Tony Becca: Who will be the kings of Eden Gardens?
Based on the action which has gone before, today's finals of the ICC World Twenty20 cricket tournaments at the beautiful Eden Gardens stadium in Kolkata promise to be a grand occasion to be played before an estimated 100,000 cheering spectators.
The finalists are the West Indies and Australia in the women's event, and the West Indies against England in the men's final. And after the triumph of the young West Indians recently, it will be a great day for the West Indies, especially if they win one or both matches.
The men's final, however, is the stellar event, and however it goes, it should be a shoot-out to remember.
It features some of the finest players, not only in the new, flashy, and exciting style of T20 cricket, but also some of the best in the longer, more traditional, and more celebrated format and representing the West Indies and England, two past champions.
On one hand, representing the West Indies, the people's favourite is Chris Gayle, the world's most destructive batsman, a big left-hander with 98 sixes already in his bag, and he is backed up by a few others who fear no foe, by Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo, and others like Andre Russell, Darren Sammy, and Carlos Brathwaite.
On the other hand, representing England, the founders of the game, is Joe Root, one of the world's best batsman technically, an elegant, attractive, and confident right-hander with a pocketful of runs in his possession, and he is supported by a mixture of fine batsmen in the confident opening pair of Jason Roy and Alex Hales, the solid Eoin Morgan, the dashing and fearless all-rounder Ben Stokes, the attacking Jos Buttler, and a few others.
The two teams, who lit up the tournament, one in 2010 and one in 2012, are desperate for success this time around. England are fighting to establish themselves, especially in this exciting format of the game, and the West Indies are determined to confirm their success in the T20 style as opposed to their struggling and disappointing form in the longer versions of the game.
In a nutshell, the teams boast exciting batting, probably with the exception of India's Virat Kohli, the best in Twenty20 cricket, and they bat deep, one parading a batting powerhouse capable of hitting many sixes and many fours, the other known for their elegant drives and cuts which race away to the boundary.
In Gayle, especially, and Charles, Samuels, and Simmons, however, plus Bravo, Russell, Sammy, and Brathwaite, the West Indies boast a batting line-up which, although it always promises to hit the ball very far hard and very far, and when it does, it can be very destructive, it sometimes, and quite often, falls very short of its attempted distance or regularity.
England, on the other hand, possess more controlled batting, the type which can sometimes be conservative, more reliable and productive.
The batting on either side, but especially on the West Indies side, could, however, depend on the luck of the day, on the opposition's fielding on the day, and on their bowling throughout the day.
The West Indies bowling, which may be Samuel Badree, Russell, Bravo, Brathwaite, Sulieman Benn, and probably Gayle, may, but for Badree, and probably Benn, find the going rough.
England's attack of the left-handed David Willey, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Stokes, Moeen Ali, and Adil Rashid is a bit more skilful and devious. It could put the West Indies batsmen under pressure, especially because of their big-hitting and sometimes careless reputation.
On the other hand, if they report to the Eden Gardens bubbling with confidence, the West Indies batsmen could easily rip them apart.
Despite their lack of skill, however, the West Indies bowlers may dismantle England's sometimes timid batting. The key to the West Indies bowling could well be Bravo. His slower, dipping deliveries can be deadly, if he gets them right.
One thing is certain, the fielding on both sides will be extraordinary. England's fielding, especially that of Stokes and Jordan, is good, and sometimes brilliant. The West Indies fielding, especially the catching of Russell, Bravo, and Sammy, is sometimes truly breathtaking.
This tournament has been exciting and wonderful, and it has produced some lovely cricket. It has not produced too much of the hit-or-miss swinging while batting. It has produced some elegant and classical strokes, some quality hitting straight down the ground, some extraordinary fielding and catching, and some teasing and baffling right-arm leg-spin bowling instead of the fast and straight variety pitched just short-of-a-length.
The spin bowling throughout the entire tournament has been good, the batting of Gayle, 100 off 48 deliveries against England, including 11 sixes, was exciting, and the batting of Kohli, 55 off 37 deliveries against Pakistan, 82 not out off 51 deliveries against Australia, and 89 not out off 47 deliveries against the West Indies were magnificent.
The batting of Roy, 78 off 44 deliveries against New Zealand, was tasty, the batting of Buttler, 32 off 17 against New Zealand was delightful, the bowling of spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner of New Zealand, throughout was impressive, the stumping of Sabbir Rahman by Mahendra Singh Dhoni off Suresh Raina against Bangladesh was almost unbelievable, and many of the catches were simply extraordinary.
India's comeback victory over Bangladesh in the last over at the end of the innings, as Bangladesh, needing one run to tie with three wickets in hand, lost to India by one run off the last delivery; India beat Australia off the last delivery with Dhoni hitting a six, and the West Indies defeated South Africa with two deliveries to spare were some of the thrilling moments of 2016.
If Gayle, Samuels, Russell, Badree and company from the West Indies; and England's Root, Stokes, Buttler, and Rashid parade their skills today, the Eden Gardens will be the place to be. The action should be exciting and extraordinary, and it may not really matter who wins.
The tournament started with eight of the 16 teams very close and having an equal chance of victory, and it is finishing, after some thrilling and exciting matches, with two of them, the powerful, hard-hitting West Indies, and the conservative, easy-going England, boasting an equal chance of snatching victory, even though my favourites must be the West Indies, who have already beaten England.
England go in with a thrilling victory over the previously unbeaten New Zealand, the West Indies with an exciting victory with two deliveries to spare.