Once a force to reckon in the shortest format of the game, West Indies find themselves in a dismal situation after losing two out of their three Super 12s matches in the T20 World Cup. Despite having a plethora of stars and players with experience of playing in various franchise leagues, the Windies have failed to replicate their performances in the Maroon jersey.
The fans expected a rematch of the World T20 final in 2016 as the Windies locked horns against England in their first match. However, West Indies' miserable batting performances saw them slump to 55 all out - their lowest ever score in the tournament's history. While they managed to score 143 against the Proteas they failed to defend it and edged past Bangladesh in their last encounter by three runs.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka will have plenty to ponder in regards to the form of their premier batters, Kusal Perera and Avishka Fernando. The duo have struggled to get going in the tournament which meant the team failed to start well. In the four matches of the Super 12s, Sri Lanka have lost three games and will look to end their campaign with a win.
On head-to-head basis, both teams have won seven matches apiece in the 14 encounters played thus far. However, West Indies can take confidence from their recent performances earlier this year as they recorded a 2-1 series win at home. The Windies will set foot at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, with an aim to showcase their class and stay alive in the competition.
Sri Lanka's top-order in dire need of runs
Perera and Fernando, the two experienced batters in the Lankan top-order, have failed to live up to the expectations so far. In 2021, Fernando has played 14 innings but managed to cross the 30-run mark only once against Namibia in the qualifiers. With 130 runs in the calendar year at an average of 10.8, the right-hander has endured a horrific run with the bat.
On the other hand, Perera has struggled while opening the batting and scored 94 runs in seven innings at a strike rate of 117.5. The wicket-keeper had a tough time behind the stumps as well and dropped three catches, which is the most by any keeper in the tournament.
Opening woes for the Windies
One of the significant reasons for the defending champions torrid run in the tournament is the performance of their batting unit. With Lendl Simmons struggling for runs in the first two matches, the team management opted for Chris Gayle to partner Evin Lewis. While Gayle has been one of the most destructive players in the modern era, the 42-year old is yet to make a substantial contribution in this tournament.
Despite having the firepower, the West Indies have scored at a rate of 5.7 in the first six overs and have scored a boundary every 7.7 balls. With sluggish wickets on offer in the UAE, making optimum use of the field restrictions is a paramount factor for the teams. With the spinners in operation in the middle overs, run-scoring has been challenging, and the West Indies have managed to score at five runs per over between overs 7-15.
Can Jason Holder be the trump card for the Windies?
An injury to Obed McCoy propelled the Windies management to draft in Jason Holder as the replacement. The 29-year old has been in sublime form in the UAE and was one of the standout performers for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the second phase of the Indian Premier League.
In the last match against Bangladesh, the all-rounder scored an unbeaten 15 off five deliveries and claimed 1-22 in four overs. With 13 wickets in seven innings at an economy rate of 7.8 and a strike rate of 12.8 in T20s since 2020, Holder has been lethal with the ball. The Windies will rely on his abilities to bail the side out of challenging situations and guide them over the finish line in a must-win encounter.
West Indies: Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Shimron Hetmyer, Kieron Pollard (c), Andre Russell, Jason Holder, Dwayne Bravo, Roston Chase, Akeal Hosein, Ravi Rampaul
Sri Lanka: Kusal Perera (wk), Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka (c), Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Maheesh Theekshana, Lahiru Kumara