Posts Tagged ‘Chris Gayle’


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

Here’s a narrative that you might not have heard in 33 years: The West Indies have won the World Cup. They have re-arrived in the ICC Wall of Fame with the force of a gale. Not just Gayle (pardon the rhetoric pun again please).

Their dance is as distinguishing as their unique style – and coupled with a new found passion that seemed to have been nonexistent until not too long ago, ’79 doesn’t seem that distant a memory now. It is easy to forget that the West Indies constitutes a set of nations that are fragmented geographically, culturally and (maybe) politically.

The victory is made more poignant and credible given the hurdles that had to be crossed by Darren Sammy and his men. Revisiting the incidents would remove the sentiment behind this piece, for when the mood is calypso, it is worth celebrating, not contemplating. Their vision for the future must be their distant past. It really is as simple as that.

Every final played leaves an etched memory that never fades with time. From Clive Lloyd’s assault in ’75 all the way to MS Dhoni’s pyrotechnics of 2011, the victorious team has always had a fulcrum around which the scorecards revolved. And in some cases, a moment of magic (not reflected in scorecards) – such as Kapil Dev’s brilliant catch to dismiss Viv Richards in ’83 – announces itself as the difference between glory and gloom.

Marlon Samuels, whose chronological trysts in International Cricket best remain buried, given the moment, stole the thunder from the much anticipated fireworks of Chris Gayle. Gayle had set the tournament alight with his impersonations of the Gangnam dance, a popular South Korean style that came into prominence to rank Psy’s albums above the story of the North Korean soldier who’d crossed fortified borders to enter South Korea. He had, in addition, defied presumptions to bat through the innings during the semifinals against Australia.

Unfortunately, a ploy that had worked in the semi-finals failed yesterday. As admirable as the intent is to allow Gayle to bat through an innings, natural instincts – if left unattended to – could take fortunes for a reversing. But to witness Samuels respond the way he did, albeit circumstances where the run-rates dipped to embarrassingly low levels given the format, is a testament to his temperament and approach. His straight six off Malinga, a monstrous 108m hit, remains the highlight of a battering that cut the Sri Lankan pacer’s stats to pieces.

Not too long ago, the documentary Fire in Babylon seemed to catalyze the process of the rest of the world catching up with the Caribbean in the nostalgia department. Whether it made most of us yearn for the West Indies to hit the glory days again will remain unanswered, but the neutral’s elation – coupled with observations during my stay in Sri Lanka – convinces me that it did.

Sammy’s style and captaincy doesn’t depict the theme behind the documentary – his style isn’t the typical ‘in-your-face’ attitude, but rather the approach that bridged the chasm between altercations and egos. Until yesterday, he probably had a greater share of pessimists (including myself) questioning his very place in the XI. I still do. But he deserves credit for taking up the anchor role that others refused – to accomplish a task that appeared, back then, as monumental as reversing the fortunes of today’s Greek economy.  He has had the last laugh in this contest.

Mahela and Sanga: ‘Tim Henmans’ of cricket?

But such contests, unlike many others, turn out to be a zero sum game. The West Indies’ triumph was the home team’s loss – in particular, towards two men who’ve steered them to four finals thus far. A fourth final in this century would have, in all obviousness, placed – if I could borrow the words of an economist here – an inelastic demand on their success. But at least, the economy fluctuates. Their luck didn’t. Jayawardena and Sangakkara, for all you know, may never taste the ultimate success that continues to elude them. A friend of mine recently labeled them the ‘Tim Henmans’ of cricket. I don’t doubt that they are.

Their records will have a void that has left some of the best cricketers’ records flecked – from Bradman’s ‘an iota short of a 100’ test average to Shane Warne’s top score as a batsman. It may add fuel to their biographical defensives, but it isn’t something that would compensate for the lack of a trophy in their cabinet. Not when they were so close to repeating what the Indians did in front of their fans last year.

On the brighter side, their performances have disproved notions posed by a few theorists through the course of the tournament. To begin with, the theory that Mendis would fail against bigger nations is blown away when you look at his statistics from yesterday. Add to this the youth fervor that Akila Dhananjaya brings – there is every reason to believe that the near future isn’t as bleak as it appeared to be when a few big names bid farewell.

West Indies, on the other hand, have just carved a beginning. They’re still way off the mark formats that have a stricter measurement yardstick. And if this doesn’t act as a catalyst, I can’t imagine what else would. Just like how a stable currency doesn’t necessarily reflect the prosperity of a nation, this triumph should open doors for more transparent conversations to help elevate standards in ODI and Test Cricket.

They need to have their best players playing in these formats – Sarwan included. Now, who initiates these dialogues is always guesswork, given the egos that battle each other. Unfortunately, the more sensible advocates from West Indies cricket aren’t part of the WICB. The system needs to find a way to get these personalities in, while the momentum is still on. History has shown us that World Cup wins could do wonders to boosting sporting, and non-sporting, opulence to nations.

It will be an interesting few months leading up to the New Year. But until then, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try mastering the Gangnum. As the cliché goes, grab the trend while it still lasts. Recall something called a vuvuzela now?

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Bini Sathyan

It was the most amazing innings of a T20 match and probably the innings of a lifetime played by Marlon Samuels. And that he chose to do it on the biggest stage when the chips were down and his team was literally on the mat and the fact that he decided to take on the best T20 bowler in the world to fight it out and to come out a winner makes it the most awesome come-back-from-behind of performances. The end result is that the Calypso Kings are back and are crowned the World T20 champions. Sri Lanka again ended up as the second best in 4 finals since 2007.

The T20 finals did not look like a T20 match, instead it looked like a battle for life. With West Indies electing to bat, everyone expected the Gayle storm to simply blow the opposition over. But the Sri Lankan bowlers came well prepared to absorb the impact and they did so well that Gayle looked like a man lost in the storm.

With the runs just not coming and the mystery bowlers of Sri Lanka tightening the noose after Gayle’s exit, the West Indies looked to fall flat. At 34/2 in 10 overs, no one except a hardcore West Indian fan would have expected a miracle. But the miracle did come in the form of Marlon Samuels. He just stood there in the middle leading the West Indian resistance striking at less than a run a ball and it looked like he was fighting a lost battle. But he had other plans. Lasith Malinga who was given only one over by Jayawardene and held back to be used at the death was given the ball to to take out the West Indian resistance. And the game changed.

West Indies came from behind to choke Sri Lanka to take the title. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Everyone expected the toe crushers to come curling in to knock down the West Indians. They definitely did come. But this time the script was not the usual one. Samuels dispatched the first one for six. The more they curled in the more higher and longer he hit them. One of them from Samuels’ bat became the biggest six of the tournament. 22 runs came of the over and Slinga Malinga thought it was just one odd over. But that was not the end. By the end of Malinga’s 3rd over, half of the West Indies’ total was scored from his overs. And he ended up giving away 54 runs without a wicket. It took only a couple of overs to destroy the reputation of the best and most lethal T20 bowler. Then came Captain Sammy and delivered when it mattered the most taking the West Indian total to a fighting one.

Rampaul and Co. gave it back in an almost similar fashion to the Lankans. By the end of 12 overs, it looked a long and rough road ahead for Sri Lanka. Then Kulasekhara decided to do a Samuels in the 16th over. He targeted the West Indian fast Rampaul and hit him for a six. Rampaul responded angrily by sending in short pitched balls and Kulasekhara skilfully dispatched all of them to the fence.

This pedestrian performance from Rampaul after an extraordinary beginning almost shifted the momentum away from the West Indies. And the great man Gayle had to come and put an arm around him to cool him down. Sammy then decided to use his trump card in the next over. He gave the ball to Sunil Narine, the coolest bowler you can come across in the world. His face did not give away the carnage that had happened in the over before. Neither did his face reveal any feeling that this could be the deciding over of the match with Kulasekhara in murderous mood threatening to finish off the match. Cool, calm, composed and full of concentration he just stuck to his task and was rewarded in the 2nd ball with the wicket of Kulasekhara. Sammy went wild and so did the West Indians. The trump card worked. And now it was just a matter of time.

Bravo got to take the final catch and with that the cup and he got to celebrate his birthday with a world cup win. And the West Indians celebrated like no other. Gayle with his antics and Bravo with his dancing skills amused the crowd. Sammy was the most criticized captain of recent times but looks like no one will be talking about the negatives soon.


Goutham Chakravarthi

If you have been to Sri Lanka you’ll know that there are few nicer people than them. And if you happened to know people from the Caribbean you also realize that few are as full of life as them. In more ways, this is also a battle between two nations, one, which has produced the most natural of bowlers over the past decade and another that has produced the most natural T20 players in the format’s brief history.

Contrastingly, pundits and fans of the West Indies think their captain, Darren Sammy is a liability and is taking up Russell or Dwayne Smith out of the team while some think he has managed to keep the team together and ride through tough waters. On the other hand, the brilliant Mahela Jayawardene has maneuvered his team and made inspirational player picks and brilliant on field decisions. That he is yet to commit to a long tenure as captain long tells of issues beyond his control. Cricket outside of the field has been eventful for both finalists over the last few years.

Gayle has been the inspiration behind Windies’ resurgence. © Reuters

While West Indies have made as much news for their Gangnam dances on the field as they have for partying in their hotel rooms, their form coming in to the finals will be worrisome for the Sri Lankan management. Not much seems impossible for their batting when they click as a unit.

It is apparent to the eye from outside that Gayle is the leader of these men and his contributions in playing the anchor and the grenade launcher and switching back and forth with the same ease he breaks in to his various celebratory dance moves. It was apparent when Samuels bowled the Super Over against New Zealand ahead of Narine that he had the final say in the on field meeting with Darren Sammy.

It would be daft to think that getting Gayle out early would seal the victory for the Lions. Gayle perhaps has been the reason and belief in Johnson Charles, Samuels, Bravo and Pollard having contributed immensely in tough situations. They, along with Sri Lanka, seem to have the team covered for all situations and conditions – including having the best answers for Super Over situations.

The wickets have slowed down and will aid spinners and clever medium pacers that favour the cunning. Expect Mahela to throw surprises at the West Indies with team selection and bowling changes. His horses-for-courses team selection has proved to be inspiring: be it either picking Herath in the semifinals over Dhanajaya or opening the bowling with Angelo Mathews. It is hard not to think Mahela bowling Dilshan and Kualasekara with the new ball to Gayle on Sunday evening.

It has been a tournament where most things have gone well for Mahela barring the loss to South Africa at Hambantota. His batting will still hold the key for his team either batting first or chasing. His batting under pressure and on difficult tracks are a thing of beauty. Twice in a span of 18 months he has played champion knocks when it mattered most for his team (ICC World Cup 2011 finals and in the semi-finals the other day against Pakistan).

Mahela has been spectacular as a tactician, leader and batsman. © AFP

Also, Mahela has the knack to smell tactics and seems to be able to move away from a pre-decided plan on his instinct. It is this aspect of his cricket from which Sri Lanka seems to have benefited with him back at the helm after Dilshan stepped down.

It is, of course, silly to pin the credit of his team’s entire success on Mahela alone for his troops stand by him and in Sangakkara, he has an able ally in implementing his various plans. But it must also not be forgotten that he seems to be the type to go out of his way to pick the players he wants: Dananjaya being a point in case. Nor did he seem hesitant to pick Herath over Danajaya given Herath’s success over Pakistan in Test cricket and the captain’s opinion that Pakistan had difficulties against left-arm spin. His inspired selection proved to be a differentiating factor in the end. Nor does the very promising Dinesh Chandimal feature in the captain’s scheme of things in this world cup.

Often, it is the captain who takes the major chunk of the blame should things go wrong in this part of the world, and often it is a very fine line between being inspirational and being insipid. Mahela duly deserves credits for being innovative and bold. Long may his instincts serve his country as its captain.

As the two best teams this tournament square-off on Sunday, it might boil down to a battle of wits at the end. And Jayawardene should fancy his chances of getting his hands around ICC silverware at long last!

This is a published article in Island Cricket


Goutham Chakravarthi

17th September 2012

Colombo

Nearly four years have passed since I last visited this glittering island. The lack of multiple security checks at military checkpoints, a facet that seemed a norm back then, immediately stands out. One thing that hasn’t change is the warmth of the locals and the smiles on their faces.

Photo

A cyclist rides past a cut out of Sri Lankan players in the capital Colombo. © AFP

A cyclist rides past a cut out of Sri Lankan players in the capital Colombo. © AFPFrom the airport to the beachside restaurants in the south of Sri Lanka, it’s all about the ICC World Twenty20. Seaside resorts are abuzz with cricket fever, and even the cab drivers tell me they are keeping an eye on the weather forecast, praying for the rain gods to show mercy for a month.

“I want West Indies to win and I believe they have a good chance,” Abhishek Bharathkumar, an Indian national and a former age-group captain for Tamil Nadu, who is here in Sri Lanka on vacation with his family, said.

In addition to home favourites Sri Lanka, India and West Indies are also seen as favourites by the locals to win the trophy while Kumar Sangakkara, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, Shahid Afridi and Lasith Malinga appear to be the fans’ picks for the stars of the tournament.

Sangakkara is extremely popular amongst the locals here, understandably so.

“Kohli is my favourite player from outside of Sri Lanka. But Sangakkara is my favourite though and his three awards only prove that he is among the best in the world,” says Haroon, a shopkeeper at the airport.

Teams, stats, clubs, T20 leagues are all part of routine conversations with cab drivers and at family dinners.

The locals are also excited by the unearthing of unconventional talents Dilshan Munaweera and Akila Dananjaya, and the expectations for them to deliver are high. Sri Lankans are extremely confident the two players discovered at the SLPL have what it takes to succeed; many of them want both players to be included in the playing XI instead of warming the benches at this year’s T20 World Cup. With Sri Lanka known to offer unorthodox talent, the world will wait with equal interest to see if Dananjaya and Munaweera can use this platform to launch their careers similar to how Angelo Mathews did during the 2009 edition of the tournament in England.

The wickets here seem to be no longer inclined to help slow bowlers or batsmen who thrive on slow, low tracks. Well rounded attacks like Pakistan’s are expected to succeed and progress beyond the Super Eight stages.

“Wickets these days offer some nip to even medium pacers. I think Thisara Perera will be the player of the tournament if we go on to win the cup,” says Cathy, who is a waitress at the wonderful beachside restaurant Loon Tao in Mount Lavinia. She believes teams with allrounders who can bowl medium pace are at an advantage.

A large contingent of tourists meanwhile are keen on catching the action at the India-Pakistan warm-up game on Monday. However, the overselling of World Cup tickets still lingers as a prime concern amongst many of them.A large contingent of tourists meanwhile are keen on catching the action at the India-Pakistan warm-up game on Monday. However, the overselling of World Cup tickets still lingers as a prime concern amongst many of them.

“Ticketmaster, who are handling the ticket sales for the ICC, found that in the first few days of sales certain ticket outlets had access to the ‘blocked’ ticket database, and some of those tickets were sold to the public,” cheif executive of the Sri Lankan cricket board Ajit Jayasekara said, explaining the issue to Island Cricketrecently.

“When this computer glitch was noticed, they took remedial steps and offered alternative seating to those few people who had bought tickets from that database. The actual number is minimal and did not have an effect on the overall ticket sales.”

Even with several warm-up matches out of the way, It is hard to pick a favourite to win the tournament. The wickets will certainly have a significant say in outcome of the series, and should the wickets have nip and pace, it will be a very open tournament. Three sub-continental teams made it to the semi-finals of the ODI World Cup played in the sub-continent last year, and it is hard to see others challenge them should the wickets turn out to be slow turners.

Pakistan possess an impressive bowling attack, however, the chasm between sides shrinks to a blur in this format. Teams like Bangladesh can pose a formidable threat; both Pakistan and New Zealand will be wary of them, as they are in the same group.

The mood is festive. The most open WT20 tournament is upon us. Sri Lanka is the place to be right now.

This article was written for Island Cricket and first published there.


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

It probably isn’t unfair to say that the berth atop the ICC Test Rankings, historically, hasn’t been a paradise for teams that have scaled it. Idealists would find it easy to argue that the current and former number one teams have had questionable, if not in entirety, rises to the top – England’s failure in the sub-continent, and India’s predominantly home-series wins adding alibi to their theories.

English fans, now, find themselves being stopped short of being wildly idealistic. What seems profound here is that despite victories (and draws) against tough overseas opponents on foreign soil (barring their quest in the sub-continent), England finds itself basked amidst vicissitudes of press coverage stating ‘too much cricket’ as an excuse for their exponential dip in form in the ongoing series against the Proteas. Isn’t this true for almost the entire set of test playing nations, or at least the top six nations?

World records may not hold great importance if it doesn’t help achieve a significant team result. © BBC

True, just like how the blackout in Northern India has highlighted our dependence on diesel, there have been enough presumptions with regard to England’s dependency on seam-friendly tracks. It wasn’t too long ago in the timeline when the English selectors (rather Andy Flower) had a pleasant headache over the pace bowlers they needed to leave out of an eleven being fielded. Even KP’s antics did little to overshadow the confidence that they had built as a test unit under Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower.

But, isn’t it common these days to witness sparse differences in standards between teams (or if we extend this to organizations in general) vying for pole position? It is healthy, as a fan, to witness intense battles between teams that look not only strong on paper, but have the firepower to back it up on the field.

A nascent advantage of the billions of cash reserves in the Middle East has been the creation of stronger clubs (through foreign ownership) to compete against the cliché of names one usually comes across in the European leagues. Chelsea, for one, given how they’d been a dominant force not too long ago under the billions of Roman and reign of Mourinho, finished sixth last season – it wasn’t ‘too much football’, but stronger competitors.

Fortunately, cricket is witnessing the same. Just to drift slightly off here – as much as I’d love to call the current New Zealand team a touch below par, the resurgence of West Indies (too early to say?), owing to the return of Chris Gayle at the top of the order, has been a welcome sight to most of us.

In paper, they may hardly seem like teams being overworked. Chris Gayle, players competing in the IPL, WICB issues have, in the past, camouflaged substantial on-field press coverage (barring the Ramdin ‘paperwork’ during the series against England). The change in tutorship at New Zealand has received a little more space than an obituary in newspapers here. But they’re competing all right.

Coming back to the perennial issue highlighted earlier – packed calendars don’t help. Agreed. Much has been written in the footballing circles about how players get jaded after a long season (domestic, league, continental competitions adding to the toll) followed by international commitments. And by the time they’re done with it, the new season beckons – it isn’t uncommon to see players who’ve undergone the wrath of such schedules sit out of contention for the best part of August.

Cricket is equally, if not more, demanding in terms of fitness (probably more mental owing to the long stretches of tours away from home). Unlike football (and I’m sure football purists would disagree here), there’s very little space for error in the game of cricket – a lapse of concentration could cost a batsman his wicket, a fielder a catch and a bowler a wayward  line/length. Add to all this media hype and expectations (something which I believe dearly affects teams like England  and India, more than other teams around) – the end result is a volatile cocktail.

So, have teams at the top been victims of everything (and everyone) but themselves? It is as much about hype and expectations, as it is about packed schedules. The modern day sportsman is trained (through a combination of well-structured training programs catering to the mental aspects of sport) to cope with expectations of a nation, and the glaring eyes of the world.

But few cross the line that differentiates the best from the rest. A double hundred in a dead-rubber test on a flat wicket deserves to be dwarfed to insignificance when compared to a half century on a trying wicket that saves a test. Only when the cricketing community starts setting such standards and yardsticks, will we see the crop of players rise up and deliver.

Let me recall an interesting anecdote I heard from a source (this isn’t fiction) regarding Don Bradman’s reaction, when quizzed by an Australian journalist, after Brian Charles Lara had scored a record breaking 375 against the touring Englishmen in Antigua. The Don, apparently, had replied ‘Okay’.

Assuming that age had caught up with the Don, the journalist repeated his question (understandably more pronounced) to get the entirety of the message across. The Don, once again, without batting an eyelid, replied ‘Okay’  When quizzed further, The Don had said: ‘On a flat wicket, against a scrawny bowling attack in a Test which wasn’t heading towards a result, what more can I say?’

The journalist decided to pose his question thus: ‘Sir, how much do you reckon you’d have scored had you been in this situation?’. The Don thought for a while and said ‘Maybe 260 … or 270.’ Presuming that age had taken a toll on his thinking, the journalist asked ‘Sir, but he scored 375. You’re saying you’d have 260. And you’re not rating his knock too.’

To which The Great Man replied: ‘I’m 85, he’s just a 23 year old kid.’

Maybe, that is what greatness is about.