India favourites, but Gayle backs West Indies for ‘upset’

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Chris Gayle has fired the first salvo ahead of today’s second ICC World Twenty20 semi-final between India and West Indies, saying he will be ready for whatever challenges the home team lays down because, like the Twenty20 format demands of him, he is just “looking to attack”. Gayle readily conceded that India are the favourites, but the West Indies were ready to produce “an upset”.

“They have made some momentum. There’s no doubt about it, they have the momentum and a lot of confidence coming into this game as well,” Gayle told a handful of journalists during an impromptu media briefing before West Indies’ training session at the CCI on Tuesday (March 29). “It is very difficult to pinpoint one particular player in the Indian team. It is a very good all-round team, good fielding team as well. That’s why India is the favourite. It is always going to be difficult to beat them here, but like I said, for West Indies the upset is ready.”

As so often in Gayle’s discourses, there was a generous dosage of the third person, starting when Gayle replied to a question about facing R Ashwin during the Powerplay.”It is no surprise. That always happens. [MS] Dhoni always puts Ashwin up early but Dhoni is an unpredictable captain. It doesn’t necessary (mean) that he’ll do it but these things do happen. I am looking to show what Chris Gayle can do …. I will be prepared,” he said.

The 36-year-old opener hoped to make up for lost time, having batted only once since the hundred against England © Getty
The 36-year-old opener hoped to make up for lost time, having batted only once since the hundred against England © Getty

“I’ll be ready mentally for whichever particular bowler he has to focus on, if it is Ashwin (or others). There are so many bowlers there – [Ashish] Nehra is bowling well. He is very good with the new ball. We just have to keep our eyes open, play according to the situation. Chris Gayle will always be positive. It doesn’t matter which bowler is bowling against Chris Gayle, Chris Gayle looking to attack. That’s the nature of T20 cricket. And that’s the nature of Chris Gayle. No names, just cricket ball … beat it as hard as possible.”

It is an achievement that West Indies, who lost Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine and Lendl Simmons before the tournament, have reached the semi-finals with a hat-trick of wins. They have been carried here by the likes of Samuel Badree (six wickets at 13.66 apiece and an economy rate of 5.46), Dwayne Bravo (six wickets at 18.16, economy 6.81), Sulieman Benn (one wicket but the lowest economy rate of the tournament – an exceptional 4.93) and Andre Russell (seven wickets at 17.28, economy 7.56). When Gayle couldn’t bat against Sri Lanka, the batsman who went up the order, Andre Fletcher, scored an unbeaten 84 and was named Man of the Match.

Like his captain Darren Sammy before the tournament, Gayle spoke of the importance of such players and other rookies to deliver in a crunch situation.”We have lost a lot of key players, but if you look at the back-up, the guys who came in for the key players, they have actually played a tremendous part as well. So that goes to show the strength of West Indies cricket back home,” he said.

“The guys who actually replaced the first picks, someone like Carlos Brathwaite, he won us the game against South Africa. So those guys are playing a big part and the bench is still strong enough. We have a lot of match-winners, the No. 1 bowler Badree, who is doing a fantastic job and Suleiman Benn backed up Dwayne Bravo, Russell and the rest of the bowlers. So it is a fantastic all-round team and we are going against a strong favourite team India, so it will be an interesting game and I hope it will be a good game for the fans to cheer and the West Indies come out on top.”

The venue for the second semi-final of the tournament is a couple of streets down from the CCI at the Wankhede Stadium, where, in West Indies’ first game Gayle pummelled England with a 47-ball unbeaten century. Since then, however, he has batted just once, against South Africa when he made four from two balls. An injury in the field against Sri Lanka and a friendly intervention from umpire Ian Gould during the chase prevented Gayle from batting in the second game, and then against Afghanistan he was rested as a precaution ahead of the semi-final.

Looking forward to batting on the run-filled Wankhede strip, the 36-year-old opener hoped to make up for lost time. “For the tournament so far, I have only batted twice, so I haven’t really got a knock in all four games,” said Gayle. “But this is a perfect opportunity to actually start the tournament and try and pick up where I left off, get a big one for the team and put them in a winning position. If it doesn’t happen someone should actually be able to pick it up and take West Indies to victory.”

The invariable question about the red-hot Virat Kohli was posed, and Gayle used humour to talk of his Royal Challengers Bangalore team-mate. “Please don’t fire, Virat,” he said, while joining his hands in mock prayer to the skies and then guffawed at his own comment. “I have said it over the years he is going to be the world beater he is today. Hopefully tomorrow he won’t get any runs. He has been fantastic right through the year. He has been in a great form. He can still get runs, but in a losing cause. We’ll be happy with that as well.”

Another throaty laugh followed, and then Gayle got serious.”He is in good form and it is a good wicket as well, so anything is possible. We have to play the situation accordingly, play within our strength and actually take it from there. We are not going to focus on only Virat, there are so many match-winners there and anyone of them can actually fire on any particular day,” he said.

“It is a huge team, India, their batting line-up is superb, but Virat is the man that stands out at this point in time. Like I said they have so many match-winners, like our team as well, we have a lot of match-winners too, it is not always going to be about me. For a particular stage, one of our batters should take up the baton if Chris Gayle doesn’t score runs, someone should actually take it up and fire as well and put the team in a winning position,” he concluded.

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