ICC World T20 - Men
Windies of change blow through India
Captain Sammy and his remarkable squad on the verge of something special on the subcontinent
1 April 2016, 05:03 PM AEST
Whatever happens from here, the 2016 World T20 Windies whirlwind is some tale.
It was only fifty days ago that the now customary chaos engulfed the West Indies squad, with a pay dispute threatening to derail their World T20 campaign in its entirety.
"The WICB is committed to play in the tournament, let me say that first," WICB chief executive Michael Muirhead said on Jamaican radio at the time.
"No-one will leave the shores of the West Indies without signing a contract and if these players in particular choose not to sign, then I guess we'll be left with no option but to substitute other players for them."
Earlier, captain Darren Sammy had written a letter to Muirhead outlining his and the squad's issues, explaining: "We want to represent the West Indies but the financials on offer we can't accept."
From the outside looking in, it was all sadly familiar.
The potential consequence – that the cricket world would be robbed of arguably the most entertaining group of players at the ICC's showpiece for the most exhilarating format of the sport – was sadder still.
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Within five days however, perhaps with the realisation that this could be the final chance for a gifted but ageing group to claim this particular piece of silverware, Sammy and his comrades had signed contracts for the tournament.
Major hiccup hurdled, the Windies still entered the tournament light on preparation – they hadn't played a T20I since last November – and without three of their best players: Kieron Pollard (injured), Sunil Narine (banned for an illegal action) and Darren Bravo (opted to focus on Test cricket).
Nonetheless, the fact they came to India as the world's No.2 ranked T20 side, as well as the list of legitimate match-winners they still possessed, instilled belief within the group, if not necessarily outside it.
"Look at the team that we have – half of the team are in demand across the world for different T20 leagues," said fast-bowling coach and legendary West Indies quick Curtly Ambrose in the build-up. "So you may find one guy here, maybe two in this league and two in another league, but we have all at once so we have a great chance of winning this T20 tournament – just look at our squad."
Ambrose's point was highlighted last summer by the standout performances of Andre Russell (Sydney Thunder), Samuel Badree (Brisbane Heat), Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo (Melbourne Renegades) in the KFC Big Bash League.
"Marlon Samuels, Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, captain Darren Sammy and all the senior players have to lead from the front," he added.
"From my experience over the years, when the senior players – the guys that we expect to really take the mantle and take the team forward – are doing well, automatically the younger players will step up to the plate."
Experience, too, engendered confidence, with Sammy, Samuels, Gayle, Russell, Bravo and Badree among eight members of the victorious 2012 World T20 squad saddling up for another crack at the prize.
"The fact that we've won a (T20) World Cup means we know how to get it done … this year we're coming in with eight members from the team that won the (T20) World Cup so the squad is not lacking in experience," Sammy said.
"The guys are seasoned T20 players so in that vein, I believe we have the right personnel and right calibre cricketers to help us perform in the conditions in India, and we just have that belief that we can do it.
"It is not going to be easy. T20s is the format where the teams are much closer together (but) we still have the confidence that once we do the basics right, with the potential match-winners we have in that dressing room, we can be a great force to be reckoned with and go all the way."
Ahead of the Windies' Super 10s clash against South Africa last week, and after wins over England and Sri Lanka to kickstart the tournament, Sammy said the squad had broken down their mission into individual challenges.
"We have six steps to the cup," he remarked. "We have taken two so far."
Victory over an eternally disappointing South Africa duly followed, and despite a shock defeat to Afghanistan in a dead-rubber affair in Nagpur, there were more predictions from Sammy even as the world expected his side to fold against an India side boasting the support of 1.3 billion fans and the brilliance of Virat Kohli, and running hot after a stunning win over Australia to catapult them into the semi-finals.
"The guys who predict the results and stuff I think say it's 80:20 in favour of India," he said. "So it feels like David versus Goliath, but people tend to forget David won the fight."
In his pre-match press conference, Sammy also addressed the pre-tournament pay dispute and the manner in which it had served us motivation, and admitted that this could well be a final shot at glory for his curious blend of showmen and workmen.
"The issues before the tournament, the lack of respect for our T20 team ... a lot has been said about this team and we as a group that brought us closer together," Sammy said.
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"We saw a lot was against us ... we think it's us against the world. It's only us in our own little circle and that's the way we have gone out and played. Tomorrow is no bigger day to express that.
"Looking at the calendar year after this World Cup, I don't see any T20 internationals scheduled. It might be a while and the next T20 World Cup is in four years. We really put in our all in this tournament and the guys in the dressing room are aware of what's at stake."
More than merely a trophy, the World T20 title would add to the significant strides made by other national cricket teams from the oft-fractured archipelago, namely their Under-19s one-day world champions and their women's T20 side, who will square off with Australia in Sunday's final with the hope of creating their own slice of history.
Sammy stated before a ball had been bowled that his side had been inspired by the feats of the Under-19s playing group, who had defied the common held belief that teenagers in the Caribbean were opting out of cricket and pursuing football or basketball instead.
It was a point he reiterated after toppling India, the Goliath of the T20 world.
"We came here on a mission," he said. "We were inspired by the Under-19 boys earlier this year, the ladies won earlier today, now we have two West Indies team in the final."
Now, it's five steps forward, and one more required.