| Marlon Samuels with the Man of the Match trophy
Colombo: With Darren Sammy’s merry band becoming the unofficial brand ambassadors for the Gangnam steps, South Korean rapper Psy will soar higher.
The West Indies themselves took wing on Sunday night, winning their first World title in 33 years. For Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapaksa proved to be third time unlucky too.
Rajapaksa had been wary of coming to the R. Premadasa Stadium, but his fondness for cricket just couldn’t keep him away.
Seriously, though, Rajapaksa can’t be blamed as Mahela Jayawardene and his men were outsmarted from the toss itself.
They allowed the West Indies to add 105 in the last ten overs and, then, crashed to 69 for seven before Nuwan Kulasekara raised hopes of a rearguard action.
That wasn’t to be and the innings ended at 101.
Jayawardene and former captain Kumar Sangakkara were visibly distraught. Understandable, given that Sri Lanka have now lost four World finals in five years, the unhappy sequence beginning in Barbados with the 2007 World Cup.
The next World Twenty20 is two years away, in Bangladesh. The next World Cup three years down the line, in Australia-New Zealand.
Are the two greats still going to be around?
Buoyed by a “do-it” message from Clive Lloyd, Sammy became the first captain after the living legend himself to lift a trophy bearing the ‘World’ nomenclature — the 2012 World Twenty20. The last win had been the 1979 World Cup.
In between, however, the West Indies did take the 2004 Champions Trophy under Brian Lara. Sammy was in the squad, but didn’t play the final against England.
On Sunday, Sammy led pretty much from the front. A priceless unbeaten 26, followed by figures of 2-0-6-2. Most important, he didn’t crack when Kulasekara took 20 runs off the 16th over, bowled by breakthrough-giver Ravi Rampaul.
It was important for Sammy and the rest to stay calm. They remained so. Thankfully for the West Indies, Kulasekara’s innings remained a cameo.
For once, Chris Gayle didn’t fire, but his faith in teammates (expressed through The Telegraph on Saturday) wasn’t misplaced.
Marlon Samuels, regarded by many as the enfant terrible of West Indies cricket, produced a gem — 78 off 56 balls (3x4, 6x6) — and, predictably, got the MoM award.
[Australia’s Shane Watson was adjudged the Player of the Tournament.]
“It hurts, hurts a lot... One wanted to do something special, not only from an individual point of view, but for the fans... We paid for mistakes... We need to move on and see how we can get over this,” Jayawardene said.
Losing in Colombo, in front of the home crowd, hurt more.
Jayawardene, who kept ruing the lack of “momentum” and spoke of a “bad day in office” for most of his players, has stepped down as Sri Lanka’s T20 captain.
The bindaas-type Sammy, clearly over the moon, quipped that a “lot of bartenders” would be required for the partying across the Caribbean.
“This win is for fans of West Indies cricket all over the world... It’s for them... Personally, this has been the biggest day and it’s a reward for the never-say-die attitude we’d been showing for the past year... We have a strong belief in God,” Sammy emphasised.
Asked if he’d answered critics who’d been questioning his place in the XI, Sammy replied pointedly: “I play for the people, not for the critics... The commentators are paid to comment, I’m paid to play. Anybody can have an opinion.”
Both Jayawardene and Sammy felt that the West Indies carried the momentum of their finish (a challenging 137 for six) into the start of Sri Lanka’s innings.
Tillekaratne Dilshan went for a duck and the pressure kept mounting. “We weren’t aggressive enough while batting and, with wickets falling regularly, they kept attacking,” Jayawardene accepted.
Samuels agreed he’d seen “ups and downs,” but insisted he “loved” the tough times. “I’m not one to give up, that has been my approach,” he maintained.
Incidentally, Dwayne Bravo, who turned 29 on Sunday, was given the honour of giving a pep talk at the break. He’d kept it simple — “Boys, let’s go out and give it our all.”
They did and, in the process, gave Bravo an unforgettable gift. Kept the bartenders busy as well.