Brash Gayle predicts 4-1 success
It wasn't quite a Glenn McGrath 5-0 Ashes whitewash prediction but Chris Gayle still raised some eyebrows when he tipped a West Indian thrashing of Australia in the one-day series starting in Melbourne on Sunday. Australia have not lost a match in any format all summer but Gayle dismissed the notion that it would be intimidating to take on Ricky Ponting's men in a five-game series.
"It's not, to be honest," Gayle said. "We're going to beat them 4-1. Not to worry."
Little does worry Gayle. Not the fact that Australia have won 20 of their past 24 one-day internationals, nor that West Indies lost 5-0 at home to Australia 18 months ago and haven't beaten them in an ODI since 2006, nor even that the visitors are missing eight players including several who would be in their best XI.
The loss of key men like Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo to injuries will increase the reliance on Gayle. But it will also provide a chance for the next rung of players such as Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Smith, who have starred in domestic Twenty20 competitions without yet showing their best for West Indies, to lock in their long-term futures.
"They definitely can put pressure on us [senior players]," Gayle said. "They are the future. It couldn't be a better opportunity for them, the likes of Pollard, Dwayne Smith coming back and [Lendl] Simmons and those guys. Those guys can actually step up. We expect things from these guys to play a big part to win the series.
"Australia are playing some good cricket. They will be difficult to beat. It's an inexperienced team at this point in time but at the same time it's a lovely opportunity for the guys to step up against Australia and make a name for themself and then look forward to their career."
He said Smith and Pollard, who enjoyed productive stints in the Big Bash over the past month, appeared to be in impressive form in the nets leading in to the series. However, he warned them against over-confidence - an ironic choice of words after his series prediction - flowing from their Twenty20 successes.
Gayle himself deserves to be full of belief considering his Player-of-the-Series effort in the Tests before Christmas and his wonderful 146 within 29 overs in the tour match against the Prime Minister's XI. The Australians know the importance of removing Gayle early after he plundered 346 at 69.20 in the Test series.
"He's a dynamic player at the top of the order and generally if your openers get you off to a good start it makes things a fair bit easier for the middle order in all forms of the game," the captain Ricky Ponting said. "He started the tour pretty well down in Canberra.
"He's a very dangerous one-day player. He had a good Test series against us here as well and scored quickly. One thing we did just touch on then with our team meeting was making sure that our plans to him are spot on. They've got him and probably Pollard in the middle order that are very, very dangerous, and the other guys will try and work in around those guys."
But while Ponting was wary of Gayle, he refused to take the bait on making a series prediction of his own. With a squad that hasn't been beaten all summer, he hopes to simply let his men do the talking on the field.
"I don't really care what he's got to say as far as results go," Ponting said. "All I can say is that I'm pretty confident this group can keep improving."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo