Kolkata: Cricket is British – a gentleman’s sport but at one point, West Indies enraged the mighty Englishmen. They mastered and dominated the sport (lifting the ICC World Cup in 1975 and 1979) whose origin lies in the south east of England; by the woodlands of Sussex and Kent. The ICC World Twenty20 final to be played between the two teams here at the Eden Gardens on Sunday is a toast to the golden years – from the period involving Clive Lloyd to Graham Gooch.
Paul Farbrace on England's world cup final preparation
What will the coaches do to prepare the players for the #WT20 final? Paul Farbrace gives a refreshingly honest answer.Posted by England Cricket on Saturday, April 2, 2016
This World Cup could be termed as the comeback tourney for the working parties.
Both England and West Indies tasted win in 2010 and 2012 editions respectively but due to their inconsistency and unpredictability, they could never earn the ‘favourites’ tag. But now, the squads look balanced.
However, compared to West Indies, none of the English players had any prior experience of playing in India. Barring skipper Eoin Morgan and opener Alex Hales, none have known IPL – the breeding ground for T20 champions. On the other hand, one can say that the Caribbeans adapted, read the conditions well due to their familiarity with the wickets here.
Having come this far, Morgan is confident of dropping the curtains with a bang. The tournament – which had the ingredients of a movie script filled with turnarounds and upsets – could also bring about a renaissance moment in the cash-strapped West Indies cricket.
Jason Roy constructed England’s road to the final smashing a 44-ball 78 against New Zealand who – since then – were unbeaten. Roy – the South African-born cricketer – turned out to be a revelation and pundits are already comparing him to Kevin Pietersen – England’s hero in 2010 under Paul Collingwood’s leadership. In the marathon run chase against South Africa (230) in the group stage, it was again Roy who set the stage with a 21-ball 43 before Joe Root finished the proceedings.
On the other hand, Lendl Simmons flew in as a wild card entrant and dashed India’s hopes. Simmons – who struck six half-centuries for Mumbai Indians in the last IPL season – continued his riot at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. He remained unbeaten on 82 off 51 balls.
Chris Gayle being the favourite and stealing the limelight is an advantage for the Caribbeans. It releases the pressure off the remaining match-winners in the dugout.
Coincidentally, Gayle started the tournament with a hundred against England but missed out against India the other night. He will be keen to make amends.
So far, there are no injuries. But England could make one change if the grass on the pitch disappears at the eleventh hour. Morgan hinted at playing Liam Dawson – who, so far, has appeared only in a warm-up match. He bowls slow left-arm orthodox and is also a handy batsman.
Yorker specialist Chris Jordan, who took a four-for against Sri Lanka, could be effective in the death overs.
For West Indies, leggie Samuel Badree remains the go-to man. He was the most economical bowler (1/26) against India. Though for a losing cause, Badree picked up three wickets against Afghanistan as well. The Eden turf, known for its whimsical behaviour, could be his muse.
The finishing act of the exquisite world tournament is on the backdrop of a tragedy that shook people in the City of Joy on Thursday. An under-construction flyover collapsed, killing more than 20 people and injuring several others.
With the elections round the corner, the Englishmen may feel at home. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s aspiration of making a London out of Kolkata could earn them special attention. There also happens to be a makeshift ‘Big Ben’ – constructed merely a year back – in the northern fringes of the metropolitan. England’s triumph could bridge the gap between her dreams and the reality.
The weather is sunny, humid with temperatures soaring up to 35 degrees during the day. There are less chances of showers. But April being the month of Nor’westers, one can never say never. But the ground staff and the improved drainage system at Eden won the battle against rain during the match against Pakistan.
Eden wicket is a rank turner but there is a bit of grass on the pitch which could assist the bowlers. The India-Pakistan match was a low scoring one but Pakistan scored a 200 on the same pitch.
Head to head
West Indies 9 England 4
World T20: West Indies 4 England 0
Most runs overall: C Gayle 345 runs (9 matches), A Hales 340 runs (9 matches)
Individual scores: C Gayle 100 vs England
Most wickets overall: D Bravo 9 wickets in 11 matches, R Bopara 10 wickets in 9 matches
England: E Morgan (c), J Roy, A Hales, J Root, J Buttler (wk), B Stokes, M Ali, C Jordan, D Willey, A Rashid, L Plunkett
West Indies: D Sammy (c), C Gayle, J Charles, M Samuels, L Simmons, A Russell, D Bravo, C Brathwaite, D Ramdin (wk), S Badree, S Benn...