Handicapped SL wander into WI territory
Sunday, March 20, 2016
Start time 1930 local (1400 GMT)
Sri Lanka have been happy to fly under the radar. As a matter of fact, they are the defending champions, but they cling to the underdog tag like it's a life vest. Just as well, because they are heading straight into a storm.
Chris Gayle is in his home town - A cosy little realm of flat pitches, short boundaries and spoilt fans called Bangalore. Gayle loves it here - he hit 175 at the M Chinnaswamy and has it emblazoned on his RCB jersey - and the fans love him right back. Of course, that does not mean they will stop expecting him to hit another 175.
So do Sri Lanka have a sufficiently skilled kill joy among them? Nuwan Kulasekara has the wiles. Angelo Mathews can certainly annoy. Rangana Herath has to have a magic wand stowed somewhere on his person. But there is a name missing from that list. A man who can remove the 22 yards from the equation, and match the West Indian gunslingers' for firepower. What's more, he had done it all before too. Lasith Malinga was part of a Mumbai Indians line-up which forced Gayle to plod on for 10 off 24 balls in a chase of 210 in April 2015. He won't be part of the Sri Lanka team tomorrow, a proper blow considering the rematch of the 2012 final is likely to devolve into West Indies' batsmen v Sri Lanka's bowlers.
West Indies WWLLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WLLLW
Watch out for
Marlon Samuels is one of eight men still standing from West Indies' title triumph in 2012. And it was his innings that refused Sri Lanka the joy of becoming world champions at home. A man capable of taking your breath away with his strokeplay and tear your hair out when he is out of form, Samuels continues to be an enigma 15 years since his debut.
Dinesh Chandimal is remaking himself as a T20 opener. Some of that is because most reckon he can slip into Mahela Jayawardene's shoes. While that can be a heavy burden, Chandimal can turn it to his advantage. Presently he tries to hit the ball a bit too hard. For a batsman whose skill lies in timing and imagination, he does not need to rely on such crude tactics. Jayawardene certainly did not.
Indications from West Indies' training session on the eve of the match are that they would keep to the same XI that played England. They might be tempted to find a way to include Jason Holder, who had come out as an opener during the warm-up stage.
West Indies (probable) 1.Chris Gayle, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Marlon Samuels, 4 Dinesh Ramdin (wk), 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Andre Russell, 7 Darren Sammy, 8 Carlos Brathwaite, 9 Samuel Badree, 10 Jerome Taylor, Sulieman Benn.
Sri Lanka do have plenty of bowling options, and that is bound to come useful. They may retain the same XI that beat Afghanistan last Thursday.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1.Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 3 Lahiru Thirimanne, 4 Milinda Siriwardana, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt), 6 Thisara Perera, 7 Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Shehan Jayasuriya, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Rangana Herath.
Pitch and conditions
Dharamsala and Nagpur have been slow on the take. Mumbai has been in the batsmen's pockets, and if history is anything to go by, Bangalore will be too. There was a tinge of green to the pitch at M Chinnaswamy stadium, but it is unlikely to hinder strokeplay. If anything, it might help the ball come onto the bat quicker. Chasing has been the favoured route here, even without the complication of dew. The forecast is for a clear day, but a cloudy night.
Stats and trivia
- Chris Gayle averages 54.37 and and strikes at 168.84 at the M Chinnaswamy stadium. He has three hundreds, eight fifties, 115 fours and 132 sixes.
- Nuwan Kulasekara is Sri Lanka's third highest wicket-taker in T20Is - but his tally of 56 is well short of Malinga's 78
"It's a plus for us. Chris has played, I think five IPL seasons here in Bangalore. I played here last year. We have a lot of knowledge of the conditions here in India"
West Indies captain Darren Sammy feels right at home
"Very often when you have this kind of tournament, the defending champions have that burden of defending the title. The high expectations of media and fans does create extra pressure. In quite a nice kind of way, quite a lot of that is not present at the moment. With a younger group it's quite nice not to have that pressure."
Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford on flying under the radar
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo