COLOMBO – West Indies’ opening batsman Chris Gayle rates the bowling of fellow Jamaican Usain Bolt and reckons the Olympics and world gold medallist has what it takes to excel at the game.
The sprinter expressed his desire to repackage himself as a big-hitting cricketer in Australia’s Big Bash League following an invitation by Shane Warne after he repeated his Beijing 2008 feat with three more golds at this year’s London Games.
Australian spin great Warne contacted Bolt about joining him at the Melbourne Stars club in the Twenty20 league in December.
“He wouldn’t embarrass himself. In a charity game, he actually played against me and almost knocked my head off with a good competitive bouncer,” Gayle told reporters as his team started training for the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka.
“It is nothing to take lightly. I don’t see anything wrong,” added foremr West Indies captain Gayle, who communicates on a daily basis with Bolt.
The sprinter grew up playing street cricket and soccer in Jamaica and during the London Games said he wanted a trial at English Premier League giants Manchester United.
It is not often in recent years that the West Indies has been billed as favorite to win a major cricket title, but skipper Darren Sammy is cautious of the tag.
“The favorite tag line does not guarantee us a place in the final,” Sammy said. “You have to go out there and play good cricket. We may have the best side on paper, but we have to pull all the resources together and win.”
The West Indies has struggled to match its overwhelming success of the 1970s and 1980s when its fast bowlers and aggressive batsmen dominated world cricket.
With young men in the Caribbean turning to American sports like basketball and baseball, it’s been hard to find replacements for the likes of Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards.
But Sammy’s men go into the World Twenty20 as the team to beat, looking for their first major title since 2004 when they won the Champions Trophy in England.
The presence of explosive batsmen suited to the slam-bang T20 format like Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, combined with the guile of prolific spinner Sunil Narine, delighted the skipper.
“We have the best spinner right now in T20 cricket in our side and he’s been doing really well for us,” Sammy told reporters in Colombo Tuesday night.
“The pitches in Sri Lanka will help him and I see him playing a very big role. Chris brings a lot of experience in batting, and we have Pollard, Darren Bravo and others who have done so well in the IPL (Indian Premier League). Everyone is aware that this is a wonderful opportunity for us to put a huge smile on our fans’ faces. Everyone is keen to do well.” — Agencies