Chris Gayle believes that that Twenty20 cricket is West Indies' best chance of achieving major international success and sees the world tournament at home this year as a big opportunity to take a step up. Gayle won the Cricinfo Twenty20 batting award for 2009, but he is far from the only star West Indies have in a format in which they made last year's ICC World Twenty20 semi-finals before Trinidad & Tobago stormed into the Champions League final.
The powerful allrounders, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo, are well suited to Twenty20 and even Lendl Simmons emerged in England last year as a dangerous batting allrounder. This year's World Twenty20 in the Caribbean begins in late April and Gayle will be aiming to take his side one stage further than last year.
"When you look at our team we've got a lot of allrounders in our team so the shorter form of the game definitely can suit us and we can be a bit more dangerous in the T20 games," Gayle said. "The guys have been playing more T20 cricket so they're getting more experience which is very good.
"It should be easier to go out there and chance their arm and take it to international level," he added. "All the guys are making good progress at this point in time and we have a World Cup coming up, so we'll see how well we can do in that."
West Indies' hopes will soar if Gayle produces another innings like the 88 against Australia at The Oval that won him Cricinfo's award. It was a display of strength, timing and judgment the likes of which The Oval had rarely witnessed. Brett Lee finished with 1 for 56 from his four overs and watched one of Gayle's six sixes land on the roof of the Bedser Stand.
"I remember it quite well," Gayle said. "It was a good innings. I'm happy to be the winner of the award and hopefully in the future I can get a few more. Also I heard that Jerome Taylor has won the best Test bowling as well so I must send my congratulations to him.
"Up against the best team, the attack was very good as well. It was Mitchell Johnson from the other end, Bracken, Brett Lee, so it was a good strong bowling line-up. To get the runs against such an attack is good. That's the format of the game. When it's early it's good to capitalise on. From a batting point of view I won that battle against Australia and Brett Lee got hammered but he came back and got me out, so that's the game."
Nobody handles the Twenty20 game better than Gayle, who remains the only man to have struck an international century in the format. Once he starts firing he can be nearly impossible to stop and he said the way he begins an innings is the key to how well he will perform.
"The start is very important and it's more a momentum thing," he said. "Once you're on the go, sometimes as a batter it doesn't matter what comes at you, you can close the eyes sometimes and play a particular shot when things are going your way. It's just a matter of time before you get another century. Dilshan went close in the semi-final with his 96 and Herschelle Gibbs got 90s and Smith and those guys."
Gayle was speaking after West Indies' loss in the fifth ODI against Australia and despite a record low crowd for MCG one-dayers between the teams, he said five ODIs was not too many in a series and it would be hard to squeeze in many more Twenty20 internationals. However, he is keen to see a separate window created for the IPL.
"It's jam-packed at the moment," he said. "We're not playing a lot of T20s, most tours you get one or two T20s. More international and Test matches take over. I don't know what will happen in the future but it's up to the ICC to debate what they can fit in.
"It has been said since the first IPL that there should be a window for that, so everyone can take part in it. Maybe that's something they will look in to. All players should be able to participate in that so I'm sure they can work with the boards and come up with something."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo