Sri Lanka v West Indies, Final, World Twenty20, Colombo October 7, 2012

A game that proved Twenty20 matters

The World Twenty20 final proved that the shortest format is worthy of attention, and that cricket in the Caribbean is alive and kicking, says David Hopps as he soaks in the atmosphere at a Colombo café

There was a celebration after this World Twenty20 final, but it was not on the streets of Colombo. The thousands of people who streamed into the centre of Sri Lanka's capital to dance the night away largely turned around and went back again. Instead, the carnival was in the Caribbean as West Indies kept their promise that their cricketing regeneration had begun. Rally Round the West Indies, Gangnam Style and a bit of Bob Marley, washed down by a dark rum or two, long into the night.

Even those traditional cricket supporters most resistant to the attractions of T20 must concede that if it helps to reawaken Caribbean cricket after two decades of decline then it will have had a positive impact on the world game. And while they are in conciliatory mood, they can concede, too, that there was no better man to spark the rebirth than Darren Sammy, West Indies' big-hearted, congenial captain, a man who has followed their slogan of "One Team, One People, One Goal" to the letter, and whose unbeaten 26 off 15 balls, to follow Marlon Samuels' 78, dragged West Indies out of inertia to what proved to be a matchwinning 137 for 6.

Never say again that Twenty20 does not matter. Never say again that it is such an entirely inferior game that is not worth your attention, that it demands no intellect, creates no tension, bares no souls. If it is not a worthy addition to Test cricket, how can you explain the despair tonight for Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, two players who have offered Sri Lankan cricket wise counsel and stirring deeds for the past decade and who have failed yet again to win a major one-day trophy? They will fear that they may now never leap the final hurdle.

Never say again that Twenty20 does not matter, that it is all a bit of fun, that it is a bad game best disguised by cheerleaders and loud music. If you think that, how do you explain why Chris Gayle, the most destructive batsman around, went into his shell to make 3 runs in 16 balls in the face of insistent Sri Lankan bowling on a mediocre surface when the time had come to fulfil his prediction that the final belonged to West Indies. The tension in the early overs of West Indies' innings was of Test match quality and there is no finer accolade than that.

And how do you suppress your recognition that Marlon Samuels, the Yohan Blake to Gayle's Usain Bolt, played an innings of substance by any definition, launching a spectacular assault on Lasith Malinga, in particular, to drag West Indies' angst-ridden innings out of the mire?

This World Twenty20 tournament, run with a professionalism beyond anything that Sri Lanka has ever produced, has emphasised that T20 cricket must have a future in the international game and that those who have suggested it should be left only to domestic franchise leagues have been entirely misguided.

Properly played, this is a game that carries many of Test cricket's tensions, a game that also possesses its own strategy, its own quick-wittedness, its own moments of immense skill, the only difference being that they reveal themselves only seconds rather than hours.

A West Indies win had not seemed likely earlier in the evening. There was a man dressed as a ghost in the crowd at Premadasa, shown briefly on TV, and on a night when, as it turned out, Sri Lanka were unable to revive the ghosts of their 1996 World Cup win, it seemed appropriate to this onlooker to watch the game from the Cricket Club Café, which to the travelling cricket supporter at least has become the spiritual home of cricket in Colombo.

Properly played, Twenty20 is a game that carries many of Test cricket's tensions, a game that also possesses its own strategy, its own quick-wittedness, its own moments of immense skill, the only difference being that they reveal themselves only seconds rather than hours

Months after Sri Lanka's 1996 World Cup win, James and Gabby Whight sold up in Australia, opened a cricket-themed bar in Colombo and hoped for the best. They partly funded it on the proceeds of a good wine collection and they were down to their last couple of cases when people finally began to come through the door. Two decades of civil war struck Sri Lanka cruelly, the 2004 tsunami brought further tragedy, but the café, like Sri Lanka cricket itself, withstood the hard times. They will find it hard to believe tonight, but the future is brighter.

As Samuels recovered West Indies' innings in brilliant fashion, his innings developing with an assault upon Lasith Malinga, and as Sammy biffed West Indies out of range, the walls of the café carried memories of a bygone era. Yellowing newspaper cuttings told of some of Don Bradman's great knocks, of how the crowd at the Trent Bridge Test booed Keith Miller for bowling a bumper and hitting Len Hutton on the shoulder, and how Sri Lanka - in the words of the Colombo Daily News - "climbed Everest" the day Arjuna Ranatunga's team changed the nature of cricket in Sri Lanka by winning the World Cup.

That cutting, too, is history now - and there will be no cutting to replace it. Sixteen years of Sobers Stir- Frys and Ganguly Grills have been served to cricket supporters while Sri Lanka have waited in vain to follow up their greatest moment. Gabby promised to seek out some new cuttings if Sri Lanka overcame West Indies; she will have no need to search out the scissors.

Keith Miller, had he been born in the modern age, would have loved T20; Bradman might have privately thought it beneath him but pride would have probably persuaded him to adapt and become masterful at it. Both, though, would have had to be weaned off their lightweight bats. One of the framed displays on the café's wall shows The History Of The Cricket Bat and it has to be said the Early Curved Bat of the 1730s might not have been much use for clearing the ropes. Memories of another age.

Sri Lanka, who coming into the final had struck 17 sixes to West Indies' 42, seemed at times to be using the Early Curved Bat as they forgot the skills that had brought them to the final and tried to go big with disastrous effect. As for Jayawardene, Sri Lanka's top scorer with 33, he felt a spot of drizzle, sensed the advent of the October monsoon and promptly got out trying to get ahead of Duckworth/Lewis. It never drizzled again. "You can't see the skies, only feel the drops," Jayawardene said.

As Sri Lanka squeezed West Indies, and West Indies squeezed back in return, a new generation of cricket fans, unable to get tickets for the game, watched in expectation at the café, oblivious to the faded photos around them. As they came into the bar, one of them glanced at the TV screen, spotted Gayle, and shouted "six, six, six", but it was not that kind of night and the ball dribbled no more than a few yards. The X-man was having a few z's, but his understudy was wide awake. "It was a slow wicket, but I knew if I hung in there it would be okay," Samuels said. "Today was a different mindset - I decided to attack their best bowler." No international player has come to fruition so markedly this year.

With one over left of West Indies' innings, it was time to grab a trishaw to Galle Face Green, in search of a celebration that never took place. Sixteen years ago, as Ranatunga's team made history, it was a happier place. This must have been the only tuk tuk in Colombo with an in-built TV, the driver certainly claimed it to be so. Long before the end of the night, though, he had probably reached for the power-off button.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on October 9, 2012, 14:46 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster: Not sure I agree with you there. Test cricket provides excitement that no other format can provide. All three formats have different requirements, but to me (and i think many others as well), Test cricket is a level above the odi's and t20s. People like you might consider test cricket old fashioned, but it will never fade away because it caters to a group of cricket lovers who'll follow it no matter what.

  • sam on October 9, 2012, 6:15 GMT

    I believe WI already have a good test team. Only, the selectors don't see it. Gayle, Kieran Powell/Barath, Samuels, Chanderpaul, Sarwan, Darren Bravo, Ramdin, Roach, Rampaul/Best/Jerome Taylor, Bishoo and Narine. Roach, Narine and Bishoo are the three best bowlers in WI and they simply must play every game.

  • Jay on October 8, 2012, 18:01 GMT

    Like it or not, test cricket is living on borrowed time. I will NEVER recommend test cricket to anyone who is new to the sport. It's long, boring and is in touch with the OLD, colonial way of life. British influence is ever present in test cricket and nations who from the so called 'commonwealth' should shun it. T20 is more modern, exciting and is in line with 21st century ideals. If people believe T20 cricket is insignificant, then they should NOT be using modern technologies like computers, iPhones, iPads, etc. Cause test cricket is just an old relic which should be locked away in some underground vault. T20 is the modern day gadget that provides sporting pleasure and thrills. Besides, most of the players love playing it. It's way better than playing 7 meaningless ODis after a test series.

  • MehulG on October 8, 2012, 17:12 GMT

    Only deserving team for this WC. In fact, WI was only team who deserved this trophy. They played clean cricket. Other teams were mean to make other teams out to make their race easy. This WI winning is close to India 2011 wc win, who beat all big teams in their winning streak. During this WC, India was weak against pace. Their batsmen are out of form since 2011 WC win. Pak was inconsistent and SA was weak at handling pressure. SA also lost due to De'villiers failure. Aus little success was thanks to IPL. NZ is a weak team. SL was mean at making pitches. Malinga is over-exposed. Eng was weakest. They don't know how to play in sub-continent. They could win if players were allowed to play in IPL. Stupid ECB. WI success is due to their spirit and they owe IPL for experience. They are good playing against pace too. Few other individual success like - Watson, Warner, Franklin and hussey owe to IPL. Afghan looks good team, they need more guidance and opportunities.

  • Roshan on October 8, 2012, 16:50 GMT

    In this age of "instant gratification" perhaps nothing, for cricket lovers, symobolises it more than T20. You watch it! Enjoy it! Even fret on it for two hours! Then forget about it. I am an SL supporter and was fretful - for a few hours afterwards. But couldn't for long, For this was T20 - instanty gratifying or vilifying and nothing more nothing less . BUT this time SL had been beaten by a team whose predecessors 30 years ago were enlivening audiences like no one ever before or since - yeah not even these T20 blasters Gayle, Pollard, Samuels, Bravo and co can ever match those glory years. But still for those who loved the sheer fascinating style adorned by those men from the Caribbean such as Greenidge, Fredericks, Haynes, Kallicharan, Richardson (now coaching) and of course the greatest of them all - the incomparable Viv Richards - this victory will hopefull see the revival of Windies cricket. Much needed for the sheer pleasure they should bring.

  • Srinivas on October 8, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    Sri Lanka don't just lose in finals any more, they get walloped; in fact all of them were pretty convincing victories for their opponents but yesterday's performance with the bat was a new low.

  • Owen on October 8, 2012, 12:32 GMT

    @Marcio - true words, T20 is a lottery. Although it is entertaining, it doesn't really 'matter'. T20 is like poker, yes there are ways of making sure you win more often than not, but essentially it comes down to luck. @VivGilchrist - exactly the same mate! barely anyone knew the final was going on yesterday!! I can't see that happening for a Test-championship final.

  • Dummy4 on October 8, 2012, 12:14 GMT

    Behind_the_bowlers_arm: If you think T20 doesn't matter, then why are you commenting here? Go waste your time watching boring test matches. And by the way, I think T20 is the most natural form of cricket. People in streets don't play 5 day games, but something similar to t20, 10 to 20 over games.

  • sam on October 8, 2012, 10:49 GMT

    Congrats on a great but fluke victory to W Indies.....Enjoy more thrashings coming up!

  • Abhyuday on October 8, 2012, 10:25 GMT

    South Africa and Now Srilanka has choker tag, Southafrica has not Qualify for finals and srilanka not won a finals after 1996.

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