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Mohammad Isam in Mirpur
April 2, 2014
One camp had not announced their captain until seven hours before the start of a crunch game while the other side is buzzing under theirs. In terms of leadership ahead of their semi-final of the World T20, there could not be a bigger contrast between Sri Lanka and West Indies.
Until SLC announced Lasith Malinga would lead*, there was ambiguity over whether appointed captain Dinesh Chandimal would lead, or whether Malinga or, Angelo Mathews - the Test and ODI captain - would helm the side. Chandimal was suspended for their last league game against New Zealand, which Sri Lanka won quite convincingly despite making a low score. Malinga, the designated deputy, led the team in that match but it was quite evident that Mahela Jayawardene called the shots.
With Chandimal available for the semi-final, Sri Lanka had been in a quandary. Chandimal's batting form has gone through a low period since he averaged 44.80 in the 2012-13 season, scoring two hundreds and as many fifties in all formats. This year he has made 367 runs at an average of 28.23, among which he has scores of 18, 3 and 15 in the three T20 innings, including the only one of the World T20. These numbers may be why he has decided to "opt out".
Darren Sammy has been the exact opposite of Chandimal in terms of form and impact on his team. Although wicketless, he has provided a final flourish with the bat in all three of West Indies' win so far.
Against Australia, he was the hero by first replying to James Faulkner's "I don't particularly like the West Indies" comment ahead of the game. Then, as if it was meant to happen, Sammy hammered the same bowler for two consecutive sixes in the final over to complete a steep chase.
In the virtual quarter-final against Pakistan, Sammy enforced himself in the last five overs of the West Indies innings. He has hammered five sixes in the two important games, playing a big part in both wins.
As it had been since taking over three years ago, Sammy's strength has been his attitude and his ability to play with a free mind even under the most pressure. His place in the team is regularly questioned, and this time, he has answered his critics in a grand manner. Sammy has taken everything, even the sacking from the ODI captaincy, in his stride. He feels that it is far more important to play for West Indies.
"Probably after we win the tournament, I won't be the Test captain," Sammy said with a big smile, when reminded that he lost his ODI captaincy soon after the 2012 World T20 triumph. "For me, it is never been about whether I am captain or not. I just enjoy playing for West Indies. Not many people get to wake up in the morning and get to do what they love.
"I have many friends who wake up on a Monday morning and don't want to go to work. Captain or not, it is about giving my best to the team. I have definitely gained more experience. It is all about West Indies for me."
Given his struggles in the format, Chandimal's elevation as T20 captain looks premature. Sammy, on the other hand, has been basking in the Mirpur floodlights, and has become, after Nepal's Paras Khadka, the most loved captain of the World T20 in Bangladesh. Can he keep up the good feeling, or will Sri Lanka's hotchpotch actually work?
* 0747 GMT, April 3, 2014. The piece has been updated with news that Lasith Malinga will lead Sri Lanka the semi-final.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Mohammad Isam
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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