2nd semifinal: Another run feast on the cards

In a tournament that has so far been dominated by low-scoring wickets, where the ball has stopped and turned rather than coming on to the bat, the Wankhede track has been the biggest exception.

Indian players take a break after a practice session at the Wankhede Stadium.   -  Getty Images

West Indies will be hoping for another star show from Chris Gayle (right).   -  Vivek Bendre

They came into the World Twenty20 on the back of contrasting build-ups. While India was identifying potential match-winners during a string of T20 internationals ahead of the marquee event, its Caribbean counterpart was involved in a long-drawn payment dispute with the administrators. While the Indian team was trying out various combinations, the West Indies players were mulling pull-outs.

> It'll be Viiraat Viiraat at the Wankhede

When it came to the big stage, however, the two teams’ journey to the semifinals has been paradoxical in another way. India stuttered at the start and was fortunate in the middle, before relying on its key batsman for scraping into the semifinals. The Caribbeans, on the other hand, started off in a rampaging manner and stumbled only after sealing a last-four spot.

> Yuvraj will be missed: Shastri

No wonder then that the semifinal face-off between both the teams will be billed as the battle between method and madness; panache and power; host and hunter.

If India has Virat Kohli’s flair, the West Indies has been relying heavily on > Chris Gayle ’s robust hitting at the top of the order. If India has Ashish Nehra’s experience to bank on, the West Indies has relied on Andre Russell’s surprise elements. If India has Jasprit Bumrah’s yorkers at the death, the Caribbeans have banked on Dwayne Bravo’s variations. > It's a team game, says Gambhir

As Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Darren Sammy will walk out for the toss at the Wankhede Stadium, hoping that it won’t be the last time for them in national colours, they will realise that besides the headaches that have cropped due to a major injury in each set-up, they will have to deal with a tricky Wankhede wicket. > Pandey replaces Yuvraj

In a tournament that has so far been dominated by low-scoring wickets, where the ball has stopped and turned rather than coming on to the bat, the Wankhede track has been the biggest exception. All the three games at the stadium, in the league stage, saw teams scoring at above eight runs an over. However, none of those three games, including the West Indies’ tournament opener against England which saw Gayle score a stunning hundred, was played on the centre wicket.

The centre strip, usually reserved for India games at the Wankhede, will be used for the first time in this tournament. The fact that the curators preferred to expose it under the baking sun all through Wednesday could result in it starting to break down as the double-header progresses on Thursday.





That aside, both the teams will have a common concern to address. That of their middle and lower middle order batsmen’s performance with the willow. While India’s batting unit has been heavily reliant on Kohli all through the league stage, there has hardly been anything to talk about the rest of the batting line-up, including openers > Shikhar Dhawan and > Rohit Sharma.

West Indies, on the other hand, couldn’t bank on its prolonged battery of all-rounders as all of them faltered when put under pressure, especially against a decent spin attack. As a result, both the bowling units will be hoping for early breakthroughs to keep the opponent under check.

If that doesn’t happen, while the packed Wankhede crowd will enjoy a run feast, it could put either team in serious trouble of keeping alive its chances of lifting the trophy for the second time.

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall

Played 4, India 2, West Indies 2

In World Twenty20

Played 3, India 1, West Indies 2

PITCH & WEATHER

With back-to-back games to be played, the strip will obviously get slower as the day progresses. It would be interesting to see if it turns out to be a belter which it was during the league stage. Lesser said about the Mumbai heat, even in the evenings, the better.

KEYS TO SUCCESS

Royal challenge

They are team-mates in the IPL. They both shoulder the heavy burden of expectations from their respective batting sides. And their teams have been trying to not let their respective units as a one-man army. The fact, however, remains that Virat Kohli and Chris Gayle hold the key to India and West Indies’ success, especially in the shortest format. Who will end up justifying his reputation on Thursday?

A-B power

T20 cricket is synonymous with big-hitters. However, R. Ashwin and Samuel Badree have consistently tied up opposition batsmen, especially while bowling with the new ball. In fact, they have made early inroads even in World T20. As a result, Ashwin’s duel with Gayle and Badree’s battle against Kohli could well be defining moments during the semifinal.

Star replacement?

Both the teams have suffered a major injury blow in the lead-up to the semifinals. India has brought in Manish Pandey in place of Yuvraj Singh and the West Indies has replaced Andre Fletcher with Lendl Simmons. While it’s a fairly easy choice for the West Indies, with Simmons set to open the batting with Gayle, India is in a conundrum to replace Yuvraj with either Ajinkya Rahane or Pandey or left-arm spinner Pawan Negi, who can hit lusty blows. Whoever it is, the performance of the replacement players will hold the key to the team’s success.

The teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain, wk), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya, R. Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ashish Nehra, Ajinkya Rahane, Mohammed Shami, Pawan Negi and Harbhajan Singh.

West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Samuel Badree, Sulieman Benn, Jason Holder, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse and Jerome Taylor.