Australia v West Indies, 2nd semi-final, World Twenty20, 2012

Sammy taps into Olympic spirit

There are signs of a fragile recovery in West Indies cricket and a place in the World Twenty20 final - the prospect of silverware - would give long-suffering fans something to cling to

David Hopps in Colombo

October 4, 2012

Comments: 16 | Text size: A | A

Sunil Narine bowled superbly taking 3 for 20, New Zealand v West Indies, Super Eights, World Twenty20 2012, Pallekele, October 1, 2012
Sunil Narine will be key for West Indies after Australia's previous problems against spin © AFP
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When you can boast the two fastest men on the planet, it has to do a lot for your sense of sporting well-being. West Indies meet Australia with the exploits of Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake at the London Olympics still fresh in the mind. They won gold and silver over 100m and 200m for Jamaica, but throughout the Caribbean the millions looking on with pride felt able to take ownership of a magnificent spectacle.

For decades, West Indies cricket has been the unifying force for the Caribbean. At times it has seen an unwelcome task as the individual islands increasingly seek out an independent identity. But Bolt and Blake proved that the Caribbean can still think as one and, if West Indies follow up Olympic glory with victory in World Twenty20, they can ensure the sense of belonging deepens.

There was a time during the Olympics, for a few hours or more, when Blake - perhaps with the exclusion of Chris Gayle - was arguably the Caribbean's most famous cricketer. He suggested ambitiously that he was a better cricketer than a sprinter, ceremoniously rang the bell at the start of a day in the Lord's Test and claimed that he was seriously eyeing an opportunity in the Big Bash League. Bolt followed suit, although unlike Blake he could not claim to have a bowling machine at home cranked up to 90mph. Whatever, it was great theatre; a marketeer's dream.

In Colombo we have reached the second semi-final of World Twenty20 and the bona fide cricketers of West Indies now hope to capitalise on such uplifting memories. Their coach, Ottis Gibson, would have missed a trick if he had not extolled the achievements of Bolt and Blake at the start of the tournament and West Indies are contesting World Twenty20 under the slogan: "One team, one people, one goal."

It has to be said that 24 hours before the match unity in West Indies cricket was not 100% apparent. In Port-of-Spain, the entire Trinidad and Tobago squad had threatened not to travel to the Champions League in South Africa because of issues of the share of the payments received by the board for the involvement of Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Sunil Narine in IPL. The Trinidad contingent in Colombo with the West Indies were said to be closely involved.

At such times, an old inspirational speech by Gibson might be recalled with a raised eyebrow or two, but Darren Sammy, West Indies' captain, referred to it with pride intact.

"That was definitely remembered in our preparation," he said. "What happened in the Olympics has given the Caribbean people a lot of inspiration. I remember being in Jamaica watching the men and women's 100 and 200 metre finals. Even though it was Jamaica winning, it felt like the entire Carribean.

"Cricket is a game that unites the Carribean people so I know everyone at home is rooting for us. With all that's happened at the Olympics, it's another step for us to put a smile on the face of our fans' faces. We dedicate this tournament for all the die-hard fans supporting us through thick and thin. Now it's a golden opportunity to go out and win this for them."

If Jamaica, a country of 2.7 million people, can take a clean sweep of the men's Olympic sprinting gold, then it can also produce, in Gayle, a cricketer worthy of a winner's medal in the World Twenty20. The charisma of both is undeniable. They keep in contact quite regularly. Gayle once batted against Bolt in a charity match and is happy to suggest that Bolt made him hurry with a "competitive bouncer."

Sammy even uses imagery from athletics to describe West Indies' progress to the semi-finals. "Since the coach came on board, we've instilled a positive, can-do attitude in the team," he said. "In any organisation, any team, any group - the more you work together, the more you achieve. We have a lot of belief, and that's been the biggest factor for us. We saw it as a 100-metre hurdle. We've got two more hurdles to jump to reach the finish line. Tomorrow is about jumping that hurdle."

It has to be said that West Indies have struck a few hurdles along the way. They were well beaten by Sri Lanka in the Super Eights at Pallakele, hammered by nine wickets after making only 129 for 5 against an unorthodox Sri Lankan attack, bamboozled by Ajantha Mendis' spin assortment, Nuwan Kulasekara's mix of inswingers and huge slower balls and Jeevan Mendis' skiddy legrollers.

They also lost to Australia in the qualifying group, but it was a game wrecked by rain and Australia's 17-run winning margin on Duckworth Lewis was largely an irrelevance in which batsmen flayed bowlers out of sight all night. Pitches have deteriorated at Premadasa in the intervening days.

"We believe we can go onto win matches. We've not had the best tournament, but we're still in the semi finals," Sammy said. "We've always had good games against Australia. We've always scored heavily against them. We back our guys and their pace attack seems to favour us. Our game against Australia was shaping up to be a very exciting one. Hopefully we have another exciting game and we come out on top.

"They have a lot of experience at the top of the order, but as we saw against Pakistan, you can get into that middle order. We back ourselves and we think we have the bowlers in there to get wickets against them.

"It's a different stage of the tournament. It's the semi finals and there's a lot at stake. We just have to bring our A game."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (October 5, 2012, 12:47 GMT)

The best way that Sammy can contribute to Windies winning is by not playing himself. He is useless with the ball and bats at #8....I can't believe Dwayne Smith is not picked ahead of Sammy.

Posted by   on (October 5, 2012, 11:03 GMT)

From Jam town to T&T and the isles in the middle and Bdos in the east we are going to win this.

Posted by rishiupersad on (October 5, 2012, 10:45 GMT)

We wish them all the best in today's match. Bring it home and make the West Indies people proud and wear the Maroon with pride.

Posted by Simoc on (October 5, 2012, 7:49 GMT)

I think T20 is about the stars and if they perform. WI have Gayle, Pollard and Narine and Oz Watson, Warner and White. White has never lived up to it when it counts and Warner seems to be missing in relevance. So I guess WI will get up because Oz batsmen can't handle Narine.

Posted by Hardy1 on (October 5, 2012, 7:34 GMT)

West Indies are very lucky to go through because they were put in the weaker group in the super 8s; India won one more game and deserve to be there in their place to be honest (even New Zealand were very unlucky with the super overs). Having said that it's nice to know that we'll have new champions of the World T20 for the fourth competition in a row & this seems West Indies' best shot of success in recent times. I'd like to see Sri Lanka win it though, being the home team, having adapted to 3 different pitches (that they themselves weren't too familiar with) and I think after two consecutive World Cup defeats it'd be cruel for them to lose this at home.

Posted by   on (October 5, 2012, 7:04 GMT)

They could also invoke the spirit of Keshorn Walcott the 19 year old Trinidadian who made history by winning the javelin.

Throwing cricket balls, coconuts and anything he could find.

Maybe that could help the bowlers?

Posted by   on (October 5, 2012, 6:51 GMT)

WI need to win this match as well as T20 world cup to gain the respect of their counter parts and apart from them it would be better for Cricket to grow in windies as Football is taking over Caribbean Islands - Best Of Luck

Posted by jimmclarty on (October 5, 2012, 1:53 GMT)

This is the sort of event the Windies can win similar their unexpected ICC one tournament victory in the UK. With this team it is just a matter of who shows up on the day. I suspect that Sri Lanka will have too much in the tank for either of these teams, but who knows what will happen on the day? Victory will not return us to the glory days but it will bring back the feel-good factor even if for just a short time.

Posted by   on (October 5, 2012, 1:32 GMT)

Sammy stop Talking and just perform. Your days on the team are numbered

Posted by crickethung on (October 5, 2012, 0:42 GMT)

i want WI to win except that it will prolong Sammy as the captain. He should be captain only of the T20 and ODI and someone else the Test team

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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