India must be wary of 'Gayle' factor
India face West Indies in a Pool B match at the ICC Cricket World Cup on Friday. India are in a good run of form, having won all their matches including wins over tournament favourites South Africa and arch-rivals Pakistan. They will, however, still be wary of the threat West Indies pose when Chris Gayle, who hit a scintillating double century against Zimbabwe, gets going.
The cynics were at their best – lampooning the national team after a wretched performance in the tri-series involving Australia and England. And when the first two games of the World Cup were up against the likes of arch-rivals Pakistan and South Africa, there was no way that India, who were enduring a slump in form, could take it easy. Thoughts about starting slowly and gradually building intensity as the tournament wears on were out of the question as defeats against these teams would have put their quarterfinal hopes in peril.
Public perception can be strange – at the start of the marquee event we were talking about whether India are good enough to win the World Cup and come two resounding wins, the same set of people were pondering over who would be India’s quarterfinal opponents just after the team had only played two of their six group games. Many are billing India to go the distance this time around, even though cricket is a funny game and it hardly takes time for a hero to turn into a zero.
India and West Indies have had contrasting campaigns so far
Given this context, India’s match against West Indies is a must-win call for the men from the Caribbean, who have been erratic in the tournament. The Windies, after their stunning loss to Ireland, clobbered Zimbabwe on the back of Chris Gayle’s swashbuckling double ton – the first ever in the World Cup. The ‘Gayle’ factor is so pronounced that the West Indies are called ‘unpredictable’ largely because the southpaw can cut any reputed bowling attack to ribbons. Of course, it’s a different story when Gayle perishes cheaply.
All seems to be hunky-dory with the Indians so far. The batting department is looking solid – Virat Kohli is at his consistent best, while Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina are all among the runs. Rohit Sharma – probably the only one to press on the run meter, got among the runs against the UAE and the bowling unit looks neat and tidy.
The combination of Mohammad Shami, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin has delivered so far and it remains to be seen if they can sustain it going forward.
All is going well for India, but let’s not dismiss the ‘Gayle’ factor. We have seen so many ‘Gayle Storms’ ravaging teams across the globe, the most recent victims being Zimbabwe. India cannot afford to be complacent just because their quarterfinal berth is almost assured as the team would like to go into the knockout phase with the right frame of mind. Neutralizing ‘Gayle Storm’ should be paramount on India’s mind.