Eleven West Indian cricketers will take to the Premadasa Stadium field for tomorrow’s second semi-final of the ICC World T20 championship but almost certainly the attention of their Australian opponents will be focused on Chris Gayle with the bat and Sunil Narine with the ball.
Australian captain George Bailey left no doubt in anyone’s mind today that they would be focusing heavily on Gayle and seeking to get him back in the pavilion before he can inflict harm on their chances of making it to the finals of the tournament.
“Their (West Indies) batting is no doubt their strength. If you can knock Gayle over early it really does put pressure on the rest of their batsmen to step up,” he said after a training session.
Gayle struck a belligerent 54 to propel West Indies to 191-8 against Australia in the preliminary stage, before the similarly destructive Shane Watson scored a 21-ball 41 to steer his team home via the Duckworth-Lewis method in the rain-affected match.
Gayle also smashed 58 during a 103-run opening stand with Johnson Charles to set up a 15-run win over defending champions England in the Super Eights in Pallekele.
But when Gayle fell for just two against Sri Lanka, the West Indies crumbled for a paltry 129 to lose by nine wickets.
Bailey said today he wanted an aggressive attitude by his team against the West Indies bowlers – even if it cost Australia a place in the final.
“I’d rather see us throw caution to the wind. If we get knocked over, we get knocked over,” Bailey said and hinted that David Hussey could be back for the semi- final in place of Glenn Maxwell.
Australia’s four wins in five matches so far in the tournament have been made easier by a sensational all-round display by Shane Watson, who has scored 242 runs and taken 11 wickets.
The West Indies, in contrast, have just two wins from five matches and need to lift their game if they are to stop Australia from making their second successive World Twenty20 final.
West Indies skipper Darren Sammy insisted his team’s success did not hinge on Gayle alone.
sammy: team effort the key
“It’s not only about Chris,” said Sammy. “Obviously he sets the momentum for us at the top of the order. But to win the game, it will need a total team effort.
“In any cricket match, you get one individual doing something brilliant. But it will take a collective effort to win the semi-final.”
Sammy predicted a close game with the result depending on who wins the key moments in the game.
“It could be a spectacular catch somewhere, or guys out in the middle making the right decision at a crucial time. I think the team that wins at the end of the day is the team that will make less mistakes. But it’s two evenly matched teams and it promises to be an exciting game,” he said.
But the Aussies’ preoccupation with Gayle was echoed by their coach Mickey Arthur.
“He is the one guy who makes you panic a lot more because he takes you on. The longer he bats, the more he becomes tougher to bowl at … It becomes tough when you’re executing under that much pressure to a guy like Chris Gayle because if you miss your area by that much, he scores, but I’m confident we have the artillery to keep that in check,” Arthur said.
Having watched the Aussies’ game against Pakistan, Sammy is banking on Narine and his Trinidad and Tobago spin counterpart Samuel Badree to inflict the damage.
“It’s good that we watched them play against Pakistan. We have a variety of guys who could bowl spin. We will definitely try to exploit that,” he said.
As many as 16 overs could be taken up by spin tomorrow with the possibility of Marlon Samuels and Gayle being called on depending on pitch conditions.
Captain Sammy will hope they can get it all right tomorrow morning.
And just before they do, the West Indies will be cheering on their female counterparts as they take on defending champions Australia in the women’s semi-finals.
The Australia women start as favourites but the Caribbean women are no pushovers as
demonstrated by England captain Charlotte Edwards’ sentiments that her side, which made it into the finals today by beating New Zealand, were happy to avoid them at this juncture of the competition.
West Indies’ hopes will rest largely on the shoulders of their star players all-rounder Stafanie Taylor and the pugnacious Deandra Dottin. An excellent game by these two could go a long way towards a victory. Australia will look to their senior players Lisa Sthalekar and Alex Blackwell for inspiration and also draw from their vast experience at this level. In Ellyse Perry they also possess a quality all-round sportswoman.
The men take to the field at 9.30 a.m., while the women’s game is at 5 a.m. Barbados time.