West Indies cricket team captain Darren Sammy (L) speaks with coach Phil Simmons during the training session at the Wankhede Cricket Stadium in Mumbai on March 30, 2016.
West Indies plays their World T20 cricket tournament semi-final match against India on March 31 in Mumbai. / AFP / PUNIT PARANJPE (Photo credit should read PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images)
Chris Gayle. Virat Kohli. Dwayne Bravo. MS Dhoni. The Wankhede stadium will be screening an ensemble-driven action movie as much it hosts a cricket match on Thursday night. Those individuals and their styles of play contribute to a lot of the interest surrounding this game, and also typify there are various ways to establish T20 batting dominance.
India’s has been to simply extend their Test and one-day game into the Twenty20s arena, and when all goes well, they get the bulk of their runs through orthodox cricket. West Indies, ideally, wouldn’t want their long-format form anywhere near them right now. Helpfully, this format has a tight cap on the number of overs so the big-hitters can keep hitting big without worrying about consequences.
Case in point are the methods that their marquee players use. Gayle likes to “beat” the ball. No wonder it rockets as far away from him as it can, hoping to be lost somewhere in the rings of Saturn. Kohli is kinder in assisting with the ball’s travels, and even throws in a few surprises – patrons waiting in the off stump line could end up at midwicket almost as often as they do in the covers.
Both teams clearly have lots of cream at the top, but the middle looks a bit squishy. It’s been over two years since Denesh Ramdin or Suresh Raina have hit a T20 fifty. Dwayne Bravo, at No. 5, has looked unsure whether he needs to be the aggressor or the anchor. Yuvraj Singh has been similarly jittery, but an ankle injury ruled him out of the World T20. That leads West Indies to the prospect of bowling at a player – one of Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey or Pawan Negi – who hasn’t faced a ball in this tournament. But Mumbai is just about the perfect venue for the out-of-form and brand new batsmen to get into the swing of things – the lowest total in the tournament here has been Afghanistan’s 172 against South Africa.
Quite apart from tactics and strategy, there are players from both sides who may be playing their last World Cup, so the incentive to make it to Eden Gardens – for the final – for one more match will be very strong.
India WWWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies LWWWW
In the spotlight
The last time India were in Mumbai, they missed the hell out of R Ashwin. It was an ODI, three of the opposition batsmen scored centuries and they were left chasing a 400-plus total. He did not have his best game against Australia, but his presence in the XI still goes a long way to adding confidence to the team.
Samuel Badree seems to take the mickey out of the Powerplay overs every time he bowls. He doesn’t rely on turn, doesn’t often believe in flight, but faithfully follows a wicket-to-wicket line. The batsmen are tied down, and when they try to escape, they tend to fall. Hard.
India haven’t made any changes to their XI since the start of the tournament. But now, with Yuvraj ruled out, they will be forced to do so ahead of the semi-final of the tournament.
India 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Manish Pandey/Ajinkya Rahane/Pawan Negi, 6 MS Dhoni (capt and wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Ashish Nehra
West Indies will be without Andre Fletcher, who was ruled out with a hamstring injury. His replacement Lendl Simmons has a chance at getting a game straight away.
West Indies 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Lendl Simmons, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Carlos Brathwaite, 10 Suliemann Benn, 11 Samuel Badree
Pitch and conditions
Mumbai has been an oasis this World T20. Tough pitches have left batsmen parched for runs, but at the Wankhede they can come and go wheee. In terms of the weather, a clear night is expected.
Stats and trivia
- Virat Kohli, the No. 1-ranked T20I batsman, averages 91.80 batting second but 35.22 batting first.
- Chris Gayle is two sixes short of being the first player ever to hit 100 sixes in T20I cricket
“We’ve played to 70% of our abilities in this tournament. So there’s still 30% in areas we need to improve, so lets hope it happens tomorrow”
India team director Ravi Shastri knows the batting is still not perfect
“No not really, have you ever heard of Chris Gayle?”
West Indies captain Darren Sammy isn’t worried about India’s super weapon Virat Kohli because he has has one of his own
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo