(AFP) West Indies captain Jason Holder has backed the returning Chris Gayle to make a big impact in the one-day international series against England starting this week.
Tuesday’s fixture at Old Trafford, the first of a five-match ODI series, is set to be powerhouse opening batsman Gayle’s first at this level since the 2015 World Cup — where he made the first double century in the competition’s history, smashing a blistering 215 against Zimbabwe in Canberra.
A protracted dispute with Cricket West Indies chiefs kept the 37-year-old Jamaica left-hander on the sidelines of the international game for more than two years.
But he returned to Twenty20 international action on his home ground of Sabina Park, Kingston, in July.
And he showed he had lost none of his ability to score rapidly with a blazing 40 off 21 balls as World Twenty20 champions West Indies beat England by 21 runs in the lone Twenty20 of their tour at Chester-le-Street on Saturday.
Gayle has scored more than 9,000 runs, including 22 hundreds, in 269 ODIs at a strike rate of 85.11.
Holder welcomed his impending return to the ODI format by telling reporters at Old Trafford on Monday: “It’s obviously a huge boost. The calibre of player Chris is, you can expect really good things from him.”
“He showed some form in the T20 game and had some good form in our CPL (Caribbean Premier League) competition recently concluded,” the all-rounder added.
“I’m really looking forward to having him back. He seems up for the challenge, he seems upbeat and really happy to be back. I’m looking forward to good things from Chris.”
– Twenty20 win –
Holder, not in the Twenty20 squad after leading West Indies in a 2-1 Test series loss to England earlier in the tour, said his side could take some confidence from a win at Chester-le-Street, where they overcame cold and wet conditions to record a convincing victory over England in a repeat of last year’s World Twenty20 final in Kolkata.
“That (Saturday’s) result should give is a bit of momentum, albeit a T20 game,” said Holder.
“We are professional athletes, we know what to expect here in English conditions. A few of the guys have played here before, a few played the T20 game coming into this one.”
The Barbados all-rounder added: “From all reports it was difficult in Durham with the wet outfield but it’s something we’ve grown to expect and you’ve just got to adapt and adjust to it.”
West Indies will need to win the upcoming series either 5-0 or 4-0 with a tie or a no-result if they are to gain direct entry into the 2019 World Cup in England.
A failure to do so would mean West Indies, the 1975 and 1979 World Cup winners, cannot overtake Sri Lanka, currently eighth in the ODI rankings.
Only the top seven sides, apart from hosts England, currently fourth, as of September 30 will qualify directly for the 50-over showpiece event in 2019.
Teams that do not gain direct entry will get another shot through a qualifying tournament.
“The guys are up for the challenge. We’ve obviously got some new faces coming back into the side and it’s exciting times for our cricket,” said Holder.
“We are still at a stage where we are looking to rebuild and hopefully these guys coming back can bring a lot of experience and expertise to what we are doing.”