ICC World T20, 2nd semi-final: Kohli-Gayle contest epicentre of India-West Indies super showdown

Watch Ayaz Memon aka Cricketwallah preview the blockbuster semi-final between India and West Indies above.

The spot for the second finalist of the ICC World T20 2016 will be finalised at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday when hosts India take on West Indies in the much-awaited second semi-final.

The battle between the two sides to join England — who thrashed unbeaten favourites New Zealand on Wednesday by a whopping seven wickets — in the final promises to be intense, with both sides boasting of immense batting potential on a Wankhede track that has been kind so far to the batsmen.

While there are several aspects to the rivalry between the two sides that we ought to look into, the clash between batting giants Virat Kohli and Chris Gayle will undoubtedly be the soul of the match.

 ICC World T20, 2nd semi-final: Kohli-Gayle contest epicentre of India-West Indies super showdown

Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli. Solaris Images

The duo — teammates in Indian Premier League franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore and friends off the field —are the most talked-about stars at the moment.

There are several similarities between Kohli and Gayle — both enjoy immense popularity in India, have an insatiable appetite for runs, and play winning knocks more often than not.

And yet they could not be more different. Kohli’s knocks are defined by classy, textbook cover drives and pulls while Gayle relies on brute power in sending the ball into the orbit.

Plus, the two play different roles in their batting line-ups: while Gayle gets his side off to a blazing start and builds solid foundation for a big total, Kohli is often known to anchor the innings and may go down in history as one of the greatest finishers ever.

They are by no means the sole batting gems in their teams. While both India and the West Indies have depth in their batting line-ups, only one of the units has performed so far.

Though they’ve been billed as favourites, India have played with fire in the last three games by relying heavily on Kohli despite having such talented individuals as Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina and (now injured) Yuvraj Singh in their ranks. It may cause a serious burn in the semi-final should Kohli encounters a rare failure.

Individuals in the West Indies batting-order, on the other hand, have stood up with responsibility every time the team needed their help. If Gayle slaughtered the English attack in the opening game at Wankhede, Andre Fletcher turned out to be the saviour in the next game when he led the West Indian chase with an unbeaten 84. Marlon Samuels’s 43 then helped the West Indies qualify for the semi-finals as South Africa’s fate was pretty much sealed.

There was a joke doing the rounds in recent times that of West Indies skipper Darren Sammy aiming to preserve the wickets of Rohit and Dhawan (in order to prevent Kohli from coming down to bat). While it is mostly an exaggeration, a few may not be very surprised if it actually turns out to be West Indies’ strategy of stopping Kohli in the all-important clash.

On a serious note, getting rid of Kohli will be the core mantra of the ‘Calypso Boys’, and the able West Indian attack will be training every gun in that effort. The result might not turn out to be very different from what was the norm of the Indian team in the 1990s — get Sachin out, and win the game.

A massive blow for the hosts was Yuvraj’s withdrawal from the tournament due to an ankle injury, which he sustained while batting against Australia in the virtual quarter-final.

While his absence has brought to the fore Manish Pandey — the same lad who struck a timely century in what is currently his last international appearance —Dhoni would be in a bit of a conundrum over choosing between Ajinkya Rahane and Pandey.

Dhoni and the team management have maintained the Rahane would best be suited for the top-order, which is currently occupied by the trio of Rohit, Dhawan and Kohli. Yet, his experience could come in real handy for the ‘Men in Blue’, and he could turn out to be the stable figure that Kohli needs to form the vital partnerships with.

Meanwhile, West Indies have had to deal with the loss of Fletcher to hamstring injury, with aggressive opener Lendl Simmons finding his way into the squad as a result. Fletcher was in good form with the bat, which will pinch the West Indians.

However, Simmons’ exploits with the bat in this format, as well as his experience at the Wankhede (which comes from his stint with Mumbai Indians in the IPL) will be a blessing for the 2012 World T20 champions.

While Wankhede is generally considered to be a nightmare for bowlers, it has been a graveyard for them in the sixth edition of the World T20 with 172 by Afghanistan being the lowest score.

However, recent reports suggest that the Wankhede pitch being prepared for the semi-final will have something for the bowlers, with the rise in heat playing a factor. Not that it will turn out to be a Nagpur, but this time the bowlers might have a chance if they apply themselves.

It is in this regard that India might hold a slight edge over the West Indians, due to the presence of an in-form Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah (who has shown great progress in becoming India’s go-to death bowler) as well as Ravichandran Ashwin.

One cannot forget Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja’s contributions as all-rounders, as well as the occasional wicket-taking ability of Suresh Raina.

It will not come in as much of a surprise if Dhoni opts to stick to his usual formula of opening the bowling with Ashwin and Nehra, and send Bumrah in the last few overs.

The West Indies will rely heavily on leading wicket-takers Andre Russell and Samuel Badree, with the latter being one of the few bowlers in the tournament so far to boast of an overall economy of less than six. Badree was clinical in his display against the Sri Lankans, against whom he recorded figures of 3/12 to a shade over 120 at the end of their essay.

The other bowler to watch out for will be all-rounder Dwayne Bravo and his slower deliveries. Sri Lanka and South Africa failed to come to grips with Bravo’s trickery. Gayle himself took the important wickets of Rilee Rossouw and David Miller to reduce South Africa to 47/5, ending with figures of 2/17 from three overs in that game.

India have an additional weapon. Their much-improved fielding has rivalled that of good fielding sides like England. While the players have collected important catches, skipper Dhoni has been lightning quick behind the stumps, as was evident in the match against Bangladesh.

India’s wins in the last three games would have boosted their confidence and added momentum ahead of the semi-final. West Indies, in comparison, would be a bit ruffled following their shocking loss to a spirited Afghanistan in their final Super 10 match.

Chances of India winning the semi-final has been fixed at 80 per cent by West Indies captain Darren Sammy. He said the Indian team is perceived as the Biblical character Goliath. However, he was quick to add that it was David who ultimately emerged victorious.

Form Guide (last five games in chronological order):

India: WLWWW

West Indies: WWWWL

Note: W- Won; L-Lost.

SQUADS

India (from): MS Dhoni (c & wk), Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Hardik Pandya, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh/Manish Pandey, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Mohammed Shami, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra.

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

Updated Date: Mar 31, 2016 18:25:07 IST