By Nishad Pai Vaidya
The Aussies take on the Caribbean army in the second semi-finals of the ICC World T20 2012. While the West Indies came into the tournament with the tag of favourites, Australia were uncharacteristically placed in the second half of the T20 international rankings. On paper, it promises to be a thriller with both sides boasting of some power players who can win games single-handedly. Australia have been a major force because of Shane Watson, but one can say that West Indies have put in a team effort so far.
In terms of the contest, a lot would depend on the performance of Chris Gayle and Watson. Both are the respective game-changers for their sides. Watson has delivered with both bat and ball – highlighting his value to this side. With the bat he has been absolutely brilliant and has been the key at the top. David Warner and Michael Hussey have batted around him – something that has shielded the middle order through the tournament.
In the last game against Pakistan, the early dismissals of Watson and Warner clearly exposed the middle-order. They weren’t able to recover from the early blows and had to settle for the minimum score required for qualification through to the semi-finals. The Pakistani spinners rattled the middle-order and gave them no chance of chasing the target. Michael Hussey was the only one who fought hard and looked decent to the spinners. That again emphasised how heavily the Australians rely on their top three.
Keeping that performance in perspective, it may make sense to bring back David Hussey. There are a few murmurs that he may return to the setup. He plays spin very well and the Indian Premier League (IPL) experience would hold him in good stead. The other important fact is that he is a genuine match-winner and has the ability to rally the innings to give it a proper direction. They certainly need someone with those abilities in a middle order that has been untested for majority of the tournament.
In the group stages, Watson completely dominated the West Indian attack, including the tricky Sunil Narine. Things are different now as the pitch at Colombo looks slower and Narine would become a huge factor on this wicket. If the West Indies can get Watson early, they can certainly put pressure on the Australian middle-order by unleashing Narine. He his back in wicket-taking form and could use the conditions well to his advantage.
The world expects a Gayle-storm in Colombo as it would provide wholesome entertainment. It is no surprise that he has continued his good form and the opposition would look at him as the biggest threat. More importantly, he seems to be someone who is enjoying his cricket and isn’t holding back from expressing himself. It isn’t just his batting that has lit up this tournament, but also some of his dance-moves have thrilled the spectators. At this crucial stage, West Indies need a big knock from him as a good performance from him can do wonders to their confidence as a unit.
It is imperative that West Indies maintain their performance levels and do not lessen the intensity. There are times when they are absolutely brilliant and the next moment they can be mediocre – something that can hand the advantage to the opposition. If they get a good start, they must continue to put pressure on Australia and not relax on the field.
A win for the West Indies could do wonders for cricket in the Caribbean. It may be a shot in the arm for the sport – one that is yearning to relive past glories. While the West Indian sides of the yesteryear dominated in the classical format, a successful T20 campaign can inspire a new generation. They have to get across Australia and if they do, the favoured home side awaits them in the final.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)