The way Marlon Samuels took apart Lasith Mallinga’s toe crushers was simply spectacular © Getty Images
West Indies provided an emphatic response at the World T20 final on Sunday to those who believed Chris Gayle the West Indian cricket team is all about Chris Gayle. And Marlon Samuels, West Indies’s man of the hour in the final, quietly crept past Gayle among the top run scorers of the tournament.
Without Sri Lanka’s capitulation in their chase of 138, it may have proved difficult to contextualise Samuels’s fabulous knock under pressure. It was his 56-ball 78 that helped West Indies set what looked like a reasonable target at best. The way he took apart Lasith Mallinga’s toe crushers was simply spectacular, but one wondered if he could have been more effective had he rotated the strike more against the spinners.
Halfway through the Sri Lankan chase, it became clear that Samuels’s was a miraculous innings. As with Gayle on Friday, it appeared as if he had batted on a different surface altogether. Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara’s deft touches simply weren’t enough to set the pace.
What they probably didn’t bargain for, in a match billed as Brain vs Brawn, was some smart cricket from West Indies in their defence of 137. Taking a cue from Jayawardene, the grossly-underrated Darren Sammy rotated his bowlers in short spells to prevent the Lankans from settling down and finding their range. His fields were in fact very well set; there was always a sweeper to block what looked like a certain boundary.
Of course, it helped that a disciplined bowling and fielding effort – with two quite incredible run outs – backed up his tactics. The flipside of the prominence of spin in the new look West Indian team is they control their defence better. They concede fewer easy runs, with the spinners generally firing Yorker-length darts to restrict batsmen. As Sri Lanka searched in vain for big shots in the closing stages of the match, Sunil Narine & Company proved very hard to target.
And so, rather than Brain vs Brawn, it became a game of Passion vs Polish. Sri Lanka were probably the most polished in their execution of all the sides contesting this tournament. They ticked all the right boxes most of the time. But that was not enough to get the job done against a team that was set on restoring wounded Caribbean pride.
Samuels’s incredible sixes may have been more visible evidence of this passion, but Denesh Ramdin’s unbelievable runout of Thisara Perera was an equally apt demonstration of the spirit that West Indies had summoned for the big occasion. If Sri Lanka attempted to emulate Spain’s total football, West Indies insisted on playing the beautiful game. Aesthetes would be relieved that the beautiful game did win the day this time around.
Gayle catalysed the West Indian juggernaut, but it takes eleven to win and on Sunday. West Indies proved that if they had to, they could indeed win a game, even a big final, without a substantial contribution from Gayle.
As talk of a West Indian renaissance begins, the equanimity of their captain should stand them in good stead. On the podium amidst wild celebrations, Sammy refused to say they were back and only hoped that this was a beginning. He knows there’s a lot more to be done and hopefully that knowledge will spur them on to many more memorable achievements. But this is one hell of a start. And in Samuels, he has more than one go-to man to turn to.
(Madan Mohan is a 27-year old chartered accountant from Mumbai. The writing bug bit him when he was eight and to date, he has not been cured of it. He loves music, cricket, tennis and cinema and writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake. He also writes a blog if he is not feeling too lazy at http://rothrocks.wordpress.com/)