I need some runs for West Indies - Gayle
"There are new rules?" Chris Gayle asked genuinely, but in a playful tone, leaning back on one of the bottom-row seats below the dressing room at the SWALEC stadium in Cardiff. Wait, Gayle, one of the most senior players in cricket, is not aware of the new ODI rules that were rolled out at the start of 2013: not more than four fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle at any stage of the innings, bowlers being permitted two bouncers in an over and the Powerplays to be completed by the 40th over. You wondered if he was toying with you just like he does with the bowlers when batting. "I have the book but I havent' read it as yet," Gayle confessed with a chuckle on a sunny Friday.
Unlike the India captain MS Dhoni, who said earlier in the week that the new ODI rules posed a big challenge, Gayle was more flexible. "They are trying to bring more excitement to the 50-over game based on what is happening in Twenty20. You just have to cope with it. It will take some time to make the necessary adjustment and once you adapt, hopefully the fans will gravitate back to the one-day format," Gayle said.
It is this relaxed attitude that makes Gayle such an instant attraction. You do not need to know him. If you can make him smile, Gayle will open up warmly. Spotting some grey hair in his thin beard, this reporter asked him if he was thinking too much. "Like a bird," Gayle burst out laughing. "That is a good sign or bad sign, I don't know. I hope it is for a good cause."
Yet, Gayle has always been a thinking batsman. He is never expansive in his thoughts, but he is clear about his own game. Importantly, he understands his goals and has never taken his position in the West Indies team for granted. For instance, he admitted he had not performed consistently in the last few ODI series he played for West Indies. After his 125 at home in Jamaica in the second ODI of the series against New Zealand, Gayle has not been able to score a fifty in his last 11 ODI matches across three series. "Get some runs. Get some runs. I need some runs for West Indies. The last couple of games I haven't done well for my team. Hopefully this tournament can be turning point for me," Gayle said.
At the same time, he wasn't putting too much pressure on himself. "Once the mental aspect is ready, the entire body will be ready," Gayle said, after his first training session for the Champions Trophy. He joined the squad only on Friday morning, as he had to attend to opening an academy for kids in London the day before.
Despite his lean form for West Indies in recent times, Gayle is coming into the Champions Trophy on another high in the IPL, where he finished as the tournament's second-highest run-maker, including a record-breaking 175 not out. Dwayne Bravo, who was appointed West Indies ODI captain , called Gayle the "most dangerous batsman". "I'll take that any day," Gayle said of the compliment, as long as he could live up to the expectations of his team. "Everybody is looking forward to great things. I am trying to keep it simple and I am going to try my best out there and give the team what is required of me and hopefully that will pay off."
Does it then add pressure that fans always expect him to score a boundary off every ball? "Even when I scored 175 in the IPL, people were looking forward to 200. In a Twenty20 game the expectations from the fans is huge. We just have to take it in our stride and take it one step at a time and try and put your best foot forward every time. It is important to entertain the fan but what is more important is what the team requires at the particular moment and you have to make the necessary adjustment."
His main responsibility would be to provide the team with a good start this tournament. "Trying to give the team a good start especially in these conditions is going to be key for us. Bat as many overs as possible, try and be there for long. I know once I am there, runs will come."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo