World T20: ‘World Boss’ Chris Gayle just one of 11 reasons why West Indies are a tough team to beat

Christopher Henry Gayle’s autobiography is due for publication in June.

On the evidence of his first innings in this year’s ICC World T20 there’s every chance the front cover will feature him once again standing beside the trophy.

Chris Gayle is the World Boss. It’s a self-adopted moniker that in this format he has every right to. The T20 world stage has many exciting talents, and the competition could see someone out-perform him sufficiently to claim his crown.

But not yet.

Chris Gayle during his 48-ball century against England at Wankhede in Mumbai on Wednesday. AFP

Chris Gayle during his 48-ball century against England at Wankhede in Mumbai on Wednesday. AFP

In Mumbai on Wednesday night he hit a breathtaking 100 not out to comfortably steer the West Indies past England’s challenging 182-6, his knock far in excess of the required 9 runs per over.

Gayle is a phenomenon. No one hits the ball as cleanly or as regularly in international cricket. And justifiably, no one is as feared.

In the build up to the game, players and supporters alike were in readiness for the latest ‘Gayle force’. Sometimes the weather report is misleading, and the storm does not emerge. But it was spot on this time, and England felt its full force.

Gayle has had a career of popular acclaim, achieved through his wonderful displays with the bat — and his unrivalled ability to entertain. When he’s on form, when the ‘eye of the storm’ is in, he’s unstoppable. And if he’s not quelled in future games, then the West Indies will win this tournament.

But of course he is bound to have an off-day, and when that comes, his teammates will need to prove that the Windies are not entirely reliant on the Gayle force, and that they can blow storms of their own.

The West Indies are not a one-man team. They may have in their ranks the most potent, destructive tempest leading their batting line-up — but they have plenty of others capable of blasting the opposition.

Perhaps with that in mind, of great significance in their victory was the long overdue, and very welcome, return to form of Marlon Samuels.

Ahead of the selection of Windies’s squad for the competition, voices — well-respected ones — were raised arguing for Samuels’ exclusion. He was probably included more as a nod to his former match-winning exploits, than with any consideration of his recent exploits.

Samuels has had a woeful last 12 months. He’s looked totally out-of-sorts with his own game, and in the field seemed to display a disinterest in the goings on of his own side. Some asked whether he had lost his hunger, while others even wondered whether his eyesight was failing him.

His sprightly knock against England belied that.

Indeed, it was he who initially laid the platform for West Indies’ response to England’s very competitive total, showing several glimpses of the natural ability that helped Windies to the title four years ago.

His 37 off 21 balls set the pace for his side’s response, and in fact he dominated the early stages of the reply — Gayle facing only six balls in the first four overs of the innings. Samuels’s tame dismissal was a disappointment, but merely allowed Gayle to step into the spotlight and make the game his own.

Before the match, Darren Sammy spoke of his pleasure in contemplating the might of West Indies’ middle-to-lower order. It has genuine depth — and frightening power. Gayle’s performance meant it wasn’t needed on this occasion — but better bowling attacks than the woeful dross offered by England ought to test that strength in-depth.

Sammy had to neither bat nor bowl in this game, but he has already demonstrated his ability with the bat in the warm-ups. There may be no more dangerous No.7 in the competition.

Andre Russell and Carlos Brathwaite are similarly talented quick scorers, and Johnson Charles’s ugly heave to mid-wicket in the first over is not indicative of his pugnacious potential.

West Indies had an unimpressive match with the ball but they wisely picked two spinners to operate — although captain Sammy’s underuse of the wily Suleiman Benn was a little mystiftying. Nonetheless, the decision to include two genuine slow bowlers (at the expense of the unluckily omitted Jason Holder) gives the side balance and options in the subsequent group matches.

Taylor didn’t fire with the new ball, and they may be lacking someone to turn to when they really need to take a wicket but if their prime objective is to keep the runs down then skipper Sammy has sufficient experience in his armoury to achieve that aim.

Leg-spinner Samuel Badree is a wily campaigner, and Andre Russell has played enough T20 cricket to keep batsmen guessing. And then there is Dwayne Bravo.

Bravo is a master four-over bowler. His figures in this match may not look pretty but they disguise his skill at keeping the opposition at bay when they are desperately trying to up the tempo, and take the team’s total towards the 200-mark. His intelligent variety of off-cutters, yorkers and variable length means he rarely gets truly collared.

West Indies looked impressive in this game. They conceded 180+ but didn’t get flustered in the field, and always looked in control.

Maybe any team would look likely to win while Chris Gayle was at the crease?

But even with him as No.1, numbers 2 to 11 also make this an extremely hard team to beat.

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Updated Date: Mar 17, 2016 15:19:36 IST

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