The ‘Champion’ dance in the end encapsulated the spirit of this West Indian side. As fireworks lit the sky in Kolkata on a night of colour and celebration, these intrepid men from the sun-kissed beaches of the Caribbean jived to the rhythm of the calypso.Despite the doubters, the team believed it could triumph. Darren Sammy’s team played with flair, daredevilry, confidence and, of course, power. The 6, 6, 6, 6 onslaught by Carlos Brathwaite of the believe-it-or-not variety sunk England at the Death. West Indies cricket lives on.
Sammy — despite the situations he seldom stopped smiling in the dugout — won all his six tosses in the competition and the West Indies chased in all games. Its pursuits in the semifinal and final were stuff of legend.
Here, we take a look at West Indies’ road to the title, as it became the first team to win the ICC World Twenty20 twice.
March 16, Mumbai: versus England
It was mayhem in Mumbai, as Chris Gayle blasted sixes at the Wankhede Stadium. Many in the crowd received catching practice! The big left-hander came out swinging and was undefeated on a 48-ball 100 when the West Indies, chasing 183, romped home by six wickets in the 19th over. The ground was too small for Gayle with the Jamaican swashbuckler teeing off with 11 sixes.
That was the night when pace bowling all-rounder Ben Stokes went for 42 runs in his three overs without a wicket. Interestingly, he would return similar figures on a much bigger stage against the same opponent a couple of weeks later.
Earlier, Joe Root had top-scored with 48 for England. But a rampant Gayle, waking up from a slumber, had the final say in this lung-opener for the West Indies.
March 20, Bengaluru: versus Sri Lanka
Gayle, injuring his hamstring, did not come out to bat on this occasion. But as Sammy said repeatedly during this tournament, his team “had 15 Gayles,” and any of them could be a match-winner. On this night, it was Andre Fletcher at the top of the innings. Promoted after Gayle’s fielding mishap, Fletcher’s well-paced, stroke-filled 64-ball 84 ensured that the West Indies sauntered to its target (123) with seven wickets remaining. Given the slightest width, the 28-year-old West Indian was quick to cash in. Actually, West Indies’ task was made easier after a telling spell of leg-spin bowling by Samuel Badree with the new ball. He does not turn the ball big but does just enough to beat the bat. Badree’s useful wrong ’un also made batting hard for the Sri Lankans. His three for 12 off four tight overs was an influential spell. Despite a battling 40 by all-rounder Thisara Perera, Sri Lanka’s 122 for nine was way below par — Gayle or no Gayle.
Nagpur, March 25: versus South Africa
This pitch was different from the ones on which the West Indies won its first two games. The surface was on the slower side, and there was turn for the spinners. Against conventional wisdom, on a track such as this, Sammy opted to chase. South Africa, never finding momentum, was restricted to 122 for eight. Gayle, bowling off-spin, produced the delivery of the innings. The ball pitched on middle and hit left-hander David Miller’s off-stump. And Dwayne Bravo’s clever changes of pace had the South African batsmen in a tangle on an already sluggish track. The seamer’s two for 20 from four overs of exceptional skill included the precious scalp of AB de Villiers, who was done in by a cutter that knocked back his stumps. Only Quinton de Kock offered some resistance with an innings of 47. On a tough pitch, West Indies kept losing wickets against a competent South African attack in which leg-spinner Imran Tahir was outstanding. However, Marlon Samuels’ hard-fought 43 prevented a collapse. And then, that man Brathwaite, with nine needed off the final over from Kagiso Rabada, struck a rousing six over mid-wicket, to settle the issue. West Indies was through by three wickets with two deliveries remaining in a tense finish. With three straight victories, Sammy’s men were in the semifinals.
Nagpur, March 27: versus Afghanistan
West Indies, perhaps, was a tad relaxed after qualifying for the semifinals. Maybe, the resting of Gayle made the West Indians a lesser side. But take nothing away from Afghanistan. The feisty side played with tremendous resolve to upset the Caribbeans. Looking back, this was the only blip in West Indies’ performance. Again, it boiled down to the last over. The West Indies required 10 off the final over. Taking strike was Brathwaite. The ball was in off-spinner Mohammad Nabi’s hands. Rather sensationally, Brathwaite, swinging and missing, failed to score off the first two deliveries. And he was caught in the deep off the third. West Indies managed only three runs off the final three deliveries from the wily Nabi. Defending just 123, Afghanistan had won by six runs!
For Afghanistan, Najibullah Zardan held the innings together with a priceless 48 not out after the accurate Badree, on a pitch where the ball gripped, grabbed three early wickets. Was England watching the final over action of the West Indian innings?
Mumbai, March 31: Semifinal, versus India
Skipper M. S. Dhoni turned to Virat Kohli for the 20th over, overlooking frontline off-spinner R. Ashwin. West Indies needed eight runs. And when Andre Russell whipped an on-side boundary off the third ball and then smoked the fourth delivery over mid-wicket and into the stands, West Indies had clinched a stirring seven-wicket win with two deliveries to spare. The rampaging West Indians gunned down the Indian total of 192 for two. Anchoring the chase was Lendl Simmons (82 off 51 balls), the replacement for the injured Fletcher, who was flown in from the Caribbean only a day earlier. A Mumbai Indians player who comprehended the conditions at the Wankhede, Simmons shored up the innings after Jasprit Bumrah had castled Gayle in his first over with a swinging low full toss. Simmons had the luck of the brave, twice being caught off no-balls and surviving a catch at the boundary because Ravindra Jadeja had touched the ropes while tossing the ball to Kohli. These were the turning points in the match but then opener Ajinkya Rahane’s 35-ball 40 on a six-hitting ground did not help India’s cause either. As Sammy later said, India was 10 runs short on a batsman-friendly track with short boundaries. Russell’s brutal 20-ball 43 not out showed the arena was not big enough for this West Indian line-up. Virat Kohli’s exceptional unbeaten 47-ball 89 went in vain. The West Indians were certainly not complaining though, as they sang and danced after a long night.
Kolkata, April 3: Final, versus England
A humdinger of a final, the match was hurtling towards an explosive finish. The tension was excruciating. England skipper Eoin Morgan had two choices to make. The summit clash was in England’s grasp with West Indies requiring a daunting 19 runs going into the final over. He could give the ball to Stokes or toss it to his off-spinner Moeen Ali. Taking strike was the big and muscular Brathwaite. Stokes had gone for plenty in the league game against the same opponent at the Wankhede Stadium, while Brathwaite had struggled against Nabi’s off-spin in the match that West Indies lost to Afghanistan. Morgan picked Stokes, with disastrous consequences. The first four deliveries were all misfired yorkers though not full tosses. Brathwaite, remarkably calm under a truckload of pressure, bludgeoned them for enormous sixes. This was indeed the most incredible display of power hitting in a championship-deciding situation. England and a despondent Stokes, on his haunches, were shell-shocked. The full house at the iconic Eden Gardens was both stunned and delirious. On a surface where there was some assistance for the bowers, leg-spinner Adil Rashid spun a few during his tidy spell. An inspired Marlon Samuels kept West Indies in with a chance with his 66-ball 85 not out of different hues. England, defending 155, had made early inroads with Joe Root’s part-time off-spin dismissing Charles and Gayle in the first over. The disciplined England kept picking wickets but Samuels held firm before launching into the bowling in a calculated onslaught. Earlier, Badree, getting the ball to skid off the surface and sending down potent wrong ’uns, struck huge blows at the start of the England innings. The impressive Brathwaite operated his seamers with control to scalp three. Then came his flurry of sixes when it really mattered. Brathwaite lifted his arms in triumph and let out a roar. The West Indians were the champions!
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