COLOMBO // West Indies will begin their World Twenty20 final against Sri Lanka tonight in Colombo as visitors and firm underdogs, but also as men confident they can usurp a home party by having one of their own.
Fresh from his semi-final 75, Chris Gayle had walked into the press conference on Friday night and said, "Sorry Sri Lanka but it's [the title] is ours."
The captain Darren Sammy is not generally as forthright as Gayle, but such was the impact their semi-final win created, he could not help but sound pretty confident. Asked specifically whether he was going to spoil a Sri Lankan party tonight, he said: "Definitely. That's what we're looking to do. We left home on a mission and like I have said before, it is just one more hurdle to jump. We will be looking to spoil that party. We know how to party."
Unlike their opponents, West Indies' route to the final has been less emphatic. Until the semi-final, they had only won one game outright, with no rain interruptions or Super Overs, out of five. They were popular favourites but had not clicked fully.
But as Sammy noted, they might have found their "A game" at just the right moment. As awesome as they were with the bat, they were buzzing with the ball early on and if that kind of energy is produced again, things may not go according to popular script.
Gayle himself will be a key factor, but Sammy's everyman ethos precludes relying on one man. "Gayle gives us a good start at the top and once he is going, it's good for the team. But we have the resources in the batting to click even if Gayle doesn't give us that start. [The final] is about every single person doing what it takes to get the team over the line."
That, given the form of Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo and critically Kieron Pollard on Friday, is no empty statement.
This is an important moment in West Indian cricket, as important as any in recent years. Their last major title was the 2004 Champions Trophy, a one-off surprise in hindsight. This time people will not be so surprised if they win, but to be world champions in this age of T20 overload is significant.
And if not inside the stadium, or Sri Lanka, it will be a hugely popular win elsewhere.
"It'll be massive," Sammy said. "Over a decade, our fans are craving a bit of success and that's the goal we left the Caribbean with. It's the World T20 and we're just one step away from that. I've just been playing for a few years but the fans have been supporting for years.
"It's all about them, that's who come and watch us play, wake up early in the morning, stay up late to watch their team playing."
One of the more prominent supporters is Clive Lloyd, the former West Indies captain and winner of two World Cups. Lloyd sent an email to Sammy congratulating the side for their performances.
"He was saying we are very, very proud of what the team is doing, people are very, very happy. Just go out and win it. I remember he said that the only time success comes before work is in the dictionary. So continue to work hard so we could get the success."
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