x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

West Indies out to entertain

After beating India and England, the semi-finalists are relishing playing at favourite Oval ground.

LONDON // Comparisons are odious, especially when attempting to draw parallels between the glorious West Indies sides of the 1970s and 80s and the current vintage. Chris Gayle, the captain, admits as much. "We were dominant back in the past, but we are going through a bad patch when it comes to our cricket," he said.

There may be little similarity between the Calypso Kings of yesteryears and today, but one thing does remain from the glory days - The Oval is their stronghold. They sealed their progress in the World Twenty20 with a tense win over England at the ground. The sight of their players invading the field to celebrate the winning runs was reminiscent of the September night five years ago when they won the Champions Trophy. It has been the site of many other triumphs besides.

Their semi-final will be played at the south London ground and Gayle said: "The Oval is a good ground for us. The ICC Champions Trophy of 2004, and the victory over England was brilliant again. "We are very happy to be in the semi-finals. After the tour we have had in England, we wanted to give the supporters something to actually cheer about. "It is good to see them in the stands dancing and jumping, and to see smiles again. We want to entertain, but at the same time get a few victories under our belt. We are really happy, and we want to finish off on a high."

"It has been a long hard summer for us and to actually be in the semi-finals is really brilliant." The miserable Test and one-day series with which the West Indies preceded the World Twenty20 meant they were discounted as potential title-winners. However, they knocked out Australia on the way to the pool stages, then toppled the holders India to lay the platform for their advance to the last four.

Now Gayle believes people are starting to realise the merits of his side. "A lot of teams fear us," said the captain. "We were written off at the start of the tournament, but now we are in the semi-final. "I told each and every one of our players that we are actually winners and I am really grateful to them." Ramnaresh Sarwan, the former captain, proved there is a place for experience and orthodoxy in the supposed "young man's game" by guiding his side into the semi- finals.

He provided the cool head as they claimed decisive win over England, and he said: "It is a game for the strong guys like Chris Gayle, but I do enjoy playing every bit of it. "Mahela Jayawardene showed that if you hit the gaps you can still succeed if you are a normal stroke player. It is a matter of moving around the crease and trying to manipulate the field as much as you can." Paul Collingwood, England's 20 over captain, believes his side's experiences in the World Twenty20 will stand them in good stead for the Ashes - even their shock opening day defeat to the Netherlands.

He said: "For everybody in the dressing room, you can go one of two ways. You can fragment and start whispering, or you can become a really close unit. "That is what we did, and I am really proud of the guys. Sometimes these things are a blessing in disguise. They don't feel like it at the time, but from what we did after that [losing to Netherlands], the performance against Pakistan and India proved we can play good Twenty20 cricket. It bodes well for the future."

pradley@thenational.ae