ICC World Twenty20: Revenge or repeat

Last edition’s finalists, West Indies and Sri Lanka, face off in the first semifinal today.

Mirpur | Updated: April 3, 2014 3:27:45 pm
(From left) West Indies’ Andre Russell, Krishmar Santokie, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree attend a training session in Dhaka. Mystery bowlers Santokie and Narine, along with leg-spinner Badree, played a crucial role in West Indies’ 84-run win on Tuesday. AP (From left) West Indies’ Andre Russell, Krishmar Santokie, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree attend a training session in Dhaka. (AP)

Krishmar Santokie is not a name that would have rung a bell before the World T20, unless you were one of the night birds who has a special place in your heart for West Indian cricket and watched the 5am telecast of the Caribbean Premier League. Playing for the Guyana Amazon Warriors, Santokie totalled 16 wickets in nine games to become the top wicket-taker in the league.

At the West Indies practice session, it is easy to miss the presence of Santokie. He is a dwarf compared to Darren Sammy, Chris Gayle and Ravi Rampaul, and is not as vocal as Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell. While all others are proven match winners, Santokie is a bit of an unknown commodity and so someone that the opposition will be all the more keen to figure out.

Watching video clips of Santokie’s primary vocation should be made compulsory for batsmen who don’t want to look silly. Santokie has a slingy action. Not just that, Santokie has a slingy action, bowling left arm. Unlike Sri Lanka’s exponent of the slinging deliveries, Santokie is not even an express pacer. This combination of slingy, dibbly-dobbly left armers is something relatively rare in the international circuit.

Still, the crafty medium pacer has had a relatively successful tournament, returning figures of 3/17 against Bangladesh and more crucially, 2/9 against Pakistan in the virtual quarterfinal. In his brief nine-match old Twenty20 International career, Santokie has earned a reputation for his ability to bowl slower deliveries without the batsmen spotting the variation. He is also accurate, as Pakistan’s Ahmed Shehzad will testify after a first-ball duck (lbw) on Tuesday. Apart from topping the bowling charts in the CPL, what caught the eye of the selectors about the left-arm pacer was that an unusually large number of his wickets (over 70 per cent) are either bowled or leg-before wicket.

Sri Lanka have, of course, have the best in this category in their ranks. Malinga videos are one of the most distributed and viewed in the cricketing world where analysts are paid to spot anything to give their team an edge against the bowler. Though Malinga is into his tenth year of international cricket, batsmen still find it difficult to keep out his yorkers, bowled at upwards of 140 kilometres.

Santokie and Malinga are just two of several unorthodox bowlers in this West Indies-Sri Lanka semifinal with skills to negate the advantage of heavy bats and smaller boundaries that batsmen enjoy.
Spinners Ajantha Mendis, Sachithra Senanayake and Sunil Narine bring an element of surprise too. In fact, it has been leg-spinner Samuel Badree — he hasn’t played Tests or ODIs for the West Indies — who opens the bowling for the West Indies along with Santokie — yet to even play a First-Class game.

Old master Herath

The West Indians too have to keep a close watch on the Sri Lankan bowlers. After left-arm spinner Rangana Herath took five wickets for three runs to decimate New Zealand in a low scoring game, Sri Lanka will face a selection headache. Mendis, who can bowl leg-spin and off-spin, was benched for the game against New Zealand because he went wicketless against England in Chittagong. However, with dew being negligible in Mirpur, Mendis won’t have difficulty gripping the ball and using his variations. Off spinner Senanayake’s doosra has not got the credit it deserves, but good batsmen have been foxed by the lanky bowler.

In the opposite camp, Marlon Samuels’s off-spin cannot be over looked. His bowling action is maligned because it has been deemed illegal in the past but now that the off-spinner has been cleared the Sri Lankans will have to take note of the Jamaican with the knack to break partnerships.

The Sri Lankans won’t forget the impact Samuels, Badree and Narine had in the final of the last edition. Samuels made 78 off 56 after the West Indies were five down for 87 at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. Mendis had taken four for 12 but Narine hit back with three for nine.

“Twenty20 is about whoever turns up on that particular day. Form goes out of the window. It’s about making sure we’re ready and focused. What happened two years ago won’t even be talked about, I can assure you,” Lanka coach Paul Frabrace said. The 46-year-old was appointed in December and wasn’t at the Premadasa when Sri Lanka collapsed in front of the home fans. So he carries no scars from that game.

Those who ended up on the losing side over a year ago will be aware that they will be up against a team that can match them in most departments, even in the area of the mystery bowlers.
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