The last time around when the West Indies played T20s in Sri Lanka was half a decade ago. And truth be told, things didn’t look bright then not that they have been any different as understood by the outcome of the recent ODIs, this being 2020.
To put it simply, 5 years hence from the infamous West Indian whitewash in 2015- where Sri Lanka pulled their weight completely on the hapless ODI team, the only respite West Indians found was in winning the second and final T20, held at Colombo.
The T20 series, in 2015, was left tied at 1-1.
This time around, as the same number of games are about to begin in a brand new series, can the Pollard-led side offer a respite to the unflinching Caribbean fan who’s never shied away from supporting the very team that’s failed to beat Sri Lanka even once in a bi-lateral T20 series, particularly with Sri Lanka playing hosts?
Who’s to know?
What we do know is that a fairly young team- particularly when one speaks of number of games and individual performances- would hope to draw level having being comfortably numbed in 3 back-to-back ODIs?
Moreover, here’s some food for thought.
Not that the team that visited Sri Lanka 5 years ago was a weakling. The only possible exceptions; “seniors” who didn’t participate in the Lankan outing were Chris Gayle and Samuel Badree.
Russell, who returns this time too, only played 1 of the 2 T20s.
What was particularly upsetting from the Caribbean point of view and obviously, delightful from the Sri Lankans’ was that very side that failed to secure the T20s comprised of the following:
Darren Sammmy- part of 2016 and previously 2012 World Cup campaigns, then the leader of the side
Kieron Pollard- one of the most feared batsmen around, a specialist in T20s, for the longest time, and current white-ball captain
Dwayne Bravo- victorious member of 2012 and 2016 World Cup campaigns
Sunil Narine- a talent popularly heralded as the mystery spinner, someone who many believe is yet to have found a batsman-bunny, didn’t play 2012 and 2016 T20 WCs
Marlon Samuels- the solo hero for Windies in the 2012 T20 world cup final, a vastly experienced run-maker across ODI, T20 formats (barring Tests), and yet someone who has returned underwhelming scores in two of the game’s main formats. That said, someone who could be called a T20 success but isn’t?
But what exactly transpired half a decade back? How did Sri Lanka overwhelm the Windies in the first game and lose the second, restricting, at the same time, the West Indies to seal the only format they could have won, having lost the ODIs?
A forgettable run at Pallekele, opening T20
Truth be told, Dilshan, who was not only around then, but going strong as ever, fired a 37-ball-56 in the First T20, which was followed by a 52 off 38. The first knock, at Pallekele, resulted in a massive Sri Lankan total.
But make no mistake. The imposing 215 – always a big total then as is also now and can always be called so- wasn’t the only powerful knock.
There was the 19-ball-40 by Dinesh Chandimal (not around this time around) and the 30-ball-40 by Perera- who the Windies will find again found in Angelo Mathews’s 13-ball-37 blinder the perfect foil to dismantle a Windies line-up.
That said, while it come as a slight surprise, the biggest-hits from the fiery Windies line-up and make no mistake- it was one- came from Andre Fletcher’s 25-ball-57.
Charles, Samuels- two who aren’t around this time- made 10 collectively. Barring Pollard’s 26 off 18 in the first game- who’s been having a horrible form with the bat individually this time around- there was no consistency in the very next game, the current captain making just 5 in the 2nd game.
But make no mistake again.
Jason Holder gave 27 from 2 overs in the only T20 he played, he was a failure with the bat, for there’s no other way to put it, making 2 off 4 at Pellekele.
Whether he can deliver this time around isn’t only down to the fact that he must for he’s utterly failed as a batsman- check the ODI series- being a premier all rounder in the game but also because one suspects, it’s high time for the experience to deliver.
If not now, then when will it? Moreover, he’s helmed the leadership affairs of the very side, which is tottering on current form.
A big stimulant to deliver should be the Bajan returning to the T20 circuit, having missed the Ireland T20s.
Narine, though much to the chagrin of the fan who isn’t around this time, was the most economical Windies bowler back then, giving only 20 from his 4 in the first game.
Those around him were far more exorbitant in their economy: Sammy going for 26 off his 2.
And make way for this abominable stat: Bravo conceding 53 from his 4.
Pollard, meanwhile, who finds himself with the urgent need to contribute with the bat, was the only respect-worthy site with the white ball, aside Narine at Pallekele.
He was the one who dislodged the top order, removing both Perera and the dangerous Dilshan.
But one wonders, in reply, if the Sri Lankans hadn’t bowled 12 extras, would the West Indians have managed the 185, not to mention Andre Fletcher’s best individual performance vs SL in the format?
Nonetheless, Colombo brought the relief Windie so desperately sought
Often we have a tendency to forget Windies’ dismal run in the format ‘of their choice’ against Sri Lanka. The winners of the T20 world cup 2014 had hammered the Windies back then, at Bangladesh.
So at their home comfort, they were anyays going to come stronger.
Does anyone remember the capitulation in front of Sri Lanka’s 160 for 6, when in a rain-affected Sher-E-Bangla outing, there was nothing Tiger-ish in Windies’ 80 for 4 in the middle of 14 overs?
Nonetheless, Bravo, who had a nightmare game earlier, anchored the Windies’ staunch defence of a promising 162 in the series- decider, taking a fantastic 4 for 28 off his 4 on a slow wicket.
But this wasn’t before his run-a-ball 31, second best only to Johnson Charles’ 25-ball-34, which still prompts the question: was it one of the most undersung knocks by the Caribbean batsmen versus the Lankans, till date?
For now, let’s focus on the current games to see whether the Windies can finally seek their Sri Lankan redemption.
They, once again, have 2 full games from which to sketch a fighting comeback and mustn’t bring old vulnerabilities into play, especially in a format where they’ve caused massive upsets and at the same time, appeared strange!