A day before the final between hosts Sri Lanka and favourites West Indies,there should have ideally have been plenty of dressing room talking points. But,rather anti-climactically,it was a former South African wicketkeeper,Dave Richardson,who made all the news. Richardson,the new ICC CEO,was critical in his assessment of the R Premadasa pitch used for the semi-finals,specifically the dry one that played its role in kicking Pakistan out of the tournament.
Pakistan struggled to chase a measly 139 against Lanka,while in the second match the same stadium produced a featherbed,with the Australians finding it extremely hard to match West Indies 206. So to bring about some sanity to the situation,the burly figure of Andy Atkinson,ICCs go-to pitch doctor,was seen minutely scrutinising the playing area on Saturday with his presence kicking off a further string of talking points that regarding the soil,moisture and grass content on this remedied wicket.
But all that seems almost irrelevant for a West Indies match,considering the only factor that really affects the state of play is Chris Gayles mighty wooden blade.
At about the same time of Saturday afternoon when Gayle rested his body through a minor side strain,the Lankans went into a huddle at the practice arena to perhaps discuss just what it would take to stop this monster of a run scorer. Mahela Jayawardenes bowlers must not just have a Plan A,but also a B and C to contain the great Jamaican. But the Lankans will be pleased to know,that as far as T20 cricket is concerned,Gayle disappoints in finals.
In the IPL final last year,Royal Challenegers Bangalores main man Gayle was out for a duck deceived by R Ashwin. And in the decider of the Champions League in September,Gayle was out for five,rattled by Harbhajan Singh. Going by the past,Jayawardene then will look to introduce spin early against the dashing left-hander. And spinners he has plenty of in Rangana Herath,Ajantha Mendis and Akila Dananjaya.
Against the faster men,however,Gayle has been exemplary in this edition. He has left the short-pitched ball alone and focussed on the other five deliveries which cant be bowled over his shoulder. In the group stage,Australia and England tested his skill-sets against pace,and he scored a 33-ball 54 and a 35-ball 58 respectively. The new Gayle doesnt go after everything,happy to take the singles and twos,before unleashing all his wrath in a few deliveries bowled in the Gayle zone. Like against New Zealand,where he scored a quick 14-ball 30.
Incidentally,Gayle has gotten out early in just one game this entire series,against the Lankans. And that time around,it was Nuwan Kulasekara who bowled seven balls to him,conceding just one run while also picking up his wicket. Kulasekara has been in good form,along with his opening partner in Lasith Malinga. The high-arm action,followed by a slingier variety has helped keep the runs in check for Jayawardene.
But none of these past statistics matter much,for Gayle believes in ruining them in the present.