Wasim Akram says the ICC World T20 triumph will provide a new beginning for the West Indian cricket and Marlon Samuels is its new face!
It was poetic justice at the end of the day as a spin-friendly wicket at Colombo's Premadasa Stadium proved counterproductive for Sri Lanka in the ICC World T20 final against West Indies on Sunday night.
Sri Lanka had entered the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup based on their incisive bowling and solid top-order batting. Not content with just that, they wanted additional help from the wickets in the grand finale. It worked in the semis versus Pakistan but as fate would have it, they ended on the wrong side of a result when it mattered most.
It would only have been fair to prepare a flat deck, especially for the semifinals and final. You can't just simply rely on the pitch to give you favourable results. The organisers also made the mistake of hosting all Colombo matches at Premadasa when there are at least two more international venues like P Sara Oval and the Sinhalese Sports Club.
Apart from the pitch, I was always apprehensive about the Sri Lankan middle order. By the law of averages, it failed miserably in the final. Their middle order was susceptible and untested. Although Lanka have good all-round players like Angelo Mathews, Jeevan Mendis and Lahiru Thirimanne, they lack the confidence on a big day. Lanka remain a top-heavy team with just three quality batsmen: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.
Despite such areas of concern, one positive that came out of Sri Lanka's performance in the World Cup was the leadership skills of Mahela Jayawardene. I regard him as one of the best in the business. He is a role model for all budding captains in world cricket. He lead from the front by opening the batting and gave solid starts to his team. His decisions on the field and some of his bowling changes were master-strokes.
On the other hand, I feel extremely happy for the West Indies team. This World Cup will mean everything to them. This is huge for Caribbean team and will definitely revive cricket in that part of the world. After the Champions Trophy in 2004, they have won a major trophy after almost eight years. But this one is the World Cup. Not just for them but I think for world cricket as a whole, a win for the one-time invincible team is just great feeling.
Caribbean cricket is so much fun to watch, they have a complete team, filled with big hitters, fast bowlers, and good spin attack and on top of that their fielding has been top class. Such a win will undoubtedly benefit them in 50-over international cricket and Test cricket as well. So we can surely expect a more competent West Indies team in other formats of the game as well.
With this enjoyable performance, many young athletes from the West Indies will take up cricket and new talents will emerge. Hope those youngsters who are lured by basketball, athletics and football will now take up cricket professionally and help the West Indian cause great deal.
We all know what Chris Gayle can do when he gets going, but the one who has impressed me more is Marlon Samuels. His 56-ball 78 in the final was a phenomenal innings under pressure. The way he went after Lasith Malinga was just too good to watch.
The right-handed Samuels scored 230 runs in seven matches, the most for West Indies in the tournament and more than Gayle. No wonder he hammered 15 sixes during the series and was my favourite West Indian player. Surely, he is one of the best all-rounders going around in the T20 brand of cricket. West Indies can now easily bank on him to fire in other formats too.
(Former Pakistan skipper Wasim Akram is an ESPN-STAR Sports expert analyst)