| Rangana Herath, on Wednesday |
Dhaka: The romance of the cricketing whites had long ago been dramatised by multicoloured designer outfits. It’s no longer a lazy game of a lazier afternoon where a copybook front-foot defensive block would see the ball drop dead at the feet of the bat with autumnal grace.
The stress nowadays is more on murdering the ball with a Herculean heave where the bat actually appears to be a club in disguise.
To be honest, at times it really feels that only rules differentiate cricket from baseball in modern times.
So, in such a backdrop where a swing is as much of the waist as of the ball and spin also means what a DJ does beyond the boundary, two teams — Sri Lanka and the West Indies — who absolutely enjoy this avatar of the game, square off in the first semi-final of the 2014 World T20, at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium, on Thursday.
There’s a reason why the men from the Caribbean, who no longer command the awesome respect on the cricket field that they once did, are so successful in the shortest version of the game.
They are still struggling to keep up with the top teams while playing Tests and one-dayers, but when it’s T20, the Darren Sammys and the Dwayne Bravos look like champions.
The defending champions have been consistently dominant in T20s and that’s mainly because by nature, they simply enjoy playing it.
True, the West Indians have always enjoyed their cricket. But there’s a difference between the Gangnam Style and the Calypso. It’s like the difference between a Chris Gayle and a Viv Richards.
Both are entertaining to the core, but while one comes with the beats of a glossy party night, the other is like the strumming of a friendly guitar on a laid-back evening by the beach.
You like them or hate them, like James Faulkner did, there’s no denying the fact that the West Indians have mastered the art of the shortest format of cricket.
The Sri Lankans may lack the enthusiastic celebratory dance of the West Indians, but they too like the T20s. They are colourful in the way they play their game and enjoyable with the characters they have.
There’s perhaps no better sight than seeing a Lasith Malinga, with his unique hairstyle, charging down at the batsmen, firing yorker after yorker. Tillekaratne Dilshan even has a shot named after him... The ‘Dil Scoop’.
It made sense that these two nations made the final of the last edition of the tournament.
This time though, only one of them will progress to the title match.
It’s very difficult to say who will trump whom, because they are pretty evenly powered.
Both sides are coming off convincing victories in their last games.
While the Lankans masterfully defended a modest total against New Zealand to make it to the last-four stage, the West Indians ambushed Pakistani ambitions.
If Rangana Herath’s spin was too hot for the Brendon McCullums to handle, the duo of Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree have complemented each other like we see the famous Bryan brothers doing on a tennis court.
If Malinga’s accuracy is an asset for Sri Lanka, Sammy and Bravo’s big-hitting prowess has battered many a master bowler into a pulp. And Gayle’s probably nurturing a lull before the storm.
For Sri Lanka, regular T20 captain Dinesh Chandimal will be available after missing the last game with a suspension.
But with or without Chandimal, it’s Mahela Jayawardene who is the real leader of the side.
The Lankans surely haven’t forgotten the heartbreak at homeland two years ago when they had to play spectator to Gayle and Co.’s Gangnam Style — the West Indies’ victory dance after the final.
It will all be about the right moves on Thursday... Dance or cricket?
Well, it really doesn’t matter in T20s.
Sri Lanka (likely): Tillekaratne Dilshan, Kusal Perera, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Sachithra Senanayake, Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath
West Indies (likely): Dwayne Smith, Chris Gayle, Llendl Simmons, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Denesh Ramdin, Darren Sammy, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Samuel Badree, Krishmar Santokie
Umpires: Richard Kettleborough and Rod Tucker. TV: Steve Davis. Match Referee: David Boon.