Anyone who watched the ferocity of Chris Gayle’s attack on Australian bowlers in the group match will know just what the West Indian captain is capable of. A matchwinner in the true sense of the word, Gayle will be the biggest obstacle confronting India in their first SuperEight game at the Lord’s on Friday.
While taking nothing away from Gayle’s knock, the Australian attack was one of their weakest, with Brett Lee seemingly still a long way off the peak. India, on the other hand, are a better allround T20 side than Australia, and the chances of Gayle dishing the same to an attack that has much more variety could well be markedly slimmer.
The trick, if there is one, to clog Gayle’s free-flowing style could be regular changes in the attack. Gayle is more dangerous when being fed the same pace of bowling. He picks up a fast bowler’s length as quickly as any other batsman and backs himself to get through with those outrageous shots.
With that in mind, it would not be a surprise to see MS Dhoni opting for some spin early in the piece. Yusuf Pathan has opened the bowling in the Indian Premier League as well as for the country and could very well find him starting the mission of stopping Gayle with his off-breaks.
Zaheer Khan’s return to fitness and form will please the Indians. The left-armer looked back to his potent best against Ireland, though the opposition and conditions undoubtedly would have helped. He will back himself to make early inroads in to the West Indian batting.
The India batting, along with South Africa, has been the best on show so far, and if Gayle can get off to a start and plunder his way to a big score, the onus will be on the big guns at the top and in the middle. The lack of time in the middle might be a cause of concern, though.
It would be unfair to call the West Indies a one-man team, with Dwayne Bravo, Andre Fletcher and Fidel Edwards all capable of hurting the opposition. But Gayle is the man to target. Get him early, and more often than not, it is the opposition that ends the game smiling.