Batting the key in big clash

Preview : West Indies and England are evenly matched as they vie for the crown at Eden Gardens

Batting the key in big clash

Beneath that Champion song celebrations and their revelry after every win, there is a simmering anger in West Indian players. No, it’s not about feud within the team but certain barbs thrown at them and a perceived lack of respect to the team that has made its second final of World Twenty in three editions.

West Indies -- who had been dismissed as a brainless bunch by former County cricketer-turned TV analyst Mark Nicholas in a write up about the ongoing World T20 -- appear to have used this insult to power themselves to the summit clash. England, the other finalists, will have to be wary of a seething but skilful West Indies.

Purely from home crowd’s perspective, much of the sheen from Sunday’s final may have vanished after India’s heart-breaking exit from the tournament. But if one were to look beyond emotions, it’s only fair that the two teams that played the most refreshing brand of cricket will be slugging it out for the top prize here at the Eden Gardens.

West Indies are the acknowledged masters of T20 cricket. Champions two editions ago in 2012, their players are much sought after in T20 leagues across the cricketing world. Their shares in longer versions (Tests and ODIs) may have crashed like Sensex in a volatile market, but their stocks in the sprint format have been on the rise.

They have natural flair and sense of fearlessness, two key ingredients for success in this format. If it’s West Indies then much of the attention is always on Chris Gayle who is T20 version’s Vivian Richards, instilling the fear of God among rival bowlers. But then, there is much more to this West Indies side than just Gayle. He is obviously the most destructive T20 batsman in the world, but rival teams can ignore other willow wielders in the Windies’ line-up at their own peril.

India didn’t exactly underestimate their batting fire-power after dismissing Gayle cheaply in the semifinal, but their mind might have wandered too far ahead of themselves. It’s a timely reminder to England who would have been focusing too much on the big Jamaican. After all, he had made mincemeat of their big total with a 48-ball unbeaten 100 in their Super 10 match.

To their credit, England successfully put behind Gayle’s brutal onslaught on them and made everyone sit up and take notice of their game when they chased down South Africa’s 200-plus total, unleashing their own aggressive brand of batting.

In a way, Sunday’s battle will be a clash of similar styles and substance. Both have power-packed batting line-up, a clutch of all-rounders, handy spinners and have done exceedingly well while chasing targets. It’s a no-brainer that the team winning the toss will opt to bowl first not only because both teams love chasing but given a fair sprinkling of grass on the pitch and dew setting in in the night.

England had a fairly encouraging build-up to the tournament in shorter versions but all of it was outside of sub-continent and after their crushing defeat to West Indies in their opener, not many would have given England a chance to last this distance. Their growth as a top T20 side has been a revelation.

The Englishmen have thrived on the batting exploits of three Js – Joe Root, Jos Buttler and Jason Roy. Root and Roy have close to 200 runs in the tournament and Buttler has over 150 with a strike rate hovering between 145 and 158 per 100 balls. While Buttler and Roy have been acknowledged big hitters, Root, not unlike Virat Kohli, has gathered his runs playing authentic cricket shots.

The bowling too has done admirably well with Chris Jordan, David Willey and Ben Stokes effectively manning the pace department. Spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid have been a bit expensive but have been amongst wickets.

In the end, though, it will all boil down to England’s batting versus West Indies batting.

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