Jul 07, 2013 Sports
Colin E. H. Croft
Today’s (Sunday) game, West Indies vs Sri Lanka, could turn out to be the best game yet of the series.
With its last game’s effort v India, Sri Lanka, perhaps still smarting from poor showings at Champions Trophy 2013, probably suddenly realized that there really is nothing to fear in this Tri-series.
Conversely, West Indies will want to make serious amends for quite a poor effort, and subsequent result, against the same opponents last Friday. How could a team be so cold, with 25,000 similarly warm bodies in joyous, carnival-esque attendance?
Anyway, acknowledged, on recent results and reckoning, as best international soccer team and One-Day International cricket team in world sport, Spain and India, last week, were in exactly the same quandary!
When it really should have mattered most, to win respective games, both fell flat, beaten badly by two enterprising outfits, Brazil and Sri Lanka. SL and Brazil realized that in order to beat India and Spain, they had to change their approach, not be defensive, but to take the world champions out of relative comfort zones.
Both Brazil and Sri Lanka had one aspect, two words, in common last week. Massive aggression! In Spain’s case, they probably thought that that thumping they received from Brazil in the Confederation Cup 2013 final was just an aberration, a one-off.
Having played so well since winning FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa, and, had it not been the Brazilians who so decidedly destroyed them, Spain might have gotten away with that thought too.
But the Samba Boys upped their tempo considerably in that final at the famed Maracana Stadium.
Brazil must have learned from Spain’s game against Italy, which Italy were unlucky to lose, noticing that if the ball was moved very quickly, then Spain could crumble, like any other team under great pressure.
India too could have used an old excuse – cricket tiredness – after that battering by Sri Lanka at Sabina.
Instead, India reverted to what got them to No. 1 in the first place; strong, in-your-face, purposeful batsmanship, down to No. 7, even with the absence of regular captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Stunningly aesthetic, classical Rohit Sharma and “The Basher”, Shikhar Dhawan, looked so at ease putting on a smooth 123-0 in 23 overs, to be followed by mesmerically exciting Virat Kohli with a magical 122.
In Friday’s game vs West Indies at QPO, cricket’s world champions powered forward, grappling and clawing themselves out of the hole dug in Jamaica, caused by the dexterity of Sri Lanka’s batting.
Dwayne Bravo’s use of his bowlers also confused. There is nothing written that says that any bowler must be fully used simply because he is playing. One-day cricket is a changing phenomenon by the delivery!
How could two front line bowlers, Kemar Roach and, to a lesser extent, Tino Best, be allowed to complete 10 overs each, for a combined 120 runs, while the two most frugal bowlers on the park, Darren Sammy – 8 overs for 28 runs, and Marlon Samuels – 8 overs for 39 runs, were not be allowed their full quota?
Batsmen Roach and Best did win that game for West Indies in Jamaica last week, but this was a new time!
Sri Lankan Upal Tharanga must have heard my bellows. No cricket team can rely on only two batsmen to survive and win in today’s world. For SL, those are Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
Tharanga’s 174 no vs India was a welcomed arrival for his team and highly reminiscent of pulsating, flashing blades of another left-hander, Sanath Jayasuriya, who, in cahoots with Romesh Kaluwitharana, advised by then captain Arjune Ranatunga, totally changed the batting attitude to ODI’s in 1996 World Cup.
Jayawardene’s cool approach, with that pristine century vs India, was the exact balance to Upal’s charge! Kieron Pollard and Marlon Samuels are now where Chris Gayle was before the games in Jamaica.
Before his 109 against Sri Lanka two Fridays ago, Gayle’s last significant ODI score, of fifty or more, was fifteen innings previously; 125 against New Zealand, also in Kingston, in July 2012.
Desmond Haynes probably put it best: “Reputations do not make runs. Batsmen who buckle down do!”
Ten innings ago, in February 2013, “Polly” made 109 no in a losing cause against Australia, but has not passed 50 in nine ensuing ODI innings since. Similarly, Samuels has not made substantial ODI scores, no innings over 50, since his 126 against Bangladesh in December 2012, also nine ODI’s ago.
Pollard and Samuels need great runs to make up for debilitating, distressing lack of input at the crease. This cannot be good enough from West Indies premier batsmen. Much more buckling down is required!
West Indies also seem to be depending much too much on Gayle’s production, while his energetic opening partner, Johnson Charles, is evolving into the most devil-take-the-hindmost style batman ever!
Last Friday, India bashed West Indies. Last week, Sri Lanka massaged India, while Brazil undermined Spain with increased speed and aggression. So let it be for this final push to the final for West Indies, against a rejuvenated Sri Lanka! Enjoy!
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