Rain threatens World T20 start
A monsoon is threatening to rain on the opening parade of cricket’s biggest, if not most glamorous, form of the game this week.
In fact, West Indies got a taste of what’s ahead when they scampered for cover in the midst of thunder, lightning and rain yesterday.
It meant that their planned, extended practice session was washed out yet again and the side was limited to indoor training, days after they lost the first official warm-up match against Sri Lanka in the ICC World Twenty20.
The rain here over the last 24 hours has been torrential and the hope is that the regional side will be able to play against Afghanistan today before the tournament bowls off tomorrow with the hosts taking on Zimbabwe in Hambantota, which is miles away from the capital and where the weather has been friendlier.
Captain Darren Sammy and Chris Gayle didn’t feature in the Sri Lanka defeat by nine wickets, but will play today at the P Sara Oval, a picturesque ground ten miles from Premadasa Stadium that has been sold out for the feature practice match that will see former champions India take on Pakistan.
So big is the match that local host broadcaster ESPN STAR has made an unprecedented move to telecast it live across Asia.
West Indies playing Afghanistan will be of little importance to the cricket crazy public, but very crucial for the side’s confidence and match practice.
Following the two T20s played in Florida last June against New Zealand in the Digicel Series, West Indies haven’t played much Twenty20 cricket as a team and the opposition in Barbados, where the preparatory camp was held, was hardly good enough to get them ready for this tournament.
Gayle will be a key factor in the success of the regional unit and for the further promotion of the game. He has been followed like a Bollywood star everywhere he goes in Sri Lanka.
His image on advertising and marketing material is well pronounced and many are hoping that he heats up the tournament won by England in 2010 at Kensington Oval.
Sammy said that while Afghanistan were not the strongest team in world cricket, it was important for West Indies to cultivate that winning momentum before playing Australia in their first match on Saturday.
“It’s our last warm-up game before the tournament starts so everybody will be looking to fine-tune and be match ready for the tournament,” he said.
“We see this as a very important game . . . Afghanistan scored over 200 against Sri Lanka ‘A’ so it should be a good chance for us to prepare ourselves.”
The skipper acknowledged that West Indies were superior to the Asians “on paper” and hoped that they could demonstrate it on the field of play. He said that everything would be geared towards Saturday when they face Australia at Premadasa Stadium.
“We are hoping to put on a big score. We have players in the team capable of scoring 170 to 180 plus and obviously the batsmen will be looking to get some confidence,” Sammy said.
“The bowlers will be [asked] to put in an even better display than they did against Sri Lanka and as a team we will be looking to come up with the final XI.”
Given the weather and the forecast, West Indies will need to make hay if the sun shines.