“[…] Age catches up with the best of us. In [Chris] Gayle’s case, that has meant waning hand/eye co-ordination, considerably less energy in the field and greater proneness to injury—all factors that have led to inconsistency in scores and fewer innings of note.
“The Australia half-century—his first since 2016!—was nothing but a temporary glimpse of a player who is now a shadow of his former assault-inflicting self. Since then, against Pakistan, Gayle has failed to produce any noteworthy innings…”
MPD Massiah, a professional cricket writer, selects his dream West Indies Team, as Wired868 continues its look ahead to the T20 Cricket World Cup:
Sentimentality sometimes crowds out reason. So it took me a while to arrive at this conclusion.
But veteran West Indies cricketer Christopher Henry Gayle, a key member of WI’s two previous ICC T20 World Cup teams, should not be included in this year’s edition.
Not, at any rate, as a player!
At this stage in his career, the self-proclaimed ‘Universe Boss’ should be a non-playing team member, asked to play the role of mentor to captain Kieron Pollard and his charges.
It is not a conclusion the author came to with a fluid innings. As a self-avowed fan of the man from the Land of Wood and Water, I am among millions who have been fascinated by Gayle’s destructive dominance, which lasted for at least a decade, in the shortest form of international cricket—starting from his T20 debut against New Zealand in 2006.
His apposite technique and effectiveness in both shorter forms of the game, T20 and ODIs, were honed from his Test career that has featured two triple centuries. (He belongs to an exclusive club of only four players to achieve that feat, also including Brian Lara, India’s Virender Sehwag and Australia’s legendary Donald Bradman.)
I recall countless heated arguments in which several critics, opposed to his non-classical, unorthodox style, said Gayle ‘can’t bat’. How is it possible for a man with two triple centuries, one double-century and 15 centuries overall in Tests plus 15 hundreds in ODIs and two in T20s (including being the first to get there in this format) to be described as being unable to bat?
To me, that simply does not make no sense.
Add to that his exploits at the IPL, including a carnage of an innings of 175 (featuring a 31-ball century) in 2013 for the Royal Challengers Bangalore against the Pune Warriors—arguably the most savage innings ever witnessed by human eyes.
Understandably, Gayle holds a treasured place in the hearts of many, including his current WI teammates.
Dwayne Bravo, known to enjoy a close relationship with the Universe Boss, expressed this best in the run-up to the third T20 match against Australia.
Prior to the game, he said Gayle’s West Indies teammates don’t ‘judge’ him by his current and recent performances now, adding that the 41-year-old’s presence alone was a ‘fear factor’ for any opposition.
On 13 July, Gayle then laid the foundation for the WI’s unassailable 3-0 series lead over Australia with a 38-ball 67 (7 sixes, 4 fours at a strike rate of 176) that powered the Nicholas Pooran-led side to a six-wicket victory in St Lucia with 31 balls to spare.
When he walked back to the players’ bench after his dismissal, the entire WI squad, players as well as technical staff-rose to their feet to greet and congratulate him with fist-bumps, back-pats and high fives.
The knock had been a glimpse of the old Chris Gayle and a reminder of the potency of the player in his glory days.
On the basis of this knock, many, including me, concluded that we may have witnessed a return to the Gayle form of old.
Class, they say, is permanent, form temporary. But nothing lasts forever. Age catches up with the best of us.
In Gayle’s case, that has meant waning hand/eye co-ordination, considerably less energy in the field and greater proneness to injury—all factors that have led to inconsistency in scores and fewer innings of note.
The Australia half-century—his first since 2016!—was nothing but a temporary glimpse of a player who is now a shadow of his former assault-inflicting self.
Since then, against Pakistan, Gayle has failed to produce any noteworthy innings. After a single match in the CPL, he has been sidelined by injury.
For me, the post-Australia performances have sealed the deal. Gayle will be outside the official squad, accompanying them to the UAE and Oman as mere mentor.
So who will comprise my ideal T20 side?
The explosive Evin Lewis will pair with the resurgent Shai Hope, who has displayed the temperament and judgement to know when to attack and when to stabilise. Hope can also double as wicket-keeper to ensure more depth in the batting.
Lendl Simmons is just too hit-and-miss for my liking and is often guilty of poor shot selection.
At the crucial number three spot, I go with the U-19 World Cup-winning captain Shimron Hetmyer. He has in recent times been displaying a greater appetite for mere occupation of the crease, something we did not see from him when he first came on the scene.
I want master tactician and strategist Kieron Pollard at four, breaking up the string of lefties.
At five comes vice-captain Nicholas Pooran, adept at dealing with the whatever spin options the opposition throws at him. Following him at six, I want the destructive Andre Russell, who will also contribute with the ball.
The top six spots must go to your best batsmen. Australia, England, South Africa, top that six if you can!
Jason Holder, one of the world’s best all-rounders according to the ICC rankings, comes at number seven, where his ability to merely occupy the crease and keep the scoreboard ticking over or accelerate the scoring if necessary will be real assets—not to mention his effective power-play bowling.
At eight and nine are the flamboyant and skilful pair of Dwayne Bravo and Fabian Allen, both brilliant fieldsmen. Bravo in particular has the ability to contribute hugely with both ball and bat, as we have already seen in the 2021 CPL.
At number ten is leg spinner and fielder extraordinaire Hayden Walsh Jr, whose control of wrist-spin can often leave opposition batters guessing.
It is the same effect our number eleven, left-arm pacer Obed McCoy, can produce with his back-of-the-hand deliveries which, almost magically, he manages more often than not to pitch accurately.
With this XI, WI may not successfully defend our title.
But they’ll have to come good to take it from us.
Starting XI: Evin Lewis, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Jason Holder, Dwayne Bravo, Fabian Allen, Hayden Walsh Jr, Obed McCoy.
Squad #12-15: Akeal Hosein, Kemar Roach, Fidel Edwards, Carlos Brathwaite.
Reserves: Roston Chase, Andre Fletcher, Alzarri Joseph.
Squad Mentor: Chris ‘Universe Boss’ Gayle.
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