Gayle calls for 'drastic improvement'
West Indies opener Chris Gayle has pronounced himself "99 per cent fit" at the start of the three-match Twenty20 series against England in Barbados and admits that West Indies need to up their game drastically in time for their World T20 title defence in Bangladesh.
"We've had some poor results in the last few games on the limited overs front but both teams are going through some challenging times," Gayle said. "Personally, I'm feeling really great, having rested my glutes.
"I haven't really been doing much in the way of playing, or even watching, cricket to be honest. But as long as my body's feeling fine, I can't wait to get out there. I owe the people some big runs and I think with home support for us, this is the time and place to deliver," he said.
Gayle stressed that following England's 2-1 ODI series win in Antigua, West Indies needed to address their sub-par batting and added that this series was ideally positioned for them to garner some momentum going into Bangladesh.
"It's been rough recently. I think we need to be more steady in the crease but we do have the batting capable of getting big runs and more importantly, the wins. We also have disciplined players like Sunil Narine and Ravi Rampaul to deliver on the bowling end of things."
Alongside Gayle's hitting prowess, the return of Marlon Samuels to the fold will help to offset the loss of Kieron Pollard, which Gayle labelled as "a huge blow to the team". He was nonetheless pleased to see the core of the title-winning unit from 2012 in Sri Lanka back in the mix.
"We have Marlon back but we all know how dangerous 'Polly' can be and it's devastating when you lose a player like that. But, even with as many talented individuals as we have, we have to go out there and play as a team to win. We also have one or two new faces to add a fresh dimension to our side."
Gayle did not escape the obligatory question about Kevin Pietersen's enforced retirement from the England side. He suggested that England were substantially weaker without Pietersen and regarded England's treatment of him as "disrespectful".
"KP is one of the best. Any team would love to have him in their ranks. I think it was disrespectful how he was treated and the way he went out but you never know what happens behind closed doors. I'm glad I won't be facing him on the field. He's a tremendous asset and someday I hope he gets back into the England mix if the door ever re-opens."
He remained adamant that the losses of Pietersen and Root would be detrimental to England's T20 aspirations but his own resolution of his long-standing personal spats with the WICB encouraged his belief that there was a chance Pietersen could make his return someday.
Renaldo Matadeen is a sportswriter and social media manager for ESPN Caribbean. He tweets here