Batsmen from around the world come to India with great expectations. They would have again come dreaming about raising mountains of runs on the placid Indian wickets in the Champions Trophy as well. But this time they were in for a surprise; the wickets were rolled out and were more or less a study in contrast to what they would have expected.
As a result, the batsmen's dreams soured. Not many could shake off their preconceived notions to alter their approach and technique to adjust to the unexpected conditions. Hence, it has been a struggle so far for a majority of the batsmen, especially the top-order ones.
Chris Gayle, however, is one of the few specialist batsmen who have managed to hold their own to an extent in the tournament. The swashbuckling West Indian has got off to good starts more often than not in the tournament and has two centuries against his name so far.
He puts it down to adjusting to the conditions. “The conditions this time around are different to what they were when I came here the last time,” Gayle said. “So I have tried to assess the wicket and then try to make the required adjustments.”
The dasher is particularly happy with his century against England. “I try to get a start and bat as long as possible, and my innings against England went the way I wanted it to go,” he said. “Dwayne Bravo's knock (he too scored a ton) was also important in the sense that it took the pressure off me. I hope we can repeat the performance in the semis as well.”
Apart from batting, the left-hander has also rolled over his arm over with a fair amount of success. He has bowled regularly throughout the tournament and has picked up as many as eight wickets. That too without going for much. One would think hard work has gone into this aspect of his game.
But before one could go any further looking for finer points, the burly opener cuts you short. “I don't pay much attention to my bowling,” he said. “I am a batsman and my focus is on batting. As for bowling, I can come in and get the job done at times.”
The laidback cricketer is not worried by the West Indies' loss to England. “It is not a major setback for us,” Gayle said. “We wanted to win every match, but the loss hasn't taken away the momentum. We will just have to look back at that and try to rebound in the semi-final against South Africa.”
Gayle admitted that South Africa had been good in their last two games and would come hard at them. But then, he said, the West Indies too were quite upbeat and well-prepared to take on any challenge.
“We are better prepared as we have been playing quite regularly for some time (the DLF Cup in Malaysia and the Champions Trophy qualifiers),” Gayle said. “That has put us in the right frame of mind. The teams will have to come hard at us if they are to take away something from us.”