rankings for bowlers.
Back in 2012, these spinners had strangled the Sri Lankans, who crumbled under the pressure. While Sammy did acknowledge that it will be a challenge for Badree when he comes up against the likes of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, he sounded a warning: It would be a challenge for them as well. That is the kind of confidence West Indies have after their last victory.
But, Sri Lanka also have their answer to that spin. Rangana Herath announced his entry in the tournament in some style. A spell of five wickets for three runs is unheard of in T20 cricket, whereby he bowled with great control and used every bit of turn in the surface. Will they pick Ajantha Mendis to strengthen their spin department? They already have Sachithra Senanayake in the team and they have a few tough calls to make. A “good headache” as Farbrace would like to call it.
The retiring legends
Sangakkara and Jayawardene will bid adieu to T20 Internationals (T20Is) after this tournament and it would rob Sri Lanka off some real quality. The duo would be pumped up for this game as they would want to sign off on a high from the format. There was a work on the eve of the final about pumped up Jayawardene was before the Sri Lankans defended their total against New Zealand. It just goes to show how much it means to them as they still search for that elusive world title. Sri Lanka’s batsmen have played well in patches and need to find form as a unit if they are to win.
This interesting tale has a lot of subplots which will unfold in the space of three hours. This is now the business end of the tournament and as the cliché goes: It’s now or never!
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(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)