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Gayle hot, but gives bowlers a chance

Chris Gayle has been exceptional, while players like Taylor and Bravo have strengthened the bowling, writes Glenn McGrath.

india Updated: Nov 05, 2006 00:43 IST

This is the first time we’ve made it to the final of the Champions Trophy and if we continue our trend of improving with every game, I am pretty sure we will be heading back to Australia with the trophy in hand. As a team, our record in finals and crucial games is pretty impeccable.

It’s for big games like this that we play and train hard, and as a team it is a challenge like this that inspires us to raise the bar. We are not putting pressure on ourselves considering we have never won this particular trophy because we know we have played and excelled in similar situations in the past.

However, we are not taking the West Indians lightly. They have played excellent cricket right through this tournament, and are worthy finalists. Chris Gayle has been exceptional, while players like Jerome Taylor and Dwayne Bravo have strengthened the bowling.

Brian Lara has also played a crucial role and has kept his own position in the batting line-up pretty flexible. It’s been a fine team performance from the West Indies so far, and I am sure they will be keen to defend their title.

The crucial part of the final will be the start of the two innings. I must admit the wicket in Mohali excited me more, because it had good bounce and carry.

It would be unreasonable to expect the same wicket at the Cricket Club of India (CCI), but the good news is that it’s a better wicket than the one on which we played our opening game against the West Indies.

Since the opening batsmen and bowlers from both teams have been in good form, I feel the first 10 overs of both innings will be decisive, particularly when Brett Lee bowls to Gayle. The former has done well against the West Indian left-hander so far, and it remains to be seen whether he can continue that trend.

Talking about opening batsmen, the Gayle-Chanderpaul combination is different from the combination of Tendulkar-Sehwag in one vital aspect. While Sehwag and Tendulkar both look and play a pretty identical game  — their stance, strokeplay and structure are very similar and comparisons are inevitable.

Gayle and Chanderpaul, on the other hand, could not be more different in their style and temperament, though the latter has been playing very aggressively in the recent games.

Gayle, perhaps in the best form of his life, is threatening Lara’s position as the premier batsmen of the team and thus, here too, comparisons are bound to arise.

Gayle is very much his own man and even though he is a left-hander like his captain, the similarity ends there. He is more powerful and attacking, whereas Lara is more elegant.

Once Lara is set, it’s very difficult to dislodge him. In the case of Gayle, if you bowl tight, you know a big shot will be attempted. He has matured a little of late, but he does give the bowler a chance.

I am happy with my own progress through this tournament, and the Man of the Match award in the semi-final was a good bonus. My returns are going according to plan, and while I still don’t think I am at my best, I can sense that peak efficiency is not too far away.

It’s been a good weekend for Australian cricket so far, thanks to the performance of the team in the ICC Awards. Ricky Ponting was rather predictably awarded the ODI player as well as Test Player of the Year awards. He has had a sensational year, and it was a foregone conclusion that he would win both awards.

I was also very happy for Michael Hussey who has come along nicely in the last one year. However, what I was really encouraged by was the number of Australians that were chosen in the Test and One-Day team. It shows that we have done well in both versions of the game, and is a true indication of our dominance in the sport.