x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Low expectations helped West Indies win World Twenty20

Having had a poor record in recent times, the West Indies had nothing left to lose against Sri Lanka in the final, writes Dileep Premachandran from Colombo.

These West Indies cricketers are a new generation of heroes their fans have long been looking for, according to our columnist. Ishara S Kodikara / AFP
These West Indies cricketers are a new generation of heroes their fans have long been looking for, according to our columnist. Ishara S Kodikara / AFP

As Marlon Samuels trudged back to the pavilion after his 78 from just 56 balls, the DJ at the R Premadasa Stadium was playing a song made famous by someone born in Trinidad.

Billy Ocean's When The Going Gets ToughThe Tough Get Going would have made many West Indies supporters in the crowd cringe. Samuels apart, the other batsmen had not even turned up when the going got hard.

Just how do we assess this West Indies performance?

The semi-final had seen them bat with verve, imagination and aggression against Australia.

The first six overs of the final produced 14 runs for the loss of two wickets.

Chris Gayle, dismissed a ball before the Power Play ended, scratched out three from 16 balls.

Had they frozen in the face of mystery spin from Ajantha Mendis and Akila Dananjaya, there would have been fewer raised eyebrows.

Instead, it was the medium pace of Angelo Mathews and Nuwan Kulasekara that kept them scoreless.

By the time Mendis returned for a second spell in the latter half of the innings, the run rate was so poor that the batsmen had no option but to go after him.

It was almost inevitable that he would reap a big harvest.

The second half of the innings saw 105 scored. But having started so poorly, the total was less than what England's women had managed on the same pitch earlier in the evening.

What followed was from the realms of fantasy, a bowling and fielding display so committed and skilful that it harked back to the glory years. Only, the accent was now on spin rather than pace.

We often talk of the winning habit and how the most successful teams invariably prevail even when pushed to the wall.

We seldom address the opposite – the losing habit and what it can do to the psyche of teams and individuals.

Gayle made his debut in September 1999, a few months after two epic innings from Brian Lara had seen the West Indies draw a Test series with Australia.

Samuels made his Test debut just over a year later in the return series in Australia. The West Indies lost 5-0, a result that would have been unthinkable even five years earlier.

Six years ago, when India started a tour of the Caribbean with a narrow win, Greg Chappell, who was then their coach, incensed the locals by suggesting that the West Indies had forgotten how to win.

There had been a victory at the Champions Trophy in 2004, but by and large, the West Indies' participation at the major events usually meant one or two spectacular performance amid much dross.

The young generation of players that Darren Sammy leads has grown up not knowing what it is to win. The defeats have been frequent and often heavy.

On the rare occasions that they got themselves into winning positions, a lack of belief would allow the opposition to wriggle away.

We don't yet know what was said in the dressing room at the interval. Perhaps a team that had been branded "losers" so often decided that they had nothing to lose.

On the eve of the final, Kieron Pollard, born in 1987, could not even recall the West Indies' last world title (the 50-over World Cup in 1979).

A new generation of West Indies fans needed new heroes. Last night in Colombo, they found them.

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