Is Chris Gayle in your World T20 plans?
(Akeem Greene examines Chris Gayle’s future in West Indies T20 set-up)
West Indies will restart their preparation for a World T20 title defence in India next October.
Initially, at this point in time, they would have been in Australia for the World T20, but COVID-19 forced the postponement of the tournament.
In 2021, they will return to a host nation where they have fond memories of a 2016 title and immense familiarity to conditions, by virtue of participating in the Indian Premier League.
But, how much of that powerful and winning squad will return, and the biggest name in contention is the ‘Universe Boss’ Christopher Henry Gayle.
Gayle, now 41, has played a significant hand in West Indies winning two World T20 titles, and it appeared he was trying his best to play at this year’s World T20.
Can he hold out for another year and still have the same potency as he did in years gone by?
There is quite a number of pros and cons to the selection dilemma.
- Without question, Gayle is arguably the greatest T20 opener the game has ever seen. His 13,296 runs in the format is 2,915 more than the next best (Kieron Pollard). 22 of his 106 scores over fifty have been hundreds.
- His experience in India on the flatter pitches makes him a threat. At the last World T20, he scored 113 runs, out which he made a 47-ball 100* against England in the preliminary stages. He averages 37.66 in India which is above his T20I average in all of Asia, which is 34.57. The fast outfields and usually smaller grounds than those which he would have faced in Australia makes boundary-clearing much easier and there is a lesser need for the constant running of twos or threes.
- 125 matches in the IPL, where he has scored 4,484 runs at average of 41.13 and a strike rate of 151.02.
- Simply the threat of Gayle, brings a different complexity to the match and of recent, he has bided his time and let his partners do the early damage before a late innings explosion.
- Age could finally catch up. While predominately boundary-hitting has been the mantra for West Indies, their inability to effectively rotate strike has brought added pressure to hit the big shot. There are younger players like Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran, who strive for quick singles, an evident lack of interest by Gayle over the years due to the toll on the body.
- Younger talents: In the ongoing IPL, Kings XI have not picked the Jamaican to date, as they have persisted with KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, who have been successful. Their boundary hitting abilities and quick legs are the modern modus operandi of T20 players.
- Team dynamics: Gayle has not played a T20I since March 2019 against England and has missed five series since. Lendl Simmons, who was the leading run-scorer at this year’s Caribbean Premier League with 356 runs, could partner Evin Lewis at the top, followed by Shimron Hetmyer at three, and Nicholas Pooran four. This allows Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo to play, along with four other bowling options (two spinners and two pacers).
- Gayle’s presence would mean, Simmons might have to bat three and everyone goes one lower. It means based on conditions, the toss-up would be between Keemo Paul and Fabian Allen, since if Sunil Narine is cleared to play, him and Sheldon Cottrell are first-choice bowling options.
- Gayle’s last four T20I innings have yielded 5, 15, 18 and 0. After his 100* at the World T20, his next best since is a 21-ball 40 against England in 2017.
Chief Selector, Roger Harper, has stated all players are available for selection for the tour to New Zealand. Ideally, the plan would be to select the closest representation of that World T20 squad since COVID-19 has brought great uncertainty as it regards future tours.
Though there is a CPL next year, it might not count to World Cup selection unless CPL moves up to July-August or ends early September. It makes tours such as the upcoming one extremely vital in selecting the final 15-man squad for the tournament.
So, Gayle in or Gayle out? Time will tell if the ‘Universe Boss’ will get a chance to win a third World T20 title.