The final of the ICC World T20 2014 saw the curtains come down on the international T20 careers of two stalwarts of the global game – Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene – who have served it with dignity and given many memorable moments to cricket lovers from all over the world. What was also commendable was the difference in the strategizing by the two captains – MS Dhoni and Lasith Malinga. While Dhoni, in spite of being a 7 year veteran made some inexplicable choices, which ultimately went some way in India losing the match, Malinga performed from the front and ensured Sri Lanka had a smallish total to chase. This is all the more commendable, considering the fact that Malinga had to take on the reins of captaincy after Chandimal stepped down midway through the tournament.
Team composition: India went in with the same team that competed in the semis and was victorious.However, Sri Lanka made one change by bringing in Thisara Perera instead of Seekkuge Prasanna. Strangely though, the seam bowling allrounder did not bowl in the final.
Batting: Sri Lanka won the toss and inserted India in. This was something that clearly unsettled the Indian team, which always prefers chasing targets. Till now, the Indians had won all their games batting next with the exception of the group league encounter against Australia. Batting first, the Indians were unable to generate any momentum to their innings and finished with a sub-par score of 130, a total that was not defendable in spite of how well the Indian spinners had performed in the tournament. Virat Kohli, who won the Player of the Series award, was the only shining light in the pall of depression that was Indian batting with a 77 from 58 balls.
In the Sri Lankan innings, Sangakkara who was conferred the Player of the Match award, anchored the chase with a typically classy 52 from 35 deliveries but it was really Thisara Perera who ensured Sri Lanka will win with plenty to spare with an emphatic 23 from just 14 balls. His innings was studded with 3 hits over the fence and that really settled the issue for the Lankans.
Bowling: Even though Sri Lanka picked up only 4 wickets – one of them was a run-out- they bowled really well in conceding only 130 runs. The fact that Kulasekara was the most expensive bowler with 29 from 4 overs says the story. Such was their impact that a free stroking batsman like Yuvraj got bottled up at one end and slowed the Indian innings down.
The Indians, on the other hand, were not as effective. Ashwin, Raina and Mishra tried hard but it was not sufficient. The failure of Jadeja – he went for 11 in the solitary over that he bowled – was a major problem as well. The two opening bowlers also presented their own problems – Bhuvneshwar was not penetrative enough and Mohit, like Sharma, was not economical.
Where do the teams go from here?
Sri Lanka has unearthed some good players from this tournament and the future of its T20 team looks bright as of now. However, the management needs to be careful with a player of the caliber of Thisara Perera. He needs to be given more responsibilities with the ball if his full potential is to be utilized. The next T20 World Cup will be staged in India and the Lankans already look like they have the squad to defend that title as well. They also have some promising names such as Chaturanga de Silva in addition to established players such as Jeevan Mendis and Upul Tharanga who could play a bigger role with the retirement of Jayawardene and Sangakkara.
The Indian team has played exceptional cricket in the tournament with the exception of the finals and needs to take pride in its achievement instead of feeling despondent because of the loss in the final. The team has a good nucleus of players but one feels that youngsters like Rahane, Rayudu and Binny now need to be provided more opportunities considering the next tournament is in India and all these cricketers could play pivotal roles then. The management should also be clear with its plans regarding Yuvraj and communicate the same to him so that he may plan accordingly. It is also important to look at some options like Pervez Rasool and Jalaj Saxena for the spots of spin bowling allrounders. Yet another important question is will Dhoni now relinquish captaincy in T20s after 7 years at the helm? If Kohli is to lead 2 years from now it is only fair that he be given the reins right now so that he can plan accordingly.