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Feb 21, 2011

Chris Gayle's #cwc2011 wishlist - To be the tournament's best allrounder, and to hit 200.

Chris Gayle comes to the World Cup armed with more than a fluid and fierce range of strokes, one that builds an innings like a river in flood. Along with his tall and regal frame, Gayle carries an image and a reputation - that he won't be sad if Test cricket is binned by 2020, that he can't be bothered to sign a contract with his board, that all he wants to do is play for Team Gayle, that the longer the question put to him the shorter his answers.
At the Indian Air Force ground in Palam, Delhi, surrounded by children of officers and a sizeable number of the "men", Gayle produced one of his famous one-liners. This one was not funny; it carried weight. Gayle was asked about expectations, preparations and personal milestones on his to-do list. He beamed as though it was a simple task: "To try to be the best allrounder of the World Cup". Five minutes later came another. What was really his favourite format of the game? Gayle stepped out and whacked it off the headlines. "The World Cup, this one now," he said, and the next few words explained it. "Big stage," he said, "big stage."
If Gayle was just a plain showboater, the words would sound empty. But he seeks out the occasion, and now that it's within his range, he has set down his markers. It is a job that could daunt most cricketers: to be main man, mascot, leader and beacon of a team looking for inspiration. Gayle has embraced its demands, less than six months after being stripped of the captaincy, a position he held for three years.
What could have led to bitterness and detachment, team insiders say, has been turned into acceptance, commitment and willingness to carry the load and be generous with his knowledge. Perhaps the advantage of living on his island of cool has kicked in. Like his life, Gayle's game is also based on simplicity of intention. "I'm the first one facing the first ball out there," he said, "so I've got to try and set the tone and try and lead out there... I have to set up good totals for the team."
This, he says, is going to be a batsman's World Cup, "We think that the team that will really bat well will actually win more games." He wanted to give the West Indians the best chance by first "getting past the first two or three overs... then you play according to the situation and see what the bowlers are doing, then you can make the necessary adjustment to the game". At the Palam practice sessions, the necessary adjustments were expansive lofted drives that threatened to take down the odd helicopter flying overhead. He sent one over a treeline at the far end of the ground. Every time he batted, everyone stopped, everyone watched, everyone ducked for cover. When he left the field at his slow, deliberate, almost Inzamam-speed trundle, the crowd parted and the excitement ebbed.
West Indies' new captain, Darren Sammy, predicted that this was going to be Gayle's World Cup . If so, it will be about time. Gayle has a poor record from 15 matches in his previous two World Cups: 434 runs at an average of 28.93, with only one of his 19 ODI centuries. His last one-day century was scored more than two years ago.
During his short interaction on Sunday, the senior statesman in Gayle may have said the right things, but the provocative competitor lurked close. He is widely named as one of the candidates who could break the 200 barrier in a World Cup. When the question was put to him, there was a flash of teeth and the sound of a high laugh. Gayle then walked a familiar road, but the lilt of his Jamaican tenor was playful, "You know, Sachin has done it. Sehwag can do it. Batters can do it once they get the opportunity. Once they get off to a good start and bat right through the 50 overs, gauge your innings and so forth… It's a possibility."
He avoided mentioning his own ambitions, and his highest ODI score remains 153 not out, but in these previous two years Twenty20 has redefined risk-taking in batting. "Batters actually have got a lot of shots now. If the situation requires, you have to try and step it up. You'll get big totals in the World Cup, you know, you just have to be aware. A batsman on the go could definitely be a danger." So does he fancy that 200? The playfulness vanished and he said, "If I get a chance, I will definitely give it a go as well."
Gayle will also try and bowl 10 overs of offspin for West Indies, who are thin in the bowling department. Despite the small Indian grounds, and larger but quick Sri Lankan outfields, he fancies his chances. He mulled over who the prize wickets were going to be in the group stages. "Let's see," he drawled, and then came the flat tone of utter uber-cool, "I've gotten them all already. I don't see a problem getting them again. All the top guns you can think of, I've got them out. [I have] no doubt about it, to get them again."
Like India's hockey players are asked about the eight gold medals of lore, Gayle was asked about the West Indies' legacy and he shook it off calmly. "The past team was a great team, a good all-round team... but you can't compare past and present. We have a few new players, we have to look at the fact that they are inexperienced when a big occasion or situation comes around." The statesman paused and the competitor came out, fists first, "But we are all big men. We have to take responsibility. We have to go out there and not just put up a fight but, you know... get victories." The big stage is set out and West Indies' Mr Big will have to show that he is ready to own it.
Source : ESPN Cricinfo

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