COLOMBO // When the West Indiesget their strut on, there is no force in the world, not even John Travolta in a white suit, that can come close to it. If that sounds overdone and unreasonably hyperbolic – and Travolta had a real cockatoo strut to him – to react any other way after what went down at the R Premadasa last night would be to indicate a serious condition of death.
The cumulative effect of Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo and finally, emphatically, Kieron Pollard, was of a prolonged, slow-motioned violence, stylised and made cool like some Quentin Tarantino set-piece.
Gayle was the centre of it but it kind of tells you how phenomenal the others were around him that it seemed like he was hardly there for long parts of it.
Normally if an opener bats through twenty overs, you are thinking he will face 60 balls or so and if Gayle had faced that many, then we would be looking at a century.
But he faced only 41, the lowest faced by anyone batting right through a Twenty20 innings and by some distance: the next is 52 balls.
Every now and again he would appear at the crease, hit a six somewhere, walk a single (he almost walked a double too) and then, poof, gone. He did not even look particularly healthy for one stretch of it, his long-standing irregular heart condition briefly winding him.
Instead the real hurt inflicted on Australia came from Samuels, Bravo and Pollard, combining for 101 off 66 balls between them, with eight sixes (Gayle did hit six alone). Samuels – “another cool guy,” Darren Sammy called him –batted with this elastic energy, as beautiful as Mahela Jayawardene had been the night before.
Bravo shored up the Caribbean school of batting, arched back and whipped flourishes between extra cover and long on. And Pollard was brute strength, an angry eruption at the very end to ensure nothing remains standing. If it had not been for the architecture, there is a good chance at least one of his sixes would still be travelling.
In a way what they did was terribly important. Gayle’s rolling Snoop Dogg magnetism can and does overshadow almost the entire line-up. Their status as one of the favourites for the World T20 was actualised the moment he said matters between him and the West Indies Cricket Board had been rectified back in June.
This was the most breathtaking reminder on what now becomes the second-most important day for them this weekend of what the rest of the batting can contribute. And it was more so because Australia, Xavier Doherty apart, did not actually bowl as badly as to concede over 200 (and the pitch, not as slow as for the first semi-final, was most definitely not a 200 wicket).
The most vivid example of this was not a six, but Pollard’s driven four, cutting the area between long-on and deep midwicket almost exactly in half; Patrick Cummins had actually bowled a near-perfect yorker.
They are ticking, these West Indians, just waiting to go off.