West Indies cricket team isn’t the favourites to win the ICC World Cup 2019. Jason Holder’s men’s main idea will be to give it all and enjoy the mega tourney to be held in England and Wales. With less than 100 days to go for the World Cup, Windies are hoping for some sort of revival in the format. One can expect the Windies to entertain. And veteran batsman Chris Gayle will draw maximum attention for his capabilities with the bat.
A few days earlier, Gayle had announced that the Cricket World Cup 2019 will be his last event in ODIs as he will retire from the format. So there is this extra bit of swagger that can come out from Gayle’s bat given that the time is coming to an end. Thousands of fans were thoroughly entertained in Bridgetown earlier this week when Gayle wrecked havoc against England in the first ODI.
Number one ODI side England went on to seal the match quite comfortably in the end, but nothing can be taken away from Gayle’s achievements. The southpaw smashed 135 to help his side post 360/8. Gayle’s brutality and love for sixes were witnessed. The 39-year-old struck 12 of West Indies’ 23 sixes – a record for an ODI innings. They also made their highest total against England in the format.
England sealed the tie with six wickets to spare after tons from Jason Roy and Joe Root. But what it gave the Windies is that they can expect plenty of firework from Gayle’s bat, which in turn could keep them alive in matches. Windies have work to do and develop their skills on the field. One would want them to work on the same and rally around their main man Gayle.
The Windies have been bolstered by the return of players like Carlos Brathwaite. And even Andre Russell could be drafted in after positive talks took place between the board and the concerned player. So the situation for Windies aren’t that bad after all. Here we look at the impact Gayle can have and why he is still a force to be reckoned with.
Gayle’s touch hasn’t left him despite rustiness
He may be approaching 40, but Gayle has defied age much like several legends, who pushed themselves to play till a longer time. The best part about Gayle is that he isn’t hanging around to make numbers and just play for the sake of it. Rather there is a willingness to make it count and do well. What we witnessed in Bridgetown was that his touch is still there.
One should take note that the Universal Boss was playing his first ODI since July 2018. There was some rustiness as he came in. He struggle to find any sort of intensity and he was labouring around not being able to make much contact. But once he settled in, the shots followed. Gayle’s approach isn’t like the yesteryears, It is not about bang-bang from the word go. Time catches up with players and he isn’t any different. He generally takes his time in the beginning. The same was witnessed against England.
He was on nine from 32 balls when he was dropped by Roy. The rustiness meant that the left-handed batsman did not hit a boundary until the 15th over. But when the time came, he got back to his act. His half-century came from 76 deliveries, which is so unlike a player of his calibre. He had played 45 dot balls.
From there on the big man took just 24 balls to reach his 24th ODI ton. It included four sixes that were smashed out of the ground. That was quite a sight for the fans. Gayle ended up with 135 from just 129 balls. He made up for the balls consumed early on. It shows that Gayle can switch the momentum in crucial moments.
Aggressive Gayle can bank on this show
What an aggressive Gayle can do is he can unsettle bowlers when he is at his best. Time and time again we witnessed the same. England’s bowlers found it tough when he got going. They lost their lines as Gayle continually whipped them over the leg side. Mark Wood’s seventh over went for 22. Gayle and Darren Bravo also combined to hit four sixes in off-spinner Moeen Ali’s final over. The all-rounder finished with 0-85 off 10 overs.
Gayle shared a fifth-wicket stand off 64 with Bravo in only 7.4 overs. The southpaw will be wanting to take this opportunity in this series to get back to the groove. The time spent in the middle will do him a world of good. Performing against England will give Gayle the confidence. The Eoin Morgan-led side goes into the World Cup as one of the favourites. Therefore, it is a learning curve for WI to rally on and learn from mistakes.
Recently against Australia, Indian veteran batsman MS Dhoni benefitted from spending valuable time at the crease. He got back to the groove and won the ODI series for India. Now Gayle, who hasn’t played much cricket in recent times, can take a leaf out from MSD and apply the same mantra. Gayle is experienced campaigner and has 24 tons under his belt. Gayle also has 9,862 runs in ODIs and could soon achieve a new feat.
Prior to this, Gayle hadn’t scored an ODI century against a team other than UAE or Zimbabwe since the year 2013. He also hadn’t scored one against England since 2006. But this turned out to be something special. “I used a bit of experience. It took me a while to get my first boundary. But I stuck at it and eventually like in life, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Gayle said to Sky Sports after the match.
Gayle lacks mobility and there is a challenge
Yes, the 39-year-old lacks the mobility on the field. He isn’t known much for his running these days. He hardly takes doubles or even singles. These things are required at the start of the innings and also it helps in strike rotation. These are some negatives surrounding Gayle, but credit to the man for relying on his strengths. Even at this age, he strikes the ball better than most.
His six-hitting was mainly centred around long-on and square leg. They weren’t small sixes, either. The conditions in England will test Gayle. The seaming conditions and the nippy pace could challenge him. Against England, he played out 55 dot balls before reaching his century. This will be an alarming factor. But one should be a bit patient with him. A few matches under his belt, and expect him to lower the same significantly.
The others need to apply themselves with the bat on the other hand and play as per the situation. There could be may more runs from Gayle’s bat and with World Cup coming, he will be expected to present a much better version in terms of the overall product.