May 12, 2012

Gayle's return: boon or bane?

It's all down to how he gets along with the captain and coach, and whether he can fit into the team's new ethic

When Chris Gayle, Ottis Gibson and Darren Sammy get to serious talking again, it will be one of the most important conversations in West Indies cricket for some time.

Now that he has freed himself of his commitments to Somerset for later this summer, it is inconceivable that, barring injury, Gayle will not be part of the West Indies squad for the limited-overs segment of the current England tour. To not pick one of the world's most in-demand batsmen would be a political faux pas too serious for the selectors and the West Indies Cricket Board to contemplate.

However, in selecting him, the authorities will be taking a gamble. And managing Gayle's return to the fold will be the biggest challenge yet for Sammy as captain and Gibson as coach.

The pluses to the team are obvious. West Indies will be getting back an offensive weapon the likes of which few teams possess. Gayle on the go at the top of the order is an irresistible force, one that can throw bowling attacks into disarray. Repeatedly, over the last two seasons of the IPL, the world's best have been powerless to stop him - the consistency of his output has been as impressive.

At 32, Gayle is at the peak of his powers - a proven performer in all forms of the game, one full of experience, who can take the pressure to score off his less experienced team-mates. Always popular with his fellow professionals, Gayle can be a source of inspiration in tough times, and thus a valuable ally to both Sammy and Gibson.

But first they must settle matters between themselves.

Since signing an agreement brokered by the prime minster of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) last month, which ended a year-long impasse with the WICB, and Gayle getting out of his Somerset contract, all parties have been making the right noises.

Gayle said of his decision to break the Somerset contract: "I made it clear to them that my decision was made because of my commitment to West Indies cricket and to West Indies cricket fans." Gibson said: "It's great to hear that Chris is available again. I'm sure the selectors will pick him, because he's world-class." And just this week, the directors of the WICB issued a statement in which they said they were "pleased that, consistent with his previous commitment, Mr Chris Gayle has made himself available for selection to the West Indies team".

How happy and pleased everyone will be when the UK tour is over and West Indies come back to the Caribbean to face New Zealand remains to be seen. Much will depend on how Gayle, Gibson and Sammy deal with each other.

The carefully uttered statements will not have swept away the stinging words of last year that brought Gayle and Gibson into conflict and which were a major element of the post-World Cup standoff that led to Gayle's exile from the team.

It is difficult to believe that there is not still a level of distrust between the two. It took prime ministerial intervention and then some before Gayle agreed to a statement of "regret" over his public comments. As uncompromising in his views as in his batting, Gayle will need to adjust his approach if he is not to soon find himself in conflict with the coach again.

Gibson, evidently not impressed with what Gayle was previously contributing to his team-building project, has no choice now but to find a way of integrating a strong-willed personality into a fledgling unit. He may privately be happy to do without Gayle, but his side will be much the better for the big man's runs and experience. As coach, Gibson must find a way to get the best out of Gayle. So far he has been successful in motivating his upcoming charges, but how he handles Gayle's return may say much about his true ability to manage men.

Sammy has grown into his role as leader. And while he has welcomed the return of his predecessor in the job, these next comments, in which he seemed to lay down a marker, hint at his truest feelings: "In the last series we played, we came out with a new attitude where we are not going to let anybody keep us down. We are going to strive to move forward… When Chris joins the set-up, he will be coming into a very hard-working environment, which he has to fit into."

Will Gayle accept the boundaries set for him, or will he insist on going over the top? Fragile as it is at the moment, West Indies cricket can do without more distraction. Gayle's return has the potential to be just that, and an obstacle to the further development of this West Indies team. But it doesn't have to be that way, not if he is handled the right way, and not if Gayle proves his commitment to West Indies cricket, not only with the runs he scores but by being willing to toe the line, for the team.

There have been long months of conflict for Gayle. He has the chance now to make them seem just a bad memory.

Garth Wattley is a writer with the Trinidad Express

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nat on May 15, 2012, 22:25 GMT

    @David Rutherford - Gayle is not just a twenty20 player. He's exceptionally good at it but he has also scored two triple test tons and in the last 18 months of his test career he had been averaging over 50. In fact, Gayle is clearly incredibly strong-minded on the pitch, his cool persona is partly a reflection of this, but it's never good to show huge amounts of emotion on the pitch - special circumstances like Antigua in 2003 tend to make it acceptable. The fact that his style is conducive to twenty20 doesn't detract from his quality as a test player. Gayle is very different to someone like Pollard - he doesn't have the technical flaws and plays proper cricket shots. Personally, I think it is almost impossible to blame Gayle for the affair as the failure to cater for Sarwan and implement any kind of meaningful structure at youth level suggests to me that the problem is with the board. In terms of experience, Gayle's presence can only be helpful to a young and developing side.

  • Dummy4 on May 15, 2012, 17:52 GMT

    Until the politics leaves the cricket field we will not improve . Why is our best pace bowler Jerome Taylor still being ignored by the selectors and there is no way Nash should not have made the England tour.

  • Dummy4 on May 15, 2012, 16:24 GMT

    @ Balaji you sound like a typical IPL, test and odi cricket is not hit and giggle it is hradwork, fitness and more substantial talent than hitting some over rated indian medium pacer or off-spinner for six. Chanderpaul is the real West Indies legend, he is there best player Gayle needs to be like him.

  • Shawn on May 15, 2012, 15:33 GMT

    "Sammy with all his limitations as a cricketer makes up with his attitude and hard work" - One question, makes up for what exactly? His dropped catches and horribly set fields? Sammy is limited and should not be the captain. I we compare him to Walsh, who over bowled himself for the team, Sammy underbowls himself for the sake of his stats. What a Captain!!! @ABoodram, I don't think Wattley is a lackey, but you made some good points, a yessir man makes a good "board's" captain. One of the reasons that WI cricket is where it is today is because the board overstepped Haynes as Captain and gave it to yessir Ritchie, a fine cricketer but a horrible captain. Skipping Haynes the "rightful" successor, encouraged insularity in the team and might I even say the region, with regional boards pushing "their" player for captain. As a Trini, I can say our Board pushed for Lara and that didn't help him or WI cricket. This all started when the Board wanted a yes man, and didn't do the correct thing.

  • Lucien on May 15, 2012, 15:26 GMT

    LET PLAY CRICKET!!! Leave the politicking to the politicians and small minded behaviours and attitiudes to small minded people..


  • John on May 15, 2012, 4:42 GMT

    @Shwetank Banthia on (May 14 2012, 23:30 PM GMT), while I agree that Gayle can definitely have an impact for WI, it has been pointed out by several people that WI were performing no better as a team when Gayle was playing and captain. There was more talent before but they were not playing as a team. Now they are playing as a team but with less talent. It is up to both sides to make Gayle's reintegration in the team work. If he comes in and refuses to play by the same rules as everyone else then he will be as big a hindrance off the field as he is a help on and the team will likely not improve, plus they will have to start building as a unit from scratch again when he goes.

  • Dummy4 on May 14, 2012, 23:30 GMT

    Gayle is a must if West Indies cricket is to move fwd. Not only is he a prolific run scorer who can take the game by the scruff and blow an opposition away, the mere fact that that is always a possibility is something that always keeps an opposing team guessing. The recent series' against Australia really highlighted some positives for the WI, especially in the limited overs form of the game. Good young players like Bravo and Narine should be nurtured as they have the talent to be superstars of the game. Chanderpaul's late-career purple patch must also give them confidence. Gayle adds considerable strength to WI batting, and should be a moral boost to the team as well. Sammy and Gibson need to get past their differences and accommodate for his return.

  • Roland on May 14, 2012, 22:29 GMT

    Sammy needs to learn how to set a field and get some lessons on how to his bowlers. His captaincy is woefully bad, I cannot see this team ever winning a test match against meaningful opposition with him in charge. t20 and ODI he can get away with since his bad captaincy can be overcome by some individual brilliant performances. He just does not have it in him.

  • Alexei on May 14, 2012, 19:16 GMT

    I agree with Mr. Pieters... Not being able to wrap up the tail is worrying and we cannot afford to give second chances. Gibson needs to solve this problem as an experienced bowler in English conditions... they say Roach bowls well with the old ball but it doesnt seem like enough. They need more attacking fields, bowlers need to bowl yorkers & bouncers and not get complacent..

  • Dummy4 on May 14, 2012, 18:46 GMT

    @ryan hill.. try to understand that it is not about replacing young people with an old one. IT is about replacing not performing people who are scoring very very low scores and having a very low career average with a guy who can score over 50 at will.He can easily play 4-5 years still if fit like chandrapaul .So he can definately serve westindies conspicuously. Besides westindies needs quality players which it currently doesnot have in powell ,k .edwards etc. So atleast if he is there and score runs chances are that westindies will be potentially be at a place to win.IF gayle pollard and bravo play for any t20 team along with sunil naraine in bowling along with russell it is sure to win half the matches it plays for sure.

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