Gayle is Here Again

Caribbean Cricket Hero

Having not represented the West Indies in a Twenty20 International in over a year, Jamaica’s batting star Christopher Gayle has earned a surprise recall for the one-off Finolex Pipes T20 International against India here on Sunday.

The explosive left-hander, who last sported the regional colours in the World T20 final against England in India in April, was named in a 13-man squad by the selection panel of Cricket West Indies (CWI) yesterday.

He was picked in a squad to face the Indians in a two-match T20 series in Fort Lauderdale last August, but didn’t play because of fitness issues.

Gayle is the only change to the squad that swept Afghanistan last month, replacing Lendl Simmons, who had scores of six, 17 and 15 in the three-match series.

It will also be the first T20 International appearance at Sabina Park for Gayle, as the imposing opening batsman headlines the list of five Jamaicans expected to be on show.

Wicketkeeper/batsman Chadwick Walton, middle-order batsman Marlon Samuels, improving all-rounder Rovman Powell, and seamer Jerome Taylor are the others.

Though his form and fitness may be in question, Gayle, 37, has the ability to ruin the figures of even the most economical of opening bowlers, and his experience could serve the number-five-ranked West Indies well against the number-four-ranked Indians, should he get into his attacking rhythm.

Gayle has, over the years, been a cut above the rest and is the highest run-maker for West Indies in this format with 1,519 runs, including two centuries at an average 35.32 and a strike rate of 145.49.

Gayle has played 295 T20s and recently became the first batsman to accummulate 10,000 runs in the format. His form during the recent Indian Premier League has been a roller coaster, as he managed a mere 200 runs with a single half-century.

In five of his 10 games this season Gayle had mustered double figure scores of 40, 32, 22, 48 and 77, and he will be banking on his usual free-flowing and attacking style for a reproduction of his best form.

CWI Chairman of Selectors Courtney Browne, in a release yesterday, welcomed back the former West Indies captain to what he described as a well-balanced squad.

“We welcome Chris back to the T20 squad; he is the most prolific batsman in this format, and will add value to our team at the top of the order. He will get the chance to play on his home ground and against a top-quality, Indian team,” said Browne.

“This squad has a good mix of experience within the batting and bowling – it is a well-balanced squad. Again, this is an opportunity for the young players to showcase their talent and for the experienced players to perform and help nurture the young players,” he added.

Meanwhile, West Indies bowling coach Roddy Estwick was reluctant to comment on Gayle’s addition.

“I didn’t know that, because I didn’t see a team announced, so that is something new today (yesterday). Obviously, if Chris is selected, he is a West Indian and he is our most successful recent batter, and we will welcome him with open arms.

“He is a great player and there is no more to be said on the Chris Gayle issue. It is not an issue for me. Chris Gayle will be welcomed with open arms just like any other West Indian player,” said Estwick when pressed by members of the media at a training session at Sabina Park yesterday.

FULL SQUAD: Carlos Brathwaite (Captain), Samuel Badree, Ronsford Beaton, Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Rovman Powell, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Chadwick Walton, Kesrick Williams