West Indies v England World T20 preview – Final
Authoritative, positive play has served Morgan and Co. well, but Sammy's men could benefit from having Eden Gardens crowd behind them
02 April 2016 16:13
Conventional wisdom would therefore suggest that the shoe will be on the other foot now, that the Eden will cheer unabashedly for England, that Eoin Morgan’s men will begin as crowd favourites. When it comes to the West Indies, though, conventional wisdom always goes out the window because no matter where the side plays, it is the second-favourite team in every cricket-playing nation.
Darren Sammy and his men would love to believe that they are the underdogs, despite that stirring run in the ICC World Twenty20 2016. It’s a tack that has worked wonderfully well for the side all tournament long. The West Indies has managed to strike the perfect balance between grim determination and natural flamboyance, between simmering anger and spectacular skills, scything through the draw to find itself within one win of lifting its second ICC World T20 crown in three editions.
As much as it will use slights perceived and genuine to rouse itself up for battle on Sunday (April 3), the West Indies will not be unprepared for the groundswell of support that will come its way. Its wonderfully uninhibited expressions of cricketing and celebratory talents make it a vastly popular side; England, brave, bold, fearless new England, has seldom enjoyed the same adulation around the world. It might be a battle of the equals out in the middle, but it most certainly won’t be one in the galleries, which may not throb or heave as much as for India, had the side made it to the title round, but certainly won’t be short on colour or character.
With the next World T20 four years away and several members of this side unlikely to be actively involved by then, there is an additional incentive for the likes of Sammy, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Marlon Samuels, among others, to replicate the side's stirring deeds of 2012, as well as those from the first game of this competition when it lashed England into submission on the back of hurricane Gayle’s power-packed century.
England, needless to say, has come a long way since that drubbing. The effortless ease with which it reeled in South Africa’s 229 two days after that loss to the West Indies, and its Jason Roy-orchestrated semifinal annihilation of form team New Zealand are ultimate confirmation, if it was needed, of England playing with the authority and positivity of a nation that gave the world this 20-over version.
Morgan attributed England’s revamped and refreshing philosophy to limited-overs cricket to a shift in mindset in the immediacy of the team's early elimination from the 50-over ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 in Australia. The first endeavour was to identify the right personnel, as much from a batting perspective as anything else. England is no longer the see-off-the-new-ball, gradually-build-an-innings unit. It comes out with a clear and firm message from the off – stray even slightly from the straight and narrow, and cop untold punishment.
The principal enforcers in this tournament have been Jason Roy, Joe Root, Jos Buttler and to a lesser extent Alex Hales, but there is greater firepower lurking in the ranks. Morgan himself has had a run as batsman that is as poor as his leadership has been inspirational, while Ben Stokes too is still lurking in the shadows, with established ball-strikers Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid shoring up the lower middle order. With such depth and ferocious hitting cogs, England is a deadly dangerous side, an exceptional front-runner that can decimate attacks from ball 1 to 120.
There is more to England than only its array of boundary-hitters who, unlike their opponents in the final, are also wonderful between the wickets. Chris Jordan has shored up the bowling quite beautifully, his control at the death exemplary and the difference between the side chasing 150 and 170. His changes of pace and control over the yorker have been nicely backed up by Stokes, David Willey and Liam Plunkett, while Moeen and Rashid, the offspin-legspin duo, have provided admirable spin back-up.
It was this same group – give or take one or two – that felt the full might of Gayle’s fury a fortnight ago at the Wankhede. The West Indies has insisted that there is more to its batting than Gayle; in Mumbai, it finally managed to convince the world. Gayle made only 5 in a chase of 193 against India, but Johnson Charles, last-minute replacement Lendl Simmons and Andre Russell more than made up for the big man’s failure. Gayle began the tournament with a flourish; who is to say the Universe Boss won’t end it thus as well?
For England, Sunday is a glorious opportunity to atone for the World Cup disaster of last year, and to seek vindication in its revamped approach to limited-overs cricket. For the West Indies, however, it is less to do with reasons cricketing and more about pride and respect. Motivations different, target the same. Will this Cup final break the norm and throw up a contest worthy of the occasion and the venue?
England: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (capt), Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan, David Willey, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett.
West Indies: Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Andre Russell, Darren Sammy (capt), Carlos Brathwaite, Samuel Badree, Sulieman Benn.