West Indies v New Zealand, 1st Test, Antigua July 24, 2012

Gayle's Test return 'very exciting' - Sammy

ESPNcricinfo staff

The West Indies captain Darren Sammy is confident the return of Chris Gayle will be the top-order boost his side needs to post winning totals in the Test series against New Zealand. Gayle is set to play his first Test since December 2010 when the two teams walk out in Antigua on Wednesday, and his absence over the past 18 months has left an enormous hole at the top of the order.

During the standoff between Gayle and the WICB, the West Indies Test side used five different opening batsmen and between them they managed only three half-century partnerships in 31 innings. This year the results have been even worse: during the series against Australia and England the West Indies opening partnerships averaged 14.45.

Gayle has played only one first-class match since his last Test but he showed no signs of rustiness against the red ball, crunching 165 from 155 balls for Jamaica against the Windward Islands in February. He also enjoys playing New Zealand; his Test average of 74.54 against them is his highest average against any country, and despite some low scores against them at the end of the recent ODI series he was comfortably the dominant batsman of the limited-overs portion of the tour.

"It's very exciting. I know he's looking forward to being back in white clothes as well," Sammy told reporters in Antigua ahead of the first Test. "Not just Chris but the entire team is looking forward to the Test series and hopefully we can continue the form we showed in the T20 and one-day series.

"Our opening position has been a spot of bother for us, but with the experience [of Gayle] back there hopefully we can see off the new ball and put a good total on the board. The new ball we have struggled for the last year or so. His experience, he can pass it on to the younger players. But at the end of the day you've still got to go out there and put the performance out there in the middle, because we've got a good side on paper but you still have to go out there and do the business."

The two-match series provides West Indies with an excellent chance to improve their recent Test record; the only one of their past 10 Test series they have won was against Bangladesh. They can also take confidence from the tour match over the past few days, when the New Zealanders narrowly avoided defeat against the WICB President's XI in a match in which several Test squad members performed strongly.

"We had five or six of our guys playing against New Zealand in the practice game. I think they did it well," Sammy said. "Kemar [Roach] came back from injury and he had a good bowl. [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul [made 51], [Narsingh] Deonarine scored a hundred, [Assad] Fudadin looked good. The guys who played during the one-day series have had a chance to go home and rest up and come back fresh."

One of those men who has taken some time off was the offspinner Sunil Narine, who was the Player of the Series in the ODIs against New Zealand and is the only specialist slow bowler in the West Indies Test squad. The visitors struggled against Narine's variations during the limited-overs games and Sammy said that while the challenge in Test cricket was different, Narine would again be a handful.

"[On] the type of wickets we play on in the Caribbean, spin plays an important role," Sammy said. "We have a world-class spinner in Narine, who proved that throughout the one-day and T20 competition that he's a handful here in the Caribbean. It's a different ball and batsmen don't have to attack him, but I back him to go out there and do well for us."

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  • anthony on July 25, 2012, 11:38 GMT

    When the windies finally have gayle back in at the top, if they can get bravo jnr back from injury and have samuels accept some responsibility and move up the order things will start to look as they should. The final and crucial ingrediant is SAMMY must must move up to 6!!! The other players like deonarine have failed in this position.....its pathetic the way chanderpaul and samuels have let 4 youngsters go in at 1-4 to see off the new ball for them , which they failed to do most the time, and than they ended up going in anyway. my windies team ideally, Gayle, Powell, Bravo jnr, Samuels, Chanderpaul, Sammy, Ramdin, Best,Roach,Edwards or Rampaul, Narine or bishoo.

  • Anver on July 25, 2012, 5:04 GMT

    Love to see Gayle is back in white kit..... a solid foundation is what require for big totals in tests & hope Gayle will provide that WI !!!!!

  • Oshane on July 25, 2012, 5:03 GMT

    Top order might still need work. Hopefully the top 3 men take confidence in the presence of Gayle. However, anytime one falls I believe the top 3 will tumble.

  • John on July 24, 2012, 22:50 GMT

    Maybe in the long run Sammy might not be the best test captain but who can forget his gritty 100 against England when top batsmen failed. He is slowly raising in stature as everybody continue to degrade him. He is the stability that Windies need at this time. He will only improve as a player and he is a great contributor to the team.

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2012, 18:22 GMT

    The WI poorly manage talent, Shillingford has just broken a record that stood for 40 years (10 wks by a WI spinner in a test match) against a top 3 side Australia, and now he can't make the squad against NZ. Permaul bowled Deonarine & Fudadin for 12 overs each in the first but not Shane. Shillingford and Narine would seriously threaten NZ, both should play. I am also watching to see the top 3, my choice would be 1 Gayle 2 Powell(recent form v India A) and Barath at 3, Samuels 4, Chanderpaul 5 Sammy 6, Ramdin 7 Rampaul 8,Roach 9 Narine 10 & Best 11 - but expect Deonarine to play and either Barath/Powell to sit with Fudadin.

  • Michael on July 24, 2012, 17:03 GMT

    @ Annan Boodram ! So what do you expect Sammy to say about Gayles' return ? Do you want him to say that he doesn't want Gayle back in the team....the same way,when the same Gayle said that Sammy does not deserve a place on the team ? At least he is being a little bit more diplomatic !There is a time and place for everything...one should always know when to open ones' mouth and when to keep it shut...now Gayle in playing under the same men he once critisized ! and another blogger has the gall to talk about Sarwan and patriotism in the same breath !

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2012, 16:45 GMT

    The mere fact that CG will be included in the test side does not translate to test victories. The opening position will be stronger but cricket is a team game. I remember the last NZ tour CG scored a lot of runs but the WI won little(check archives). Even in the recent SA/Eng test, Eng. lost after scoring 385 in the first innings. NZ and WI are similarly ranked so it should be a good series and NZ have DV and CM who can cause problems. WI should put up a good show and possibly win, improving on their recent reasonable showings against Aus and Eng.

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2012, 16:38 GMT

    If you compare Sammy's captaincy to any other test side, he will not make it on performance. There is some reason the folks who run WIBC has him there. As far no one else wanting the captaincy, I would not either if the support, was not coming from the powers that be...I am not convinced this is the best team selected to be on the field..but will support them until it gets better or the 'selectors' start to evaluate talent and performance versus other factors. Test games requires resilience, patience and a willingness to defer aggression at the crease...I might suggest the WI team look at SA batting against England this week and emulate that as much as they can...good luck to WI team in the series, hoping for some positive outcome...

  • Mohan on July 24, 2012, 16:31 GMT

    Chanderpaul and Gayle is the most successful modern opening pair.

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2012, 16:30 GMT

    I've always liked Nash's attitude/aptitude for the game. But let's face facts/reality: he's 34 and probably passed his best at Test level. If the selectors bring him back, whose place would he take? Samuels? Deonarine, young Bravo? Can't see it. By the way, why is Bravo's groin strain taking 3 months to heal? Perhaps it's a tear and not a strain. I expect Fudadin & Rampaul to do drinks duties tomorrow. The team then would be (in batting order): Gayle, Barath, Powell, Samuels, Chanderpaul, Deonarine, Ramdin, Sammy, Roach, Best & Narine. Competition for the spinner's spot is good for the team. Whomever is chosen knows that he's # 1 in the selectors' eyes and must do well to maintain his place as others are breathing down his neck. Hope Gayle puts down his head and BUILDS an inning rather than play one in his usual swashbuckling style. In the past, he'd usually make a rapidfire 40 or so, then gift his wicket. I'm expecting a new sense of maturity/discipline in his batting. WI all the way

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