West Indies was among the pre-tournament favourites, but it hasn't quite got every base covered if the big guns fail
It’s permutations-combinations time in the Super Eights Group 1 of the ICC World Twenty20 2012. While none of the four teams have done enough to seal a semi-final spot, Sri Lanka is virtually there, by virtue of two wins from as many games and a healthy Net Run Rate. It plays England in the second match of the day on Monday, but even before it takes the field the equation will be much clearer.
West Indies has three routes to the semi-finals. The first is that it beats New Zealand, and hopes that Sri Lanka beats England. In that scenario, Sri Lanka will have six points, West Indies four, and the other sides two each. Alternatively, if West Indies and England win, three teams will be tied on four points each, and it will come down to Net Run Rate, with New Zealand out. Finally, if Sri Lanka hammers England, and West Indies lose, there will be a three-way tie for second place, leaving it to Net Run Rate, in which West Indies is currently far behind.
West Indies plays New Zealand in the game that starts at 3.30pm, and they approach the final game with contrasting records. New Zealand, expected to be pushovers against spin, has done what it always does at ICC events, punching well above its weight. Had it not been for a loss by the closest of margins – a tie against Sri Lanka that went to the Super Over – and a flat performance against England, New Zealand would have been much better placed.
West Indies, one of the favourites on paper when the competition began, is finding that there is more to Twenty20 cricket than packing the team with power hitters and hoping for the best. While Chris Gayle still remains the player most likely to singlehandedly win a Twenty20 match, and his track record in this aspect is well documented, there’s more than one issue that the West Indies is grappling with.
For starters, the batsmen seem to have a binary approach to scoring runs – either a ball is blocked with purpose, or it’s dispatched into orbit. West Indies’ top-order, which includes Johnson Charles, who has played one stunning innings, Marlon Samuels, and Dwayne Bravo, doesn’t seem at all keen on the quick singles or the hard-run twos, and this often makes all the difference when the opposition has got into a good bowling rhythm.
But, for all its batting concerns, it is the bowling that leaves West Indies vulnerable to a stealth attack from a highly organised and disciplined team like New Zealand. West Indies banked on Sunil Narine turning up, twirling his arms and bamboozling batsmen, but things haven’t quite worked out that way. With less turn on offer than expected, and batsmen having played Narine in a variety of Twenty20 contests, the mystery has ebbed just a touch.
When the ace wicket-taking option is off the boil, it’s up to the others to pick up the slack, and there has been little method to this. Ravi Rampaul has looked physically strong, steaming in with intensity, but lacked the nous to capitalise on early good work. He seems to assert himself early but falls away when the attack is taken to him deep in the innings.
Darren Sammy, West Indies’ captain, also seems far from sure what his best bowling attack is, preferring to toggle between the pace and verve of Fidel Edwards and the brisk legspin of Samuel Badree on a horses-for-courses approach. The problem, so far, is that the course has suited neither one horse nor the other.
For reasons best known to him, Sammy has also not bowled Kieron Pollard all tournament, and with Pollard not making an impact with the bat, it’s hard to say if he has any confidence going into a big match. To Sammy’s credit, he has not once looked like panicking, even when the results have not gone West Indies’ way.
“The good thing for us is that we played New Zealand at home not long ago,” said Sammy. “In that sense, we know exactly what to expect and have a pretty good idea of the skills they bring to the table. At the end of the day, it’s about executing the plan when it counts.”
What’s unclear is whether Sammy’s plan basically boils down to putting a giant score on the board and letting the pressure of the chase take its toll. If that’s all he has up his sleeve, that favourites tag could end up looking a bit misplaced at the end of one bad day.