Stage set for T20 finale
Darren Sammy’s West Indies are out to spoil Sri Lanka’s World Twenty20 party tomorrow and bring delight to their success-starved supporters across the Caribbean.
In a final home captain Mahela Jayawardene readily agrees is “the biggest ever match in Sri Lanka”, Sammy knows how much an overdue victory in an International Cricket Council tournament will mean not just to his team but the Windies’ many long-suffering followers.
It is more than 30 years since a generation grew up expecting West Indies to beat the world at every opportunity, and they were very rarely disappointed back then.
Yet since 1979, there has been a solitary multi-nation success - in the Champions Trophy in England eight years ago.
Sammy’s men stormed into this final, at the Premadasa Stadium, with a 74-run win over Australia at the same venue yesterday - thanks to 14 sixes, almost half from destructive opener Chris Gayle.
Sammy knew in any case the importance of following up with one more victory, before the Windies’ dual World Cup-winning captain Clive Lloyd contacted him this morning to stress the point.
A 35,000 capacity crowd inside the stadium will be barely a drop in the Indian Ocean, compared to the countrywide clamour for a home success as Sri Lanka prepares to come to a standstill in the hope Jayawardene’s team can deliver a second world title.
But Sammy said: “We’ll definitely be looking to spoil that party. Sri Lanka are undefeated, but we’re peaking at the right time - we want to have our own party.
“The Caribbean people love a party, so we’ll enjoy partying with them.”
Few have doubted the Windies’ big-hitting potential in this format, but many suspect they may lack the consistency needed to prevail.
“We left home on a mission, and it’s just one more hurdle to jump now,” added Sammy, who is well aware of the vocal support Sri Lanka will command.
“We expect that. If we were at home, it would be the same if we were in the final. The crowd will be behind Sri Lanka, but the belief in the dressing-room is that we’ve done what we had to to get to the final.
“Now we’re here, probably we’ll have to bring our A-plus game. We needed our A game to beat Australia, and we’ll have to play a touch better to beat Sri Lanka. We believe we can do that.”
West Indies are playing for the long-wounded pride of their cricketing nation.
“It will be a massive. It’s been over a decade, and the fans are craving a bit of success,” said the captain. “That’s the goal we left the Caribbean with. We’ve been saying it in the dressing-room - it’s one team, one people, one nation.
“When we do well, the people in the Caribbean are very happy. Work stopped yesterday, for a few hours, back at home. It would mean everything to us.
“I’ve just been playing cricket for a few years, but the fans have been supporting for a lot longer. It’s all about them tomorrow; they’re the ones who come and watch us play, wake up early in the morning and stay up late at night to do that.”
Lloyd sent a personal good-luck email to Sammy today.
“We’ve had many people rooting for us,” said Sammy. “Former captain Clive Lloyd sent us messages, saying we’ve got to win this; it means a lot to everybody.
“That will be the biggest motivation for us. I got an email this morning from Mr Lloyd - saying they’re really, really proud in the Caribbean of what the team is doing - ’just go out and win it’.
“He said, `The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary. So continue to work hard, so we can have success tomorrow’.”
Jayawardene, meanwhile, is about to play in his fourth world final - two in each limited-overs format - and knows, on home ground, this is the highest-profile of all.
“Absolutely, this is the biggest match ever staged in Sri Lanka,” he said. “It’s unfortunate the capacity is only 35,000, but it’s great that there is all this enthusiasm.
“I know the people who come in will have a great time. But the rest of the fans will find a way of supporting us. I know their thoughts and prayers will be with the team, and I really appreciate that.”