'Good chance for WI to move up on Test rankings' - Gayle
Chris Gayle said that the forthcoming Test series against India would be vital for West Indies as they try to move up the ICC Test rankings. West Indies, who are currently ranked sixth among Test-playing nations, arrived in India on Monday for two Tests and three ODIs against India and are scheduled to tour New Zealand in December for three Tests, five ODIs and two T20Is.
"The big occasion for West Indies is a chance to gain points to move to No. 5 on the ICC rankings," Gayle said. "That's our mission. I personally have never made a hundred versus India so I will be looking to rectify that, given my IPL experience also. But you can't discount their talent in players like Sachin [Tendulkar], MS Dhoni and so many more. A few of us are familiar with venues like Kolkata and Mumbai, which host the Tests, and these conditions and pitches usually stay the same."
Apart from IPL helping their players familiarise with Indian conditions, Gayle said the experience that cricketers like Kieran Powell and Kirk Edwards gained on the West Indies A tour would be crucial.
Gayle was excited about Sachin Tendulkar's farewell series and said the West Indies side could "spoil the fun and parade". Tendulkar announced his retirement from international cricket earlier this month and will play his 200th and last match for India in the second Test in Mumbai.
"Sachin's a legend and we wish him a great farewell and we want him to walk away happily, but not victorious," Gayle joked. "That Test in Mumbai will be fantastic. The atmosphere will be great as they always have a lively crowd. Indian crowds always come out to support cricket and with Sachin, it's going to be even bigger. The West Indies will put on a good show but we're eyeing the series so we may be spoiling the fun and the parade."
Since his last Test against Zimbabwe in March this year, Gayle has played in the IPL and led Jamaica Tallawahs to victory in the inaugural Caribbean Premier League, apart from playing for West Indies in the Champions Trophy, a one-day tri-series with India and Sri Lanka and a limited-overs series against Pakistan. He took a break from competitive cricket but is looking forward to the new season and potentially a "turning point" in his career.
"I'm really looking forward to the Tests because I haven't played one in a while," Gayle said. "It's always tough in India, no matter the format, and this is crucial to test ourselves against top-five opposition. It will be difficult to beat India at home for sure.
"We want to start the first Test with a bang and we know what's required to win in India. I hope this series will be a turning point in my career as I get back to the red-ball as opposed to the short-format white ball. India are looking to consolidate their Test spot in the rankings so it will be a very engaging contest," he concluded.
Renaldo Matadeen is a sportswriter and social media manager for ESPN Caribbean. He tweets here