On top of the world in Colombo
Tony Becca ON THE BOUNDARY
The West Indies pulled off a remarkable recovery in Colombo last Sunday in defeating Sri Lanka, winning the ICC World Twenty20 tournament, and setting off a celebration, by the team and their fans, which will last for a long, long time.
The West Indies were the people's favourites to win the title, but Sri Lanka were the betting favourites to do so, and when the match started, and at the halfway stage of their innings, the West Indies appeared dead and waiting to be buried.
After 10 overs, the score was 32 for two, Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo seemed shaky, nervous, and ready to go, and the hope of West Indian fans was dwindling, so much so that to many, it was the same old story.
It was the story of recent failures.
Two times, however, to their credit, the West Indies dug deep and came out on top, once when Samuels, with a shot-filled innings of 78 off 56 deliveries, six towering sixes and three fours, and Darren Sammy, with a crunching 26 not out at the end, amazingly drag them to 137 for six off the allotted 20 overs, and when, from 48 for one, Samuel Badree, Sammy, and Sunil Narine, two run-outs, and some brilliant fielding, dramatically nailed Sri Lanka for 101.
After the surprising start to their innings, the West Indies slammed 105 runs off the last 10 overs, and after Sri Lanka were cruising towards victory, apparently, after their fans were rocking in the R. Premadasa Stadium, the West Indies miraculously snatched six wickets for 21 runs in five overs as they headed for victory and turned the surroundings into a graveyard.
The only sound in the stadium full of people was the sound of the West Indies players and their fans as they celebrated their first victory, their first in a world tournament since Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw rescued them with a brilliant partnership in the Champions Trophy in 2004.
On the big day, Christopher Gayle failed with the bat, so too did Kieron Powell, and Andre Russell. On the day, however, Samuels was superb as he stood in the breach, batting at number three and getting out at 108 for six, Bravo was OK, and captain Sammy, batting briskly and undefeated, provided the finishing touch.
And when it came time to bowl, although Ravi Rampaul handed the West Indies a fairy-tale start by knocking over the dangerous Tillakaratne Dilshan with his first delivery, Sri Lanka looked set until Sunil Narine struck.
skidded to defeat
After that, with nine wickets falling for 52 runs in 9.1 overs, the Sri Lankans batted as if their brains were scrambled and skidded to defeat, dismissed, surprisingly and disappointingly, for 101 in 18.4 overs.
The West Indians all played well, especially in the field. To me, however, the stars of the day were Samuels and Sammy.
Had Samuel not batted so brilliantly, 78 runs out of 108 for six, had he not destroyed Lasith Malinga, the West Indies would not have reached a fighting total, and had Sammy not chipped in so well, the final score would not have been good enough to make a fight of it.
And in the field, Sammy was also good. By bowling Rampaul for one over at the start, and himself for two overs at the finish, by bowling four spin bowlers throughout the innings on a pitch which was slow and turning, he kept the pressure on the Sri Lanka batsmen over after over.
In winning the World Twenty20, the West Indies have covered themselves in glory, and after all they have been through, they richly deserve it, no two ways about that.
As good as that is, however, as big as this victory may be, Twenty20 cricket is not the World Cup, and most of all, it is not Test cricket.
As much as we may laud the players, we must remember, among other things, that apart from one innings, Johnson Charles did not fire, that apart from their fielding, Powell and Russell did not fire, that apart from Narine, Badree, and Rampaul, but for one innings, the bowling was ordinary, and that although the West Indies rattled up the highest total in the tournament, in winning three matches, in tying one match (which they won in the Super Over), in suffering a no-result, and in losing two matches, the West Indies overall performance was somewhat disappointing.
The victory was nevertheless good for Twenty20 cricket, and it was entertaining and exciting.
Most of the victory, however, was due to the fighting spirit of the team, to the unity of the players, to the fitness of the players, and to the belief now that Gayle is back in the team.
Captain Sammy and coach Ottis Gibson should be congratulated for facilitating Gayle's peaceful re-entry to the team and for welcoming back the former captain without any show of hostility, just as Gayle deserves kudos for his commitment and behaviour since his return.
There is work with the regional clubs and with the regional tournaments still to be done in order to lift West Indies cricket back to its rightful place in world cricket, but this victory is a start: it is something to talk about, may be to boast about, along the way.
As Samuels has said, performances in Test cricket are what the fans remember, and captain Sammy himself has said, this is a step in the right direction but we are not back yet.
For the time being, however, the West Indies performances, especially the sixes from Gayle, Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, and once from Pollard, the acrobatic saves which saw fielders flying over the boundary, and the running, diving, and brilliant catches, exciting stops and brilliant throws, were simply fabulous, breathtaking, and magnificent.