Second Semi-Final – West Indies v India
Friday April 1, 12:30am
Tournament hosts India will be hoping to make their second consecutive World T20 Cup final when they host the high-flying West Indies at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium on Thursday night.
The Windies’ previously flawless tournament was interrupted by a shock loss to Afghanistan on Sunday night, however the defeat was not enough to knock them off top spot in Group 1. Despite being without Chris Gayle, they were not expected to have too many problems chasing down Afghanistan’s modest 7/123, however a largely disinterested effort saw them finish six runs shy of maintaining their unblemished record.
The performance was in direct contrast to their opening three games where they impressively dispatched England, Sri Lanka and South Africa, predominantly off the back of excellent variety and discipline with the ball. Spinners Samuel Badree and Suliemann Benn have proved extremely difficult to get away, both conceding less than 5.50 runs an over, while all-rounders Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo have contributed with regular breakthroughs.
The Windies’ batting has been less impressive, relying on individual efforts from Gayle and Andre Fletcher to get home against England and Sri Lanka respectively, while against South Africa they stumbled home with only two balls to spare.
After a shock opening loss to New Zealand, India appear to have timed their run to perfection with strong wins over Pakistan and Australia either side of a less impressive defeat of Bangladesh. All of their bowlers – with the exception of the erratic Hardik Pandya – have conceded less than 7.5 runs an over with spearhead Ashish Nehra and all-rounder Ravi Jadeja both going at less than a run a ball.
The only worrying aspect for India’s attack is that none of their frontline bowlers are averaging less than 20 so as a unit they’re more likely to strangle a side than run through them. The hosts batting has been less consistent and over-reliant on the imperious Virat Kohli who has scored over 100 runs more than any other Indian batsman in this tournament.
Perhaps of most concern for India is the declining form of opening pair Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan who, despite coming into the competition in seemingly great touch, have averaged 11.25 and 10.75 respectively with both striking at under 90 runs per 100 balls. The home side will be hoping to keep up their proud record of never having lost a semi-final in this tournament.
The Wankhede Stadium has hosted three matches so far in the tournament with sizeable first innings scores of 182 and 229 chased down, while in the other match Afghanistan posted an impressive 172 in reply to South Africa’s 5/209 so it appears to be a pitch that favours the batsmen and doesn’t get any worse as the game progresses.
- West Indies have won four of their last five T20Is.
- West Indies have won seven of their last ten T20Is in Asia.
- West Indies have won five of their past eight T20Is when batting second.
- India have won ten of their past eleven T20Is in Asia.
- India have won eight of their past nine T20Is when batting second.
Although they so nearly didn’t even qualify for the last four, India are strongly favoured by the punters to continue their semi-final streak with the Windies clear outsiders.
For me the West Indies price is certainly of interest. I’m happy to ignore their last-start in what was a largely meaningless match where they still excelled with the ball. While their batting hasn’t been super-consistent they bat extremely deep with Carlos Braithwaite coming in as low as number nine, while above him are a surfeit of match-winners including Gayle, Samuels, Bravo and Russell.
Meanwhile India have leant too heavily on Kohli with the bat with none of their other batsmen managing an individual score higher than 30 and key contributors such as Sharma and Dhawan looking decidedly out of sorts. Their bowling is consistent but does not possess enough strike-power to run through the long Windies line-up and in Pandya they have a genuine liability.
The flat track at the Wankhede also probably suits the underdogs, as while India have a fantastic record chasing, the Windies also have a batting unit that are more than capable of running down a big total, while their bowlers are slightly better equipped to negate an onslaught from the batting side.
So while there’s no doubt that India have built up an impressive record of late, particularly in the sub-continent, I cannot ignore the Windies superior form during the tournament and the class which with they overcame the likes of England and South Africa.