When it comes to cricket, there is no format more unpredictable than its shortest. Its length means that match winners are even more valued than in the longer versions. A double century from a Brian Lara or Jacques Kallis in the five-day version is perhaps worth less than 80 runs from Chris Gayle in the shortest format. In that sense, the final two make sense.
Overwhelming favourites India, too possess the men who can win it on any given day. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ravi Ashwin, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravi Jadeja all can turn a match on its head and at home India were deservedly installed as favourites. Ordained their victory was not, however. Many overlooked that many other teams possessed the men to do it. South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, the West Indies and England also boast many of such talents. The ones who turned up and made the difference are in the tournament’s closer. Nothing was ever cut and dried for the hosts, not when their semi-final vanquishers can call on a man fresh from a flight to dismantle your total.
The West Indies, cricket’s entertainers that bless the game with style, flamboyance, and passion and England, young, talented, dynamic, improving with every game are our finalists. We await the T20 World Cup final.
This final of two past winners (England in 2010 and the men from the Caribbean in 2012) promises to be high powered and packed with excitement. One can be cynical and say that’s true of all T20 but these two teams both bring talent to the table that can make for gripping cricket matches. The West Indies are the second team for most; they are the T20 veterans and IPL experience means that it is a second home for Chris Gayle, Lendl Simmons, Andre Russell, Darren Sammy, Samuel Badree, and Marlon Samuels. In that sense they have the advantage. They are more familiar with the conditions. Indeed, we saw a fresh Simmons catapult them into the final at the expense of fancied India who many would have bet house and home to be the eventual champions, let alone the winner against a team that lost to Afghanistan. A previously cold Russell awoke and unleashed the beat of power hitting that made him the 2015 IPL’s most valuable player. Sammy, the captain, hasn’t fired yet and he is no slouch at that thing called power hitting.
As always, however, the men of the islands will look to Chris Gayle first because they know that his match winning abilities supersede perhaps all others in the game. One senses that if he clicks there is nothing the leaky England bowling can do to stop him. Support will need to come from Samuels who is one of the few proper batsmen in the team, Charles, Simmons, Bravo, and company. In the bowling department much will rest on both spinners who must arrest the free scoring English batsmen although they might do well with Sunil Narine in the familiar Kolkata. A little known statistic is that England have been the freest scoring team in T20 at 8.46 RPO. The West Indies rank sixth over this period at 8.16 RPO. The records are very similar too, 9 wins, 5 losses and 1 tie for England and 1 no result for the West Indies. Dwayne Bravo is a man with the x-factor with both ball and bat and his slower balls might make for quite some drama.
West Indies: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Lendl Simmons, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Carlos Brathwaite, 10 Sulieman Benn, 11 Samuel Badree
England, summarily dismissed by the West Indies in their opening match, ironically find themselves in a final against the same opponent. It is a chance for redemption and it would be the culmination of a brilliant turnaround by a team nobody had to reach this far, nobody who neglected the nature of T20s and what it actually takes to win.
On that point about match winners, England have it in droves. England’s answer to Chris Gayle is probably Jason Roy. First a 16 ball blitz of South Africa as they improbably chased down 229. Next came a more subdued 42 against Sri Lanka as they moved into the semis and then the slaughter of New Zealand in 44 balls for 78 which propelled them to an easy victory. Roy has the fearless attitude that makes for T20 stars. England would love anything similar tomorrow. The class of England is undoubtedly Joe Root. One of the best batsmen in all formats, the stylish right hander is the English answer to Kohli. His calm and consistency could be the difference for a young team under pressure. England have more class whilst the West Indies have more power. One man that possesses both for the English is Jos Buttler. Another that can rattle what can be a loose West Indian attack, Buttler must be itching to feast on the offerings served by Carlos Brathwaite in particular who is the competition’s most expensive bowler.
To win the match England must target him and possibly Russell as Badree and Benn are very economical. Their bowling must do better and one feels that Chris Gayle aside, they might fancy their chances. The issue is you can’t throw hi/m aside. Much might depend on the toss as the West Indies are better chasers and England the same. Both are prone to wilting under pressure and one feels that anything other than an imposing total will be chased down. The Kolkata pitch is a good cricket wicket with a fair covering of grass, and could take spin later on.
England: 1 Jason Roy, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Jos Buttler (wk), 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 David Willey, 11 Liam Plunkett
The only predictable thing about the final is that there will be a winner. The West Indies will take heart from their final record in world tournament finals against England, a win in the 1979 World Cup and another in the ICC Champions trophy in 2004. The head to head T20 matchup favours them also, 9-4, and 4-0 in the World T20. One suspects all this will count for nought on Sunday. England are a team going one way in this tournament and West Indies are a team against the world, although they are almost universally liked. They will, and have already proved Mark Nicholas wrong after his ignorant and pandering-to-stereotype comments that the West Indies are short of brains. For all the fanfare surrounding the more fancied, the final is upon us and it’s a battle between two unfancied.
Entertain us West Indies and England.