It’s a final matching power against precision, brawn versus brain. It’s the highly colourful West Indies playing the clinical Sri Lanka.
There's never been a greater collection of power hitters under one team. Led by the belligerent Gayle, the West Indies boast of Pollard, Samuels, Bravo, Charles, Russel, Smith and even captain Sammy. All of them can make a cricket boundary look like a 30-metre circle, measured from the centre of the pitch. Keeping that lot in check is going to take all the tactical nous the mentally well-endowed Mahela Jayawardene can muster.
Anybody who accuses Gayle of being a cricket mercenary should watch the video of his semifinal innings against Australia. What they'll witness is a player producing his best when it mattered. If he wasn't doing it for the West Indies administrators, then he was certainly giving his all for the team and the players he cares for. And there's no doubt those players return the sentiment and admire their spiritual leader greatly.
Gayle's daunting presence at the top of the order allows the West Indies to attack the opposition bowling from ball No 1. Where other teams have been treading warily on the over-worked Premadasa pitches, the West Indies sailed into the Australia bowlers as if they were delivering party pies for a 10-year-old's birthday celebration.
How do Sri Lanka stop this six-hitting juggernaut? Well, Jayawa-rdene is one of the shrewdest skippers in world cricket and he has at his disposal an array of skilful and unorthodox bowlers. Nevertheless, if Gayle and Co have another night "on" at the Premadasa, the trophy will be headed to the Caribbean.
Jayawardene has the unenviable task of choosing which way to try and get rid of Gayle early, spin or speed. It’s likely he’ll choose a mixture of both, as he did so cleverly for much of the semifinal against Pakistan. The next question is which spinner and fast bowler? Jayawardene will have to resort to the Army tactic where he points to two poor unfortunates and says, “You and you, have just volunteered.”
It may well be Malinga, with his ability to swing the new ball back into Gayle, and Dilshan, who spins away from the left-hander, who are the best choice. That pair also have another advantage; they are highly experienced and have faced numerous challenges with courage and conviction.
Normally I’d back brains over brawn but having seen Gayle co-mbine the two in the semi, I don’t envy Jayawardene and his task.