Mumbai’s prestigious Wankhede stadium is all set to welcome two of the most illustrious T20I outfits- West Indies and India- to tussle for the second finalist spot, as confirmed last night, England awaits one of them in the championship clash at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata.
Having been crowned champions in the past, both hosts India and Group 1 toppers West Indies will see this tournament as a golden opportunity to reclaim the coveted trophy. However, injuries have plagued both dressing rooms, forcing them to devise respective alternatives in short notice.
India’s World Cup hero Yuvraj Singh will be sidelined for the rest of the tournament owing to an ankle injury he had suffered during the Group fixture against Australia. As there was no improvement in his condition, the team management was quick to find his replacement in Manish Pandey. Now, it will be up to skipper MS Dhoni to choose between top-order batsman Ajinkya Rahane, spinning all-rounder Pawan Negi and middle-order batsman Pandey to replicate the veteran all-rounder’s services in the playing XI.
Yuvraj’s impact in big games will certainly be missed when India come up against West Indies in the second semi-final. However, all the three backup options have the potential to be the X-factor for the Men In Blue. West Indies have also lost an integral part of its squad as right-hand batsman Andre Fletcher pulled out of action due to a hamstring injury that he picked up against Afghanistan in their last group fixture. His innings of 84 not out versus Sri Lanka helped the Windies on their road to the semis. However, they roped in an ideal substitute for him in the form of opener Lendl Simmons, who is known to be particularly good against Indian bowlers. An athletic fielder, handy medium pacer and above all, a clean striker of the new ball, Simmons will look to spoil the party for India once again.
Chris Gayle has scored a century and a single-digit in his two outings in the Super 10 phase. As the Darren Sammy-led side had reserved his antics in those games, excepting that hundred against England in the first fixture, perhaps the Jamaican has something big in store for the Indians in the penultimate game.
India can calm themselves only by believing in the legendary Sachin Tendulkar’s observation that they have always had a successful plan for the big man, true, as Gayle has not dominated Indian bowlers as much as he has others. Virat Kohli, Gayle’s Royal Challengers Bangalore captain, is his equivalent in causing fear on the rival numbers. Sammy will be wary of the Indian vice-captain’s outrageous form and has found a place among the home faithful. Therefore, with the available resources, he has to find a way to stop Kohli from snatching away the match again.
Favourites- India, Underdogs- West Indies
A shocking defeat at the hands of minnows Afghanistan just washed away all the momentum West Indies were expected to carry going into the semifinals. Their weaknesses were exposed; their over-reliance on Gayle was evident; inability to chase modest targets revealed in that game, giving India the additional confidence to prevail over them today.
Although, India are not without their flaws- the opening debacle persists and the overdependence on Kohli negates Windies’ on Gayle- they are riding back on a resounding victory over Australia. Moreover, the curators will come to India’s aid in preparing a traditionally dry, turning track for the game, exploiting the visitor’s aversion for such wickets.