West Indies bring back their fear factor
West Indies may have a formula for T20, or they may just let it flow through them. Modern players often talk about going out on the field and expressing themselves but it appears to be only the West Indies team that truly do so, at least in this format of the game.
Whether dancing to calypso, Korean pop or some local folk number, West Indies' style has proved just as catchy as it was two years ago. The energy levels as they celebrated a sensational torpedoing of Pakistan were a little down on the party-hard reaction to beating Australia a few days ago, with just a few perfunctory giddy-ups for the cameras, but West Indies emanate conviction that their method is as sound as their arms are strong. With or without all the carry on, they are the World T20 entertainers.
Darren Sammy has become as powerful a symbol of this as Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, stars of their triumphant 2012 World T20. Tony Cozier has written about his resurgence in the finisher's role - innings in Auckland and Antigua, Barbados and Mirpur over the last few months underscore the point with all the emphasis of one of Sammy's flat sixes - and here the captain gave another tingling display of his dead-eye death batting.
As Saeed Ajmal, the premier spinner in this format, was crunched back down the ground in the 19th over, Sammy celebrated banishing the ball from his presence by pumping his fist back and forth, as if ramming home the metaphorical advantage. Ajmal had already gone the distance twice before, at the hands of Dwayne Bravo, who also belaboured Umar Gul - the second-most successful T20 bowler around - for consecutive sixes. Bravo was run out at the start of the final over but Sammy drove remorselessly on, thumping and jiving.
Asked previously about West Indies preference for dots over dash, sixes over singles, Sammy said it was just a natural inclination as to how to play the game. Suresh Raina belittled the approach, to which Sammy responded: "If he thinks we are only six-hitters, then stop us from hitting sixes." India managed it, convincingly; Pakistan did not. Of West Indies' 166 for 6, 51 came in singles, twos and a three; 106 flowed in boundaries.
"In those situations, the best of them all go for runs," Bravo said of the disdain with which Ajmal and Gul were treated. "We had nothing to lose, we were under pressure. So I said to Sammy, as long as we stay still, don't worry about picking Ajmal or trying to rotate, just stay still, keep our eyes on the ball, we're powerful enough if we get close to the ball to hit it over the ropes. Our aim was to get at least 135 to 140 with the start we got but the self-belief we have, the form and the power we have, the momentum went with us, we finished positive and got to 160."
The power of West Indies' T20 batting - missing Kieron Pollard, too - has replaced the fear factor of their fast bowling in Tests 30 years ago. They use it to bludgeon opponents, intimidate them, shrugging off the chance to run ones and twos in favour of full-frontal assault. As with Samuels' tinderbox innings in the final of the last World T20, this match reinforced the sense that they are rarely ever out of a game.
From 84 for 5 at the end of the 15th over, Bravo and Sammy ran amok for another 82 runs from 30 balls. Perhaps the only way they could get better (other than jogging just a couple more singles) would be to implement a pre-War Test trick and reverse the batting order, somehow convincing Sammy to play each five-over block as if it were the last five overs - with the fall back of Gayle, Samuels and the rest to come in if he failed. Bradman would surely approve.
"This is the first game that we lost wickets in the first six overs, so we were trying to consolidate but at the same time whenever we got a boundary we keep losing a wicket again," Bravo said. "So in the middle overs, it calmed down. We've proved ourselves, in Twenty20 cricket we know how the game plays, if you take the game right down to the end anything is possible, as long as we don't give up and keep faith and have that self-belief that if we bat 20 overs we're going to get a decent total.
"But we have to bat 20 overs, so at no point can we let what happens in the middle overs get the better of us, that comes with experience and self-belief. We still had Andre Russell and Sunil Narine to bat. It's good we did not panic at 84 for 5 and take the game all the way down to the end. We showed in the Australia game what the difference can make as long as we have clean hitters at the wicket, so that's our aim, that's our strong point and we use it to the best of our ability."
Bravo, who is enjoying a purple patch in West Indies maroon, spoke of the team's passion and enjoyment for the game, something else that Twenty20 has helped to resurrect in the Caribbean. "All West Indians are like that, we just want to entertain our fans, most of all the people of Bangladesh come out every game and support the tournament so it's important that we give them their money's worth," he said. If West Indies' manage to carry off the title again, it will be in the manner of all great entertainers: leaving us wanting more.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here