Power versus poise in battle of Isles
It will be some atmosphere at the Premadasa Stadium on Sunday night for Sri Lanka's first World Cup final at home. The stands will be bursting at its seams and 35,000 spectators will be baying in unison. Sanjjeev K Samyal reports. Second coming | Match reckonerindia Updated: Oct 07, 2012 11:37 IST
It will be some atmosphere at the Premadasa Stadium on Sunday night for Sri Lanka's first World Cup final at home. The stands will be bursting at its seams and 35,000 spectators will be baying in unison.
It's the biggest stage the team have ever played, but the local heroes will go into the battle certain that whatever anyone does, the biggest applause will be reserved for the one who gets the wicket of Chris Gayle.
That's the kind of impact Gayle has had on the World Twenty20, and as Sri Lanka gear up to face the challenge of West Indies in the final, all talk in the island nation is centered on the tall opener.The pre-match verdict is simple: If Sri Lanka restrict Gayle to less than 20 then the match is on. If he bats for more than 40 balls, it will be bye-bye Sri Lanka.
However, if there is one team which has had the measure of Gayle and West Indies, it's Lanka. The hosts have beaten West Indies in all the four T20 games between the two. And the last win, achieved in this event, was a nine-wicket rout in which Gayle did not reach double figures.
If West Indies have power hitters, Sri Lanka have the bowlers to curb them. Their pace attack is well served by Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Agnelo Mathews while Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath provide a lethal edge in the spin arsenal.
The pressure will be on the hosts though. They are chasing their first World Cup at home, but since 2007 they have played and lost three World Cup finals, out of five ICC events.
The enormity of making it to the fourth final in five years wasn't lost on skipper Mahela Jayawardene, who was captain in the 2007 World Cup final loss in Barbados.
“We don't take it as a negative thing, we tried our best in those finals but the other team had played better cricket. Going into this final, what we are trying to do is to play better cricket than the opposition; simple as that. We don't want to go back into the past and say it hasn't worked for us. We will try and back our ability, stay in the present, relax and have a good game of cricket.”
If they can rein in Gayle, Lanka will have the edge. Apart from being more familiar with the conditions, they will have the crowd's backing.
All eyes will be on the playing surface, whether the curators come up with another slow, powdery wicket to suit the home team's strength. It's come under scrutiny after the Pakistan match where it drew criticism from the ICC and the experts.
West Indians were gung-ho about their chances. Gayle has thrown down the gauntlet after taming the Australians, saying his team will win. And on Saturday, skipper Darren Sammy declared they would dash Lanka's hopes.
“We left home on a mission, and like I have said before, it is just one more hurdle to jump. We will be looking to spoil that party. We want to have our party, and we Caribbean people know how to party. We enjoy parties in depth.”