India v West Indies, 1st Test, New Delhi, 4th day November 9, 2011

A Gayle-sized hole in West Indies' batting

Without Chris Gayle, West Indies' top order is inexperienced and on a sluggish surface in Delhi their lack of nous was sorely exposed

Given his size and presence, it wouldn't be wholly inaccurate to call Chris Gayle the elephant in the West Indies dressing room. As the match slipped away on the fourth morning despite a fiery spell from Fidel Edwards, the mind went back to the final session on the second day, when West Indies came out to bat 95 runs ahead. In the 14 overs available before stumps, they reached 21 for 2. Had Gayle been around, and had he survived, more questions would surely have been asked of an inexperienced attack, especially with R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha sharing the new ball.

Gayle's continued exclusion has little to do with cricket and everything to do with a clash of egos. "Disciplinary issues" crops up from time to time when he's mentioned. Usually, that phrase is associated with a lack of performance. When it comes to Gayle that is certainly not the case.

Before being ignored in 2011, he had enjoyed two of the most prolific years of his career, scoring 1569 runs in 18 Tests at an average of 58.11.

Six of his 13 career hundreds came in that time, including a second triple-century, in Galle last November. What's more, none of his hundreds came against minnows. There were two apiece against England and Australia, neither of whom were constrained by popgun attacks.

For the current West Indian dispensation, however, Gayle is persona non grata. Ian Bishop, fast bowler-turned-commentator, who was in Delhi for the game, sighed wistfully when asked how much more West Indies might have pushed India with Gayle and Dwayne Bravo in the side.

"Building for the future" is the constant refrain these days, but the difference in this match was the huge gulf in experience between the two sides. Shivnarine Chanderpaul aside, the specialist batsmen had just 57 caps between them, 35 of them to Marlon Samuels, whose chequered career began in Australia more than a decade ago. Kirk Edwards has two hundreds from four Tests, and big things are expected of Kieron Powell, but on a sluggish surface where the ball never came on, their lack of nous was sorely exposed.

West Indies have traditionally struggled on slow and low pitches. Even 24 years ago, when Narendra Hirwani spun them to defeat at Chepauk, the batsmen didn't know what approach would serve them best. "As long as I've known, spin has been our problem," captain Darren Sammy said after the game.

"Losing 15 wickets for 220 odd runs [10 in the second innings, and the last five in the first] ... had we scored another hundred, knowing that India hasn't scored more than 300 runs in their last nine innings, it could have been a different ball game. We need to find a way to score against spin and not let them get us out."

There were enough clues in the outstanding batting of Chanderpaul. His positive intent, along with that shown by Sammy, was just about the only redeeming feature of a desperately meek second-innings display, and Desmond Haynes, the batting consultant, has a task on his hands to turn things around before action recommences at Eden Gardens on Monday.

"He used to play spin well," Sammy said. "He has been working hard with us. Most of the time, we have been out lbw, playing with our pad instead of the bat."

He suggested that the mindset against spin could also change, taking a cue from the manner in which Chanderpaul refused to be tied down. "As soon as the spinners settled, we went into a shell. Maybe we could bat a bit more positively, like Shiv showed us."

Given how hard they pushed India, there will be no panic buttons pressed before Kolkata. "We still have a young batting line-up with Chanderpaul leading the pack," Sammy said. "It's just a matter of them going out there and applying themselves. We have two young openers who have six or so [seven] Tests between them."

A fully fit Adrian Barath will come into contention for the second Test, and West Indies will hope that he can provide some of the impetus that the openers failed to when needed in Delhi. But no matter who they pick, that Gayle-sized hole at the top will be hard to overlook.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 12, 2011, 16:09 GMT

    The WICB has laid done its condition for Gayle's re-entry into the WI team. They said a retraction not an apology. this can be done in one sentence. So is this guy serious or not. My opinion is that the Board fully knew that the BIG JAM wasn't going to retract anything, so they have the great excuse of saying at least we tried to bring closure to this impasse. Gayle & Gibson will never get along & that will be far more detrimental for WI cricket. Gayle is doing the Board a big big favour.

  • Dummy4 on November 12, 2011, 10:01 GMT

    Joel Garner was manager of that Australian tour. where is he now?

    on another note now if Sammy could not get the captaincy in the 4th string side during the contractual dispute how did he get it in this one? What did Darren Sammy do between November 2009 and November 2010 to convince The Selectors and WICB that he improved enough to be able to lead a full strength West Indies Team. I would really like to know.

    Another question why has nobody from the coaching been commenting on the fact that since getting the Captaincy Sammy can hardly catch a cold?

  • Dummy4 on November 12, 2011, 9:26 GMT

    @ Dravid Gravitas Remember initially with Gayle as Captain we were not doing too badly we beat South Africa away then injuries cost us that series. We beat Sri Lanka at home but only drew the series then Marlon got his ban. then we missed an opportunity vs Australia @ home. drew with New Zealand, beat England @ home &all that time doing so with a weaker bowling attck than we have now. But what does WICB do? Arrange a tour of England in May when Gayle & co were contracted to play IPl because Sri Lanka cancelled their tour so Dilshan & co could play Ipl. Any sensible board would have tried to hold on to that hard fought victory for a while+ allow players to go to IPL. but WICB didnt. Now that would have upset even a saint. Gayle is no saint. but nobody remembers his state of mind or the context in which he said he would not miss Test cricket. He should not have said that but given the type of board he was working with is it really fair to blame him for saying that?

  • Dummy4 on November 11, 2011, 22:02 GMT

    These are some very intelligent comments that the readers have been contributing, and I just wish the selectors would read them! It seems as if the fans have it figured out better than the WICB. Here's the deal. WE THE SUPPORTERS OF WEST INDIES CRICKET JUST WANT OUR BEST PLAYERS SELECTED TO PLAY AT THE TOP LEVEL! The politics and ego games need to be excluded from the selection. WE WANT TO WIN AGAIN! And the thing is, WE CAN -if we just put our best team out there. Sarwan, Gayle, Pollard and Bravo Sr are needed. West Indies does not have the luxury of discarding it's best players - our population pool is much smaller than that of India, Pakistan, England, South Africa, or even Australia. We are 5 million people at best, and a dozen nations separated by ocean, but playing together as a team, and still able to make an impact. The odds are against us. Why make even harder on ourselves. Bring back the talent and let's WIN!

  • Srinivas on November 11, 2011, 21:48 GMT

    It's simple. There's a job offer. And I neither have respect for the job nor care if it dies. Shouldn't I be a responsible adult and stay away from that job? That's good for me and for the job as well. It's good that the company also doesn't choose a person like me for that job. And that person we are talking about here is Gayle. WICB is doing a favour to Gayle by letting him do what he enjoys the most - play hit and giggle cricket for loads of dollars. Not to mention his tantrums and throwing toys out of his pram like a kiddo. Mark my words, he'll not help the Windies cause unless he understands and respects the Legacy he is representing. This is an Indian speaking for the Legacy of Windies Cricket. Cricket is a team game and scoring a hundred or two to prove a point on an individual basis only satisfies one's ego but not the Legacy of the team. Keep it simple, dear Gayle supporters.

  • H on November 11, 2011, 21:21 GMT

    Posters are making all types of comments on this board. One thing that no one has pointed out is that this WI team has been and is going through a character building period. Adversity can build character and strength. WI under Clive Lloyd, experienced the same before they became world beaters. This team under Sammy has performed better than most people thought they would. Before this series started, no one was giving them a chance against the vaunted Indian team in India. I bet even the Indian team was surprised by their showing. As per Gayle, Bravo and Sarwan. We all know what Gayle's position is on test cricket. Bravo was the vice captain and next in line and what does he do? Refuse to sign a central contract. It is obious where his loyalty lies. Sarwan should have been selected as captain if the others mentioned were not up to the job, but apparently he has not displayed the hunger and professionalism that is needed. So where did that leave the WICB? Right where we are at this time

  • Dummy4 on November 11, 2011, 19:08 GMT

    Call Brian Lara onceagain to the team.

  • Dummy4 on November 11, 2011, 5:15 GMT

    Those of us that breath cricket are at a lost at the idea that the most feared batsman on the planet cannot make the team on account of trivial internal disputes

  • sajjo on November 11, 2011, 2:16 GMT

    y al this talk about gayle? SARWAN is the guy they need in the middle order. sarwan has a higher batting average than gayle in both test and ODIS, yet he is not given any recognition...

  • Leroy on November 11, 2011, 0:59 GMT

    Gayle,Gayle Gayle Mankind is sometimes unfair, But if WICB and there Selectors thing they are fooling me, No, not me No. not me, Examine the treatment giving out to one of out Greatest batsman, Was not given the opportunity to end his career at Home of Cricket when the World Cup was over, But instead choose Sarwan for Captain, Before the Gayle Saga, Ask Shiv. Retire, The WICB is the biggest laughing stock in world cricket right now, lol lol lol.

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