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Powell: 'Gayle sparked our plugs'

Will Luke talks to the West Indian fast bowler, Daren Powell

Daren Powell: putting a spring back into West Indies' step © Getty Images
Watching West Indies celebrate their win over England in the one-day series was special, and marked a remarkable transformation in fortunes for such a brittle side. And for Daren Powell, their fast bowler who suffered during the preceding Tests, the win was a relief as much as anything else. For once, his team could walk tall on this tour.
"It was a big relief because we'd been losing, and we didn't want to be going home with our heads down," Powell told Cricinfo after West Indies' thumping win over Netherlands in Dublin on Monday, "For the past year or so, I've been saying that I really want to come home from a series with my head up, smiling - and it's so good that we beat England, you know, it was a real good one.
"When we travelled down on the bus to London, I spent some time looking at everyone on the bus...and it was just completely changed, a different bunch of players. Happy, joking, laughing and having a nice time. It's good to see everyone smiling, happy about what we did, and how we felt."
For a team whose decline in the past 10 years has been as stark as it has been depressing, the victory was a timely fillip, especially as they now have to pit their wits against some of the lesser teams of the world. The squad has decamped to Ireland for a Quadrangular tournament that also involves Netherlands and Scotland, and the onus is on them to maintain the same intensity they showed against England.
"It's pretty hard when you're playing a team that's less competitive," said Powell. "But we haven't been winning much cricket, and then had a really good series in the one-dayers against England. And after those one-dayers, we just forget everything that happened in the [preceding] Tests.
"It just showed that it's good to win," he said. "And whatever happens here, we just have to remember how good it is to win. Winning gives you confidence, and then you know how to carry on in other games, when you reach tougher opposition. [In the past] West Indies haven't pulled off the victory when we should."
Why has it been a tour of two halves, though? West Indies were so dismal during the Test series that few gave them much hope of even challenging England in the one-dayers. Yet they lifted themselves to a new, thrilling level - and, crucially for them, they were clearly enjoying it all so much. Powell, too, was a man reborn, consistently bowling in excess of 90mph and showing excellent control, picking up six wickets at 21.83. Could it have had anything to do with the identity of his captain, Chris Gayle?

Chris Gayle: 'The whole team has changed since the day he took over' © Getty Images
"Chris really is tremendous you know," Powell, a good friend of Gayle's, said. "Maybe people will take this the wrong way, because we're from the same country [Jamaica], but really, I've played under so many other captains in the past. He doesn't say much, but he knows how to gel the team together - to spark off your plugs and stuff - and it's very pleasing to see someone like him generating this team spirit.
"He's a funny guy - always jovial around the team, not like what you see on TV when he probably has a serious face. He's a jovial kind of guy and often in team meetings, he'll just say 'believe in yourself'. He just has a way with people. To me, the whole team has changed since the day he took over."
That's quite some statement. Who, honestly, would have thought Gayle - as laid back as a flattened deckchair - could inspire so much from his troops? Gayle himself has been very quick to maintain that he's keeping the seat warm for Ramnaresh Sarwan, who left their tour of England through injury. But inspiration, fortune and success can manifest themselves from the most unlikely of sources and people.
Gayle to captain the Test side, then? A broad smile and a revealingly guffawing laugh from Powell suggests he's already given it some thought. But why the laugh? "Well, because of the name Sarwan! [cue even more laughter].
"Sarwan is also good, but it's up to what the selectors want to do now," said Powell. "To me, if they want to have different captains for the one-day side and the Test side, that would be nice. And if they pick Sarwan again, that too would be tremendous, you know, as long as the guys can keep up the same momentum as with Chris."
And the impression you get from Powell - a character almost as hynotically relaxed as Gayle - is that West Indies are in no mood to let up the pressure on Ireland, Scotland - or anyone else. Maybe Gayle is the man for the job, after all.

Will Luke is a staff writer on Cricinfo