MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Chris Gayle doesn’t mind disappointing his millions of fans in cricket-crazy India if it means the West Indies can continue to be contenders at the World Cup.
There’s more at stake than usual for West Indies against No. 2-ranked India, because the Caribbean lineup needs to win its last three group games to have any chance of reaching the semifinals.
The 39-year-old Gayle did a backflip on his retirement plans, announcing Wednesday he’d play a series of one-day internationals against India on home soil in August, and maybe even a test match. Perhaps that was to take some heat out of the Old Trafford showdown.
He wants to add some World Cup silverware to his collection of career milestones, and that means West Indies need a 100 percent record from now.
“It’s an important game for us — there’s still a slim chance for us to qualify,” Gayle said in a match-eve news conference. India has “been playing good cricket. Everyone knows India’s style of cricket, and hopefully we can conquer that tomorrow and get the better of them.”
Gayle is an undisputed star, the so-called Universe-Boss, in the Indian Premier League, where the Twenty20 format is perfect for his crash-and-bash style of heavy hitting and ability to hit the ball out of the ground.
He may be more guarded against India at the World Cup, but expects his inside knowledge of the IPL and Indian cricket will help.
“I’m sure the fans are looking for some entertainment for sure, from not only me, but from all the West Indies,” Gayle said. “Since we’ve actually been a part of India’s fraternity over the last couple of years, I know what style of cricket transpires in Indian cricket as well.
“Hopefully it will go down to the wire and West Indies win.”
That would be a turnaround for West Indies, following losses to Bangladesh when posting 321 batting first and then losing by five runs to New Zealand when chasing — Carlos Brathwaite’s attempt to win it with a six here at Old Trafford last Saturday night was caught on the boundary. Brathwaite was out for 101, his first ODI century, and an amazing innings. Gayle posted 87 higher up the innings, his highest score of the tournament.
India had a close call against winless Afghanistan in Southampton on Saturday, with skipper Virat Kohli’s 67 the highest score in a low total of 224-8. The lowly-ranked Afghans chased hard until paceman Jasprit Bumrah put the brakes on them with calm precision bowling in the penultimate over and Mohammed Shami took a hat trick in the last over to finish off an 11-run win.
That’s the closest India has come to anyone — excluding the washout against New Zealand — in a series of World Cup wins over South Africa, defending champion Australia and archrival Pakistan.
There’s less pressure on India, but the two-time champions want to continue their unbeaten streak.
India’s bowling coach Bharat Arun said he has an embarrassment of riches in his department — with Bhuvneshwar Kumar making progress in his return to fitness after hurting his hamstring against Pakistan and missing the Afghanistan game. Shami’s recall and hat trick in Kumar’s absence put some pressure on the question of who to open the bowling with Bumrah, something Arun said was a “good headache to have.”
Arun said the India camp wasn’t too bothered with the low total against Afghanistan, because of the nature of the pitch, and was confident proven batsmen such as Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni would return to more flowing form at Old Trafford.
“If you look at our first three games, I think we put up some really big scores,” Arun said. “Afghanistan match, the wicket was a little sticky; it was tricky to bat under those circumstances. It’s (just) a question of adapting.”
Against West Indies, it will be adapting to pace. The pace battery that opened the tournament by bouncing out Pakistan for 105 and having Australia in trouble early is now missing all-rounder Andre Russell, who was ruled out with an injured knee.
But with the likes of skipper Jason Holder, Sheldon Cottrell and Oshane Thomas, there’s still plenty of fire power.
The nature of West Indies losses has led to criticism of a one-dimensional plan based on short-pitch bowling, something the Windies are addressing.
“Everybody’s upbeat,” Holder said, recovering after “two crushing defeats … we felt drastically.”
“There’s no point to drop our heads,” he said. “We’ve got three games left in this campaign and we’ve got to just win all three.”