October 7, 2012

How do you stop Gayle and Co?

You wouldn't want to be in Mahela Jayawardene's shoes during the World Twenty20 final

It's a final matching power against precision, brawn versus brain. It's the highly colourful West Indies playing the clinical hosts, Sri Lanka.

There has never been a greater collection of power-hitters assembled in one team. Led by the belligerent Chris Gayle, West Indies boast Kieron Pollard, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles, Andre Russell, Dwayne Smith, and even the captain Darren Sammy - all players who can make any cricket boundary look like a 30-metre circle measured from the centre of the pitch. Keeping that lot in check is going to take all the tactical nous the mentally well-endowed Mahela Jayawardene can muster.

While all the West Indies sluggers can be dangerous in their own way, the one who keeps a captain awake the night before a game is the mammoth Gayle. He not only monsters bowlers, he does it against the new ball, he does it to the spinners, and he's smart enough to know when the odds are on his side and when they slightly favour his opponents.

Anybody who accuses Gayle of being a cricket mercenary should watch the video of his semi-final innings against Australia. What they will witness is a player producing his best when it really mattered. If he wasn't doing it for the West Indies administrators, then he was certainly giving his all for the team and the players he cares for. And there's no doubt those players return the sentiment and admire their spiritual leader greatly.

Gayle's daunting presence at the top of the order allows West Indies to attack the opposition bowling from ball one. Where other teams have been treading warily on the overworked Premadasa pitches, West Indies sailed into the Australian bowlers as if they were delivering party pies for a ten-year-old's birthday. And where other teams spoke cautiously about 140 being a respectable target under the conditions, the West Indies manager, the former international batsman Richie Richardson, talked on television about his team reaching 190.

In the end, the affable Richardson, not known for his conservatism with the bat, under-clubbed by 15 runs.

How do Sri Lanka stop this six-hitting juggernaut? Well, Jayawardene is one of the shrewdest skippers in world cricket and he has at his disposal an array of skilful and unorthodox bowlers no one can match. Nevertheless, if Gayle and company have another night "on" at the Premadasa, the trophy will be headed to the Caribbean, exactly where the highly confident left-hand opener predicted it would as he accepted his Player of the Match trophy for his semi-final mastery.

Jayawardene has the unenviable task of choosing how to try to get rid of Gayle early - spin or speed. It's likely he'll choose a mixture of both, like he did so cleverly for much of the semi-final against Pakistan.

The next question is which spinner and which fast bowler? There's probably only one sure bet: there won't be any volunteers. Jayawardene will have to resort to the army tactic where he points to two unfortunates and says, "You and you have just volunteered."

It may well be that Lasith Malinga, with his ability to swing the new ball back in to Gayle, and Tillakaratne Dilshan, who spins away from the left-hander, are the best choices. That pair also have another advantage - they are both highly experienced and have faced numerous challenges in the past with courage and conviction.

The nature of the pitch will provide as much mystery as Ajantha Mendis and Sunil Narine combined. Hopefully, it'll be closer in behaviour to the one in the second semi-final than the first.

Normally, I'd back brains over brawn, but having seen Gayle combine the two in the semi-final, I don't envy Jayawardene his task.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jon on October 10, 2012, 18:52 GMT

    The present Windies team under the inspirational leadership of Sammy is "Entertaining, Wonderful, Joyful" to watch. Cricket wasnt fun when Australia dominated it. They had a "Villianism" , "Rudism" sought of image. Initially when Windies dominated the game and when they win tournaments like these (ICC Champions trophy and ICC T20 2012) the opposition also enjoys the compitition. They really know to enjoy the game. They show the supiriority but raising the bar but not by pushing the opposition down. Players like Gayle, Samuels, Bravo brothers, Pollard, Russell, Russell, narine Etc should be well taken care by the windies board. develop stronger players for the future and involve the ex players in administration - players like Hooper, C'paul, Lara, Jimmy Adams, Courtney and Curtley Etc Windies is loved by all ! Get the Glory back...

  • Jay on October 9, 2012, 18:09 GMT

    Ian - The WI triumph is more about perseverance than power. Gayle was "stopped" (3 runs) but not the team! Its real hero is the affable skipper Darren Sammy: He persisted in the singular-minded purpose of "One Team, One People, One Goal": It paid off big time with the WCT20 crown! Despite numerous domestic issues - dysfunctional board & player disputes - Sammy persevered to hold the loose pieces together like glue. It jelled with the arrival of Gayle. Team WI is an optimal mix of experience & youth, brain & brawn, with a solid core group of mature stars - Gayle, Samuels, Bravo, Sammy & Co. They've scrapped & scraped to make themselves better. They've been severely tested, making them wiser for it. And dangerous. Which is why Ian's flaky "brawn vs brain" comment is so misguided. Everyone knows Ian likes to bask in the glory of dynasties. And of his bias for overpowering "dominance" - sluggers & quickies, batting aggression & bowling revolutionaries: Chappell's half-baked theories!TBC

  • Jay on October 9, 2012, 14:48 GMT

    (Cont) WI surely has more weapons in its armour than just power-hitters. Its spinners, led by the wily Sunil Narine, outwitted both oppositions, Oz & SL, in the 2 final games (after losing earlier-round games to both). Whether attacking with a huge 205-run score or defending a modest 137 total, they showed constancy of purpose. Prudently they ignored Ian's advice that WI will "rue not including the pace-bowling aggression of Kemar Roach on these pitches"! OMG! Instead they included the useful ball-mover, Ravi Rampaul, and it paid off! Plus Gayle is no more of a slugger than Watson is: Both have nearly identical WC slugging tallies (150 SR, three 50s, 19 fours, 15 vs 16 sixers), noting that Chris played 1 more match! It's been Caribbean street-smarts vs hyped come-uppance! It's been "Gangnam" variations of calypso vs "Chin music"! Most importantly, it's been Unity in Diversity under steady leadership! And perseverance! The West Indians are back! It's not just about brawn vs brain, Ian!

  • Dummy4 on October 8, 2012, 15:38 GMT

    Dilshan spins the ball back into the lefties than out more often than not. Seems like Ian hasnt seen much of him or something else. Dilshan is a fairly straight bowler to lefties and one that takes the ball away for right handers

  • Dummy4 on October 8, 2012, 13:41 GMT

    yes mr chappel explain what u mean by brain vs brawns

  • Earl on October 8, 2012, 13:06 GMT

    Faushik..Ian and I feel sorry for you too.Ian played cricket when it was tough.he understands the game better than you do.Everyone knows that all games are unpredictable,but we enjoy trying to predict the out comes especially for the teams we cheer for.I guess that you don't.

  • Dummy4 on October 8, 2012, 8:19 GMT

    The dismissal of Gayle was being seen as the main headache for all opponents. The WI giant has made his experience in IPL count, and how! The Sri Lankan captain, it may be argued, had the better of this particular threat. The poor score at the 10=over point made a pathetic reading for the Caribbean team. Another hero thus had a chance to walk away with the limelight, deservedly.Samuels was unforgiving and he took a particular liking for Malinga, widely rated the most difficult bowler to get away. I don't know if on this day Lasith would have done to Gayle what a spinner did. Mathews also chipped in frugally with his medium pacers.Chappel's formula was not employed by the shrewd Jaywardene,his own device worked to see the back of Gayle.But then Samuels had other ideas. Not to take away the credit where it is due: the Caribbean bowlers did a great job in getting the entire SL team dismissed in just 19 overs. Great for Caribbean and world cricket that there is such a cheer for forall fans

  • Andrew on October 8, 2012, 8:18 GMT

    Brilliant article ... like most people I had my money on Gayle to do it for the West Indies ... Can get the other team blown away ... or take important players out with the ball ... but then Marlon Samuels weilded the blade ... To beat Sri-Lanka with Mendis ... 4/12 and Dilshan, Sanga and Jayawardene all in the side ... on home turf ... Well Done Windies ... It was also said at the end of the IPL ... If Gayle and Co. were reinstated in the Windies team they would win the T20 World Cup ...

  • Nizam M. on October 8, 2012, 6:44 GMT

    Poor Mahela! I do really feel sorry for him and the affable, talented and brawny Sri Lanka Cricket Team. All Mahela's calculations and precision-Captaincy went out of the window in this T20 Final with the West Indies! And, not because of Gayle force, that was made to look limp and weak by the bowling guile applied by Mahela and his bowlers, but because of an unexpected bull in a China shop,- namely Marlon Samuels, and ably played foil by Darren Sammy.

    Marlon Samuels put the spanner in the works for Sri Lanka; what a spoil-sport he turned out to be with his Herculean hard-hitting sailing the cricket ball beyond the pale, denting Sri Lanka's spirits! A new matrix has been added to the West Indies Cricket Team with the sum and substance of team performance by all their players on that fateful T20 Final on the 7th of October 2012. Perhaps, a day of reckoning for the Cricketing World that is the harbinger of greater things to come from the West Indies Cricket Team in the near future.

  • charlie on October 8, 2012, 3:00 GMT

    Thanks for the article Mr Chappell ! I always enioy and respect your comments whether I get to read them ,or see you on video ;however your analogy of '[ BRAINS VERSUS BRAWNS ] leaves me to question such analogy at this time . Would you please expound on such ,so as clarify your meaning ?

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