It was a Caribbean party in Colombo as the West Indies broke the hearts of millions in Sri Lanka to snatch the ICC World T20 2012. Following years of disappointment, a victory on the big stage promises to herald a new era – one where they would aim to build on this success. Coming into this tournament with the unfamiliar tag of favourites, Darren Sammy’s men have justified the billing and given ample evidence of the firepower in their unit.
Through their performance in the final, West Indies have shown great character. They were put under pressure early as the Sri Lankan bowlers bowled brilliantly. In the first six overs, West Indies’ score read a paltry 14 for two – with the big man, Chris Gayle, back in the hut after a struggle in the middle. Many had written West Indies off as the start was clearly below par. At that stage, it was Sri Lanka all the way as their bowlers had their tails up with some vociferous support from the home crowd.
Marlon Samuels’s knock is perhaps one of the best you would see in a T20 International. In a high pressure game, with the team’s talismanic batsman failing and the score making a poor reading. He showed phenomenal grit and guts in the middle. Initially one may have felt he was going too slow, but he made up for it later on. Some of the shots he played were absolutely brilliant and the assault on Lasith Malinga – who is perhaps T20 cricket’s most dangerous fast bowler – was calculated and executed with authority.
Samuels’s strategy of going after Malinga was certainly a gamble simply because of the reputation of the Sri Lankan. The spinners were dominating proceedings and were not giving the batsmen too many chances. Samuels would have got more pace on to the bat facing someone like Malinga and he dispatched him all over.
We often praise Gayle for his fantastic hitting and the ease with which he clears the fence. However, Samuels’s sixes in the final were a class apart. They had the typical Caribbean flair attached to it and spoke eloquently volumes for his talent. For years, he was said to be someone who hasn’t lived up to his potential, but in the last few months he has enhanced his reputation across all formats. The match-winning knock in the final is perhaps the defining moment of his career so far.
The West Indian challenge of 137 didn’t look very formidable at the half-way stage and one would have backed the Sri Lankans to overhaul it. The West Indians bowled brilliantly, but Sri Lanka have to blame themselves for the defeat. The target of 138 may not have been imposing and they were happy merely knocking it around and taking singles. As one of the commentators pointed out, they erred in not approaching it with their usual flair and dominance.
Ravi Rampaul should be given the credit for starting the Sri Lankan downfall. He bowled a peach of a delivery to take the wicket of Tillakartne Dilshan. It was almost as if that was a huge psychological blow as both Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara were cautious in their approach. The Sri Lankan middle order was always going to be a problem and one got the feeling the side was top heavy. Their three best batsmen – Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Sangakkara - were slated up-front and that left the rest of the order with relatively lesser strength. Instead, it would have made more sense for one of the three seniors to take on a role in the middle as that may have been a stabilising effect.
While West Indies rejoice, Sri Lanka are left to wonder what might have been. Losing a fourth major tournament final in the last five years is certainly something that will haunt them. One could sense some tension in their ranks with each falling wicket. South Africa may be chokers, but Sri Lanka have perhaps joined them in the same league. The only difference is that they make it all the way to the finals and lose. It is certainly a monkey on their back now.
(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)