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Gayle, A Force For West Indies

By Orin Davidson
Chris Gayle best epitomizes the expression “you don’t judge a book by its cover”.

In the cricket world no one provides a better example.

Up until one year ago Gayle was still the ball beating “stand up and deliver” batsman who despite being one of the most experienced members of a green-horn West Indies team, seemingly carried himself without a care in the world.

He was not just a cool guy, but “Mr Super Cool’ better fit his persona.

Which is why you would expect him to be the last person to fit any captaincy role.

And to make a good job of it made it seemed even more improbable.

But cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties and Gayle was not only elevated to one of the most stressful jobs in international cricket outside of captaining India, he is making the task of leading West Indies seem like the easiest assignment in the world.

And in his own cool inimitable style..

When Brian Lara hinted at Gayle‘s leadership qualities four years ago after West Indies upset the applecart to win the Champions Trophy title, you though he was merely feeling the exhilaration of success and was just being nice to the Jamaican, who he never enjoyed the best of relationships with.

But now you are beginning to appreciate that Lara was not being politically correct but was making an objective assessment of the left hander.

It so happened Gayle was handed the captaincy by default during the England tour last year when fans were resigned to enduring the pains of another double series loss, but he carried the battered Windies to an exhilaration limited overs series win from the despair of a Test rubber whitewash.

Darren Ganga failed badly as stand-in Test captain.
But England were beaten 2-1 with Gayle’s refreshing new leadership approach which brought out the best of the West Indies players in that series.

He proved strong in all regard and stood up for his team from his wholesome attacking support for his bowlers in tactical field placing, to his defiance of the West Indies Cricket Board when they tried to railroad him for speaking out on their shortcomings, at the time.

Gayle bats aggressively and he leads aggressively in the field too which is why he is having much to show for that approach so far in a brief captaincy career.

So impressive was his display in England, you were compelled to feel he should’ve been handed the captaincy permanently from there onwards even if Ramnaresh Sarwan never got a chance to prove himself in his designated appointed position at the helm, due to his injuries.
Such is the drought of success for the West Indies, it would’ve been easy to resort to desperate unorthodox moves and in doing so the West Indies Board might’ve been wise to keep Gayle at the helm, for they returned to their failing ways while suffering a first round knock out in the Twenty/20 World Cup, immediately afterwards.

Sarwan and Gayle are pals and it may have been poetic justice that the former’s incredible injury streak continued after the England series and allowed the latter back in the fold at the helm.

And surprise, surprise, Gayle has gone on to confound everyone by leading West Indies to first a half domination of South Africa in the current first Test in Port Elizabeth.

Based on the statistics, the world ranking and current form of the two teams, it was a no-brainer to expect West Indies would’ve steamrolled from the get go.

This first Test was supposed to be over by now, well before the allotted five days in the homesters favour.

Having lost all of their previous Tests matches in South Africa except one draw that has left them with a 0-8 record there, West Indies were portrayed as lambs to the slaughter.

But like the David, the underdogs, took their positive approach from the England one-day series and slayed Goliath in the first two days.

West Indies’ taming of ferocious fast bowler Dale Steyn, the new fulcrum of South Africa’s blistering attack was the key to West Indies’ commanding show.

And who else initiated the blunting of the man considered South Africa’s most fearsome paceman since Allan Donald.

Gayle of course.

His early first innings battering of Steyn , in typical footwork-less stand and deliver style, so scrambled the South African’s brain he never came close to being the juggernaut touted to destroy the second worst team in the world, based on the International Cricket Council’s rankings.

This was the same bowler who demolished New Zealand only three weeks earlier, with that awesome 20 wicket haul that saw them fail to score 200 once while going down to a 2-0 whitewash.

While Lara damaged attacks through his aggressive batting, he was loathe to transform that approach in the field as captain.

Gayle is the antithesis, because he carries his aggression on all fronts, with the bat and with the captain’s armband.

That is why he has been a success in his new found leadership role.

Following up on the NatWest series triumph, Gayle broke the jinx that denied Jamaica success in the KFC Cup. They won the West Indies limited overs title for the first time in several years in November in his first stint as the team’s captain.

Now that this first Test is evenly matched, going into the final two days, Gayle’s handling of his bowlers will be vital in West Indies victory quest when South Africa chases down a 350-odd victory target, thought unimaginable up to the time the two captains spun the toss.

Based on his proactive approach I back him to pull off victory and stun South Africa in Port Elizabeth.

Fortune always favors the brave.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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