Melbourne, Nov 9 (IANS) Two-time T20 World Cup-winning captain, West Indies’ Daren Sammy, says winning against smaller teams is no longer a foregone thing for the big cricket-playing nations and the ongoing tournament in Australia has brought home this point forcefully.
The legendary cricketer has also said he is mighty impressed with Zimbabwe, as despite not having a single star in the side, they proved worthy of the big stage by defeating Pakistan in the Super 12 phase of the tournament, proving that the fear factor among the smaller teams has disappeared.
“It does not matter who the teams are, there are no foregone conclusions. Even on the final day of Super 12 action, we saw South Africa needing to beat the Netherlands to reach the semifinals and falling short. Before that, Zimbabwe have got the better of Pakistan, Ireland saw off England and pretty much every team has been given a scare along the way,” said Sammy, the 38-year-old veteran West Indies allrounder, who has also plied his trade in several T20 leagues across the world, Including the IPL.
He said, with the T20 World Cup in its semifinal stage, there will be no easy matches for any of the four sides – New Zealand, Pakistan, India and England –, and there are no clear-cut favourites to lift the Cup.
“Now, the pressure is on the so-called bigger teams because they know that there are no easy matches. We are into the business end of the tournament and there is no question that the teams are getting closer. That is why there is no clear-cut favourite. On any given day, any team can execute well and stick to their plans. The team that does that can become the team to beat on the day, regardless of the name on the jersey,” said the veteran of 38 Tests, 126 ODIs and 68 T20Is in his column for ICC.
The charismatic cricketer added that the history of T20 World Cups since its inception in 2007 had shown, more so in Australia, that individual brilliance on that particular day matters in which team win a game. And, he felt that individual brilliance can come from any player — even from the smaller cricket-paying nations –, which can win them big games.
“It has been the case throughout the history of T20 World Cups, but especially this time in Australia, that one brilliant spell or one great innings can change a game. And those performances can come from anywhere. As players from all over become more experienced and get exposure to the world’s best on the franchise circuit, they take that back to their teams.”
Citing the example of Zimbabwe’s star cricketer Sikandar Raza, Sammy said he had carried the team so confidently in the tournament that one was left in awe of him.
“I have been so impressed by Zimbabwe. They are not a team of stars, but they are a star team. They remind me of New Zealand. For the Kiwis, you have Kane Williamson leading the way and instilling the belief in the team. Zimbabwe have Sikandar Raza doing similar. For the Netherlands, we have seen Max O’Dowd doing it, and they were fearless in beating South Africa. They had nothing to lose against a team who had everything on the line. It was the perfect recipe for an upset.
“In T20 cricket, that fear factor just does not exist. In the West Indies teams I played in, particularly from 2010 to 2016, every time we walked onto the park, the opposition knew they needed their ‘A’ game. Now, they have no fear, and it is not just against the West Indies, that applies to any opponent. There is no result that you can pencil in before the toss.”
Sammy felt the pitch and ground conditions in Australia have played a role in favourable results for smaller teams, especially in Melbourne and Sydney.
“The wickets in Australia have helped. I have enjoyed seeing the bowlers get value for their efforts. In Melbourne and Sydney, in particular, the size of the boundaries has meant that batters have had to play proper cricket shots. With that balance, we have been treated to some incredible matches and I hope we have a few more in store in the semifinals and finals. Our final four have all been tested to get this far, in every game. Every team knows that in T20 cricket, if you apply pressure long enough, you will get your reward. The greater the parity, the more exciting the tournament, and this has been one to remember,” he added.