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India vs West Indies, ICC World Cup 2019: Before India tie, a twist to Gayle’s tale

With West Indies on the brink of elimination, Gayle was being posed plenty of his favourite kind of questions—on being Chris Gayle.

cricket Updated: Jun 27, 2019 08:07 IST
Aditya Iyer (Chief Cricket Writer)
Aditya Iyer (Chief Cricket Writer)
Hindustan Times, Manchester
India vs West Indies,ICC World Cup 2019,Gayle
West Indies' Chris Gayle bats in the nets during a training session at Old Trafford.(AFP)

Chris Gayle does just about as he pleases. And that’s pretty much the universal truth about the man who calls himself Universe Boss. On the field—with the bat, when he runs or chooses not to, where he fields or how he bowls—and off the field too. On the eve of the West Indies-India match here at Old Trafford, Gayle appeared in front of the media before his captain Jason Holder did and made some announcements about his future that he hadn’t yet shared with Holder or his team-mates.

Also Read: Mohammed Shami gives India ‘embarrassment of riches’ at World Cup

A typical day then in Gayle’s world.

With West Indies on the brink of elimination, Gayle was being posed plenty of his favourite kind of questions—on being Chris Gayle.

Because after the West Indies’ last ODI series in the Caribbean this year, Gayle had announced that once the World Cup ends his career will too. So, for a while on Wednesday, Chris Gayle spoke about Chris Gayle, often in third person, until he was asked what his plans are post-World Cup; as in his plans for life after cricket.

post world cup plans

“My plans after the World Cup? Maybe a Test match against India and then I’ll play the ODIs against India,” said the man who last played a Test match in 2014, with a perma-grin on his lips. And even as the media tried to figure if he was joking or not, Gayle’s mind had already begun calculating what part of India’s forthcoming tour he would like to pick and choose. “I won’t play the T20s. But I’ll definitely play the ODIs. That’s my plan after World Cup.”

Captain Holder, who has plenty on his proverbial plate already—from the losses in their last four played games to the loss of their top all-rounder Andre Russell to injury and even the loss of a point due to rain against a weak South Africa—was informed about Gayle’s decision and he sighed and smiled at the same time.

Also Read: Chris Gayle to retire from international cricket after home series against India

“I just found out as well, too. He didn’t really say anything in the dressing room,” said Holder, shaking his head. “I guess I have to go downstairs and have a serious conversation with him. But, yeah, if he’s dedicated to playing for West Indies any longer, then I feel it’s definitely going to benefit us having him around.”

Although Gayle, in the 21st year of his ODI career, has nothing left to prove to himself or his cricket team, a big show against India on Thursday could go a long way in highlighting just why the team needs him and not vice versa.

odd numbers

For a man featuring in his fifth ODI World Cup, it is a rather odd statistic that Gayle has played India on this stage just once: in the previous edition of 2015, where he scored 21.

Back then, four years ago, he came into the match in the form unique to bashers like Gayle – an ODI double hundred two games prior followed by a single-digit score.

This time too, leading into the India game, Gayle has blown hot and cold but this time it is in fact cold and hot—memories of his duck against Bangladesh ostensibly erased by his 87 against New Zealand, scored here in a thriller in Manchester.

Big challenge: Arun

But the Indian camp won’t be too worried, despite being a bowler short in Bhuvneshwar Kumar (his strained hamstring is healing but not enough for him to not still show signs of a limp) and despite having been run close by Afghanistan in their previous game in Southampton.

For, in Bhuvneshwar’s absence, Mohammed Shami got a go at this World Cup and made it count with a final over hat-trick, restricting Afghanistan’s procession by 11 runs.

India’s bowling coach Bharat Arun was asked about the threat that West Indies’ big hitters such as Gayle and Carlos Brathwaite, centurion in the previous game in Manchester, bring to the table and he said: “It’s a big challenge for the bowlers, of course. Especially when they come after you. But whenever batsmen come after you, if you’re willing to look at it deeply, there is a chance for the bowlers.”

Also Read: Ganguly speaks about Dhoni after sluggish innings against Afghanistan

He is right, given that Gayle doesn’t average too well against the Indian bowlers—33-and-a-bit in plenty of ODIs. And maybe the myth of Gayle scoring big runs against the Indians has come from his remarkable IPL career because he hasn’t scored a hundred against India in 13 years.

Heck, he hasn’t even played India in a one-dayer since 2015. Before that, in his last seven innings against his Thursday’s opponents, Gayle didn’t once go past 30. Not once.

But, again, Gayle often has his way in life and cricket, and when he does he isn’t easy to stop.

At the press conference he was asked what he would like to achieve from what is certainly his last World Cup campaign and his response summed up what Gayle thinks of Gayle. “In these three games, I’d love to get a hundred as well,” he said. “But if it doesn’t happen, I can’t actually complain or be too hard on myself. I’ve actually achieved a lot.”

First Published: Jun 27, 2019 00:06 IST