Wonderful Windies take the plaudits
Darren Sammy’s West Indies spoiled Sri Lanka’s party at the Premadasa Stadium - but were still the toast of Colombo for their countless followers in the Caribbean and beyond.
The Windies’ 36-run win looked a highly unlikely outcome for much of the World Twenty20 final, but, in the end, Marlon Samuels’ belligerent 78 from 56 balls turned the match.
Samuels saw a clutch of his fellow top-order ball-strikers fail to register on a slow but fair pitch. He did not panic, however, and pushed his team up to 137 for six - a total which, contrary to expectation, proved far too many for Sri Lanka.
It was a turn of events that deflated the vast majority in a partisan 35,000 sell-out crowd.
But it may conversely breathe new life into West Indies cricket for years to come, after a generation of mediocrity since the heydays of the 1970s and 80s.
While Sammy’s opposite number Mahela Jayawardene had to come to terms with a fourth successive defeat in a world final for Sri Lanka - he also confirmed his resignation as Twenty20 captain afterwards - the Windies were revelling in their overdue success.
“We can definitely cherish this moment - I will for sure - and we can relive it every day of our lives,” said Sammy.
“This is the best moment for me in any cricket. This is for the Caribbean people, the West Indies fans all over the world.
“They’ve been craving success. It’s party time now from Jamaica down to Guyana - and we know how to party - so they’ll need a lot of bartenders.”
Even Sammy must have had his doubts when the Windies crawled to 14 for two in the six-over powerplay, after choosing to bat first.
But he said: “God works in mysterious ways - he performs wonders.
“It is the belief we have in the side. We expected them to give us a fight, and they did, but throughout the last year we’ve been showing that never-say-die attitude.
“We’ve not been winning games with it. It’s been taking us close, but in this tournament we’ve won games - and that’s every man believing that whoever is out there can do the job.
“Today it was Marlon Samuels, and in the end every run counted - and then the bowling and fielding display was just brilliant.
“I said we needed our A-plus game, and we definitely did. The momentum we finished our batting with took us through to the bowling.
“Then Ravi (Rampaul) started off really well with his first ball, and we never looked back from there.
“We saved our best for last. This is the icing on the cake.”
This was a poignant moment for both Sammy and Samuels, the former a captain whose place in the side has so often been questioned and the latter capping a wonderful year in a previously chequered career.
Neither was ever going to be weighed down by their critics, though.
“I play for the people. The commentators get paid to speak; I get paid to play cricket,” added Sammy.
“Anyone can have an opinion about me ... my shoulders are broad enough, and I wear this crest on my heart.
“I don’t play for glory; I play for the Caribbean people.”
Jayawardene will remain available in all formats, but had decided before this tournament began that he would be giving up the Twenty20 captaincy.
He said of this defeat: “It hurts a lot. You want to do something special, personally and for the public as well.
“I’m very disappointed for the fans we couldn’t give them what we wanted, but I’m very proud of the boys for the way they played the entire tournament.
“Marlon took a gamble after the 12th over. He put his hand up and performed, and at that crucial moment we just couldn’t control.”
Samuels and Sammy were late arrivals at the post-match press conference - and only then after they cut short their celebrations, ‘gangnam-style’ in the company of Chris Gayle et al.
“We haven’t won a major title for years now, so I think this is a great achievement for this wonderful team we have here,” said Samuels, who spoke with feeling about his resurgence as an international cricketer.
“My career has had its ups and downs - a lot of tough times. But I’m not someone that will ever give up.
“The person that I am deep down inside is the reason I’m still here playing cricket. I have a family that believe in me. So if outsiders don’t, that doesn’t really matter to me.
“Being under pressure on a cricket field is nothing compared to what I’ve been through off the field.”
Like Sammy, he is in no doubt either what the Windies’ success will mean to so many who were not present.
“The entire Caribbean embrace this. It means the world to us," he added. “We’re here to show the world that West Indies cricket is back. The sky is the limit now.”