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June 10, 2009
Even on one leg, Chris Gayle looks every bit the irresistible batting force. At a windswept Lady Bay training complex on Tuesday, he strode forth from the sidelines to drive, pull and cut his bowlers to all corners of Nottingham in a short, sharp net session. Not a bad effort, considering Gayle could scarcely walk the previous morning, and had sat out all of West Indies' running and fielding drills to that point.
Gayle's right leg injury - the result of a fearsome blow struck by Mitchell Johnson at The Oval on Saturday - sidelined him from Wednesday's defeat to Sri Lanka, but West Indies' supporters need not fret. Team officials are confident their enigmatic captain will be available for Super Eights assignments against India on Friday and South Africa on Saturday, and will be close to full fitness.
Gayle had, in fact, stated his preference to play on Wednesday, but given West Indies had already qualified for the second phase of the World Twenty20, he was convinced to accept the recommendation of medical staff and stand down. He left the team's Trent Bridge dug-out mid-way through the match to undergo physiotherapy and ice treatment on the injury, and is reportedly making steady progress.
Popular theory states that if Gayle is absent from West Indies' Twenty20 line-up, all is lost. And while West Indies did indeed go down to the highly impressive Sri Lankans, the fact their Dwayne Bravo-led batting unit still managed a none-too-shabby 177 for 5 - 18 more than Australia managed against the same opposition and at the same venue two days prior - suggests they are very much a force to be reckoned with in this tournament, particularly when Gayle returns to their ranks.
"It will be a big boost for us," said Denesh Ramdin, West Indies' stand-in captain. "With his presence in the team all the guys' confidence will be up."
While satisfied with West Indies' batting effort, Ramdin was less than impressed with the indiscipline displayed by his bowlers. If not for Lendl Simmons' brilliant three-over spell that yielded figures of 4 for 19 - the second-best return of any bowler at the tournament thus far - West Indies might have faced a target well in excess of 200, as opposed to Sri Lanka's eventual 192 for 5.
Fidel Edwards and Keiron Pollard were mercilessly dealt with by the indefatigable Sanath Jayasuriya (81 off 47 balls) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (74 off 47), who combined for a thunderous 124-run opening stand that all but decided the match. Simmons' controlled seamers accounted for both openers, as well as those of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, but the earlier profligacy of his quicker team-mates proved ultimately impossible to paper over.
"Playing against the bigger oppositions you need to take your chances," Ramdin said.