The hosts will close it out in style
Chris Gayle, meet Patrick Ewing, Arsenio Hall and General Custer. These are gentlemen whose guarantees have as much credibility as Bernie Madoff's investments.
Gayle, the devastating and powerful batsman from the West Indies, demolished the Australians for 74 runs on 41 balls Friday in the semifinals of the ICC World Twenty20. He then boasted after the game, "This World Cup is going to be ours."
Throughout the tournament, Gayle has become well-known for his fondness for "Gangnam Style," performing the dance during and after matches, but Sri Lanka will pour some sun-showers on the West Indies in Sunday's final.
The Sri Lankans last won a title in 1996 at the ICC World Cup, so it seems apropos that they're on home turf in Colombo three years after a decades-long civil war ended. An epic storyline will find its awe-inspiring finale on the field when the two veteran leaders of the team, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, lead a squad of savvy veterans and young stars to championship glory.
The Sri Lankans have played with guile and intelligence during the tournament. It hasn't been easy, especially against Pakistan in the semifinals, but they've combined great fielding, clever bowling and key batting at the exact time and opportunity they have had to. Simply put, they've won when it counted.
The West Indies are riding a wave of self-confidence, but the reality is it's all artifice. Sri Lanka has dominated in head-to-head matchups. They've won four straight matches against the West Indies, including a nine-wicket smackdown here in the Super Eights. In that match, Gayle scored only two runs.
The West Indies have a New York Yankees-style power lineup, but their bowling attack is abysmal compared to Sri Lanka's wicket magicians Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga. If Sri Lanka gets early wickets, it will be a long night for the West Indies.
Sri Lanka's batting has been lackluster, even though Jayawardene has performed sublimely. Either Tillakaratne Dilshan or Sangakkara must provide a solid partnership.
Home-field advantage in cricket is incredibly important. The Sri Lankans will also benefit from having a recovering nation of more than 20 million cheering for them. Yes, Gayle will be strong, but the winds favor Sri Lanka. That's guaranteed.
'Team Calypso' ready for last dance
After watching the West Indies rampage over Australia in the second semifinal of the ICC World Twenty20, it's nearly impossible to imagine the team not coming out on top against Sri Lanka on Sunday. They are a batting juggernaut at the moment, with Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard forming a Bash Brothers redux. Perhaps more than any other reason, though, the West Indies seem destined to win because the last 2½ weeks feel like déjà vu from the 2010 World Twenty20.
In the tournament played two years ago in the Caribbean, England advanced out of the group stage without winning a match. After posting a mammoth 191 for 5 against the West Indies, England lost the rain-affected match. The Brits advanced to the Super Eights on the net-run rate tiebreaker when their match against Ireland was ruined by rain. After being on the brink of exiting the event, England came to life in the Super Eights, led by mercurial batsman Kevin Pietersen, whose heavy hitting took the team all the way to the tournament title.
At this event, the West Indies posted 191 for 8 against Australia before losing when rain curtailed play. The West Indies then advanced to the Super Eights after their match against Ireland was called off with no result due to rain. After their Super Eight finale against New Zealand ended in a tie, the Kiwis scored 17 runs in a one-over eliminator to stack the odds against the West Indies' bid to advance to the semifinals.
Rather than feel daunted, Gayle and Marlon Samuels came out determined to better it and managed to pull it off. The moment galvanized the team for the semifinal against Australia, and Gayle and Pollard produced a pyrotechnic performance of prodigious sixes that pierced the night sky.
Sri Lanka owns several convincing wins in this tournament, including a romp over the West Indies in the Super Eights. The home conditions favor Sri Lanka, and the fans in Colombo will give their lungs another hearty workout Sunday night as they roar behind the lionhearted players who represent them.
But the cool confidence of the Calypso cricketers is cresting as they dance their way through the event. Count on Gayle to go "Gangnam Style" one last time on the postmatch presentation podium when the West Indies raise the ICC World Twenty20 trophy.