Former West Indies captain, Daren Sammy, insists veteran batsman Chris Gayle would be a sure pick in his squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup as the player’s experience and explosive ability remain invaluable.

The recent decision by Cricket West Indies (CWI) to recall the batsman for the recent series against Sri Lanka was met with criticism in some quarters, with some believing the selectors should have opted for younger talent.  The player's struggles in the series did little to dispel that notion.

Sammy, the two-time T20 World Cup-winning captain, however, does not agree.

“After watching Chris Gayle play in the Pakistan Super League, the IPL late last year, and looking at his career, I think he should definitely go to the World Cup,” Sammy told Line and Length on SportsMax.

“Whether he plays in the final XI is a matter for the guys on tour because you will have Evin (Lewis) and (Lendl) Simmons, but Chris’ experience in India and what he brings to the team, I would have him with me,” he added.

“Chris is a batting leader! He has over 20 hundreds in T20s and the next person after that has eight or nine and his experience cannot be underrated so I would have him with me. He knows the big occasion and you bet he can still turn it on…. I will go with him,” said Sammy from his home in St. Lucia.

Gayle has played 31 T20s for the West Indies and scored two centuries and 13 half-centuries, with an average of 31.24 and a strike rate of 140.81. At the last World Cup, he scored an unbeaten 100 in the first match against England but ended the series with 113 runs from four innings.

Sammy, who was at the helm when the team won the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka, in 2012, versus the hosts, and in 2016 against England, thinks that the West Indies can win again if they improve their bowling attack.

“We have the batting firepower, but we are missing two x-factor bowlers. Fidel is back and brings some pace, but I think our best chance will be chasing totals. We don’t have that Sunil Narine type of bowler and, to be honest, that’s the missing link. We can win but we need a couple of bowlers to put pressure on for eight overs,” explained Sammy.

 

West Indies star batsman Chris Gayle has made it clear that he is looking forward to the T20 World Cup, with high hopes of helping the regional team win a third title.

Gayle’s last appearance for the Windes, a One Day International match at the Queen’s Park Oval last year, was a dramatic affair as he walked off the field to applause from both sets of players and fans.  The special occasion was thought to be his retirement from international cricket.

Following that match, Gayle turned down the selection to an ODI series against India, after insisting that he needed some time off to figure out his future.  Since then, however, Gayle has had a complete reversal of thought when it comes to the idea of retirement. 

The big left-hander recently showed that he remains capable of producing plenty of fireworks, after an outstanding season in the Indian Premier League (IPL).  After being left on the bench at the start of the tournament, the insertion of Gayle into the line-up fueled an impressive run for Kings XI Punjab who narrowly missed out on making the playoffs.  During the tournament, Gayle became the first player to reach 1000 T20 sixes. 

Having found himself in that type of form, retirement is understandably now the furthest thing from the batsman’s mind and he is ready to take that kind of form into international cricket.

“I’m enjoying my cricket, to be honest with you.  I just recently played the IPL in Dubai and did well.  Now I have the T10, honestly, I’ve been feeling good, I’ve been putting in some work,” Gayle said.

The player admits that he already has one eye on the ICC T20 Championships, which will be held in November of this year.

“I’m just getting myself in condition.  I still have a lot of cricket to play.  I’m looking forward to the World Cup and hopefully giving the West Indies another T20 title.”

Gayle has not played in a T20 international since March of last year but intends to be part of the squad in lead up matches to the tournament.

 

Former West Indies captain Daren Sammy is most well known for bringing the regional side two World T20 titles, but the big-hitting all-rounder has a number of other accolades people don’t remember.

Towards the end of Sammy’s white-ball career, with his appearances on the Test stage long at an end, he was no longer an effective bowler and had been reduced to the odd pinch-hitting role.

But before that, Sammy had earned his spot in the West Indies line-up and achieved some remarkable moments with the ball.

In 2010, Zimbabwe had come to the West Indies to face an under-strengthed side, winning the only T20 the team the teams played against each other.

But during that loss, Daren Sammy became the first West Indian to enjoy a five-wicket haul in the format.

Choosing to bat, Zimbabwe got off to the worst start imaginable after Sulieman Benn removed opener V Sibanda and number-three batsman, Tatenda Taibu, S Matskikenyeri, and Brendan Taylor all without scoring. Benn’s 4-6 from his four overs was a remarkable achievement but there was more work to be done.

That work was taken up Sammy, who had the other opener, H Masakadza caught behind for 44. He also got rid of the resistance from G Lamb, for 11, E Chigumbura for 34 as well as S Masakadza and P Utseya without scoring.

Sammy would end with figures of 5-26, his best ever in the format. Sunil Narine, arguably the best T20 bowler the West Indies has ever produced, has never taken a 5-fer at international level.

The West Indies would go on to bat atrociously to lose a game where they only needed 106 by 26 runs with Shivnarine Chanderpaul (20), Denesh Ramdin (23), and Dwayne Smith (12), the only batsmen to score double figures.

While the result was a disaster for the West Indies, it did point to Sammy’s importance to the team in the shortest format of the game, a format the side were just learning.

Just two years later, with Sammy at the helm, the West Indies would top the world, before doing it again in 2016.

I use my Sundays to look back at what has been happening in the world of sport. On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT 

T20 Cricket World Cup postponed, but still lots of cricket to see

The men’s T20 World Cup, which was scheduled to take place in Australia this year, between October 18th and November 15th, has been postponed due to COVID-19. The International Cricket Council Chief Executive Manu Sawhney said the decision was made with safety in mind and that it would be moved to 2021. 

Initially, the news came as a surprise and I must admit I was disappointed, to an extent, as West Indies are the defending T20 champions and I am always ready for some competitive cricket. Upon weighing the pros and cons of hosting a tournament of this magnitude and prestige, however, the huge risk it would pose due to the extent of planning and caution that would be required became clear.  

I compared it to the ongoing biosecure test in England, which has been smooth so far. It would definitely be more difficult to stage the World Cup than the biosecure tour of England as it would involve gathering 15 other nations with different levels of the coronavirus infection, in Australia, where the state of Victoria was currently under lockdown after a new surge in cases. Victoria was to stage the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. 

Now, with every setback, we can choose to see the positives or dwell on the negatives. The postponement has reshaped the men’s international calendar to accommodate the bilateral series that have been postponed everywhere since March, except in England. 

Despite the loss of this exciting tournament, it has cleared the way for the popular Indian Premier League. The IPL has advanced the 13th edition of the tournament by a week, rescheduling the start date from September 26th to the 19th, with the final set for November 8th in the United Arab Emirates. Sixty matches will be played in fifty-one days. 

India will see in excess of 1200 individuals flying to the UAE once both governments give the nod. However, plans on how to fly the players, staff, and team management to the venue are still being worked out. This is the first time in the history of the tournament that the entire competition has been shifted out of the country and at the last minute. The BCCI and the IPL franchises are busy figuring out the logistics. 

In addition to this venture, Cricket West Indies Chief Executive Johnny Grave confirmed that discussions are ongoing with South Africa officials over a tour to the Caribbean. Grave says the tour is likely to follow the CPL, which ends on September 10.  I am appreciative of the effort being exerted to ensure our male cricketers continue to play the game they love but I do hope the same discussions are being carried out to ensure that our Windies women cricketers are afforded similar opportunities. 

Eagerly anticipating the NBA restart

   I shall not read too much into the scrimmage matches that took place during the week, but it was heart-warming to see the players back on the court, in their gears, doing what they love. The most outstanding part of the restart is the players' commitment to highlighting social justice issues and seeking change. The players have not allowed the issues to be swept under the carpet.  

Last week, LeBron, speaking for nearly 15 minutes, outlined his objection with the term movement in the “Black Lives Matter Movement.” LeBron stressed that being born black is not a movement but instead a lifestyle. In addition, LeBron wrote a message on his shoe with a marker, #justiceforbreonnaT. What resonates with me is that LeBron is not just wearing symbols associated with the injustices meted out to black people but he is using his voice and platform to call on the authorities to make a change. 

Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell believes that inaction is not an option. What happens if they do not continue to prop up issues of racial inequality and police brutality? The conversation could fade into the background. He stressed how sad it was for one to feel unsafe at one's own home.  “It’s near and dear to my heart and painful to see,” Mitchell said. “The fact that an African American woman can’t be safe in her own home is wild, just the concept is wild. The fact that there hasn’t been anything done about it is crazier. ... What are we waiting for?” 

            Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris also put pressure on Kentucky’s AG Daniel Cameron to press charges against the officers and questioned the No Knock warrant. Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, is thanking players from the NBA and WNBA for continuing to keep her daughter’s name alive as she continues to fight for justice.  Keep up the good work on and off the court gentlemen!

Liverpool's 30-year wait well worth it!

The fireworks started at Anfield long before the Premier League trophy was presented to Liverpool at the Kop. Liverpool's 5-3 win against Chelsea was an entertaining finale to their third successive unbeaten Premier League season at Anfield. Liverpool has officially ended their 30-year wait for a Premier League title, beating all odds, even the coronavirus pandemic. 

Liverpool were confirmed as champions on June 25, with seven games to spare, when nearest rivals Manchester City lost at Chelsea, but they had to wait until their final home game of the season to be presented with the trophy. 

It was symbolic that the trophy was handed over by the last manager to win it at Liverpool, Sir Kenny Dalglish. Liverpool throughout the entire season showed they had what it took to be worthy Premier League Champions. 

How Liverpool won the title is the most striking thing for me. The 30-year time span that it took to secure the trophy. The fact that in 2018-2019 they finished one point behind Manchester City. Then came the pandemic in March and Klopp did admit he was concerned about the season being declared null and void during the enforced shutdown. As it turned out, Liverpool's tally of 82 points from 29 games when football was stopped was enough to win the title. Jurgen Klopp re-wrote the history books. A well-deserved victory. Congrats. 

 

Dwayne Bravo has been out of international cricket for a while and when he returned most recently for the West Indies, he looked rusty.

Andre Russell might be Wisden’s 2019 T20 Cricketer of the Year but the power-hitting Jamaica has no intention of resting on his laurels.

Former West Indies captain Darren Sammy believes his contemporary, white ball skipper, Kieron Pollard is right for the job but needs time to get his team going.

According to Sammy, Pollard always wants to win and that is the mindset that is needed from the leader of a team if it is to be successful.

“I think what Pollard will bring is that attacking mindset,” said Sammy.

“I think his mindset is always geared towards winning and I think that’s what a leader’s mindset should be,” he said.

However, the mindset alone will not be enough to give the West Indies the edge they need to successfully defend their T20 World Cup set for November.

“He needs time. They need time to learn as a playing group,” said Sammy.

According to the only skipper to lead a team to two T20 World Cup titles, he benefitted from that time ahead of the team’s first World Cup title win.

“I am only talking from experience, from captaining in 2010. By the time 2012 came I knew so many of those guys, what situations to use them in and from constant dialogue, how I would go and who I would want to execute for me in different situations,” said Sammy.

While he is aware that his playing days with the West Indies are over, Sammy, who said he had a vision of being part of a successful T20 World Cup title defence, still wants to contribute to Pollard’s rise.

Windies star Chris Gayle has continued to give indications that he does not intend to retire anytime soon, this time expressing the desire to score another ten T20 centuries.

The 40-year-old West Indies talisman is already at the top of the list with 14923 runs inclusive of 24 centuries.  Gayle had expressed thoughts about the possibility of retiring after the last World Cup, before picking a series in the West Indies against India as a final swansong.

The player has, however, apparently now had a complete change of heart even pushing back at some of those who have suggested it could be time to step aside. Gayle has since insisted, in various interviews, that he is feeling good and hopes to play another five years.  In responding to a celebration of his achievements by cricket statistic website Crictracker, who pointed out the achievement of the most T20 centuries, Gayle insisted that there was more to come.

“10 more to come!” the player said in response to the celebratory tweet.  With the World Cup fast approaching, Gayle has been out of action for his international team since last year but has continued to participate in various T20 leagues around the world.  He is expected to take part in the upcoming IPL campaign.

The West Indies will benefit from the return of Fabian Allen and Denesh Ramdin when they go to India for a T20I series.

Allen is said to be fully recovered from a hamstring strain which put him out of the West Indies 2-1 loss to Afghanistan in Lucknow, India recently.

Ramdin played part of the series as well but had to be replaced by Shai Hope after he also went down due to hamstring issues.

The Kieron Pollard-led squad has retained newcomers Hayden Walsh Jr. and Brandon King, with an eye firmly on the T20 World Cup next year.

Andre Russell continues to be missing from both the ODI and T20I squads although the allrounder, plagued with knee injuries, was fit enough to play in the Abu Dhabi T10 recently.

According to West Indies coach Phil Simmons, who marked his return to the post with successful series against Afghanistan, India is expected to provide more of a challenge than did Afghanistan and is a good way to continue to test the ‘newbies’ in lieu of the T20 World next year.

"We have three matches in each format, so we wanted to give each squad a chance to compete against India," said Simmons.

"No disrespect to Afghanistan, but facing India will be a more difficult series. Our players really got the hang of things, with the 3-0 series win in the ODIs [against Afghanistan], and I believe we will move from strength to strength," he added.

According to Simmons, the battle for places in the T20i squad will heat up and everybody should be given a fair chance to show what they are made of.

"In the T20s this will be another chance for them to play and develop, and again, with no disrespect to Afghanistan, this should be a stronger T20 country and we will look to see how they perform against India. The next ICC T20 World Cup is in Australia and the one after that is here in India so there is a lot of preparation to be done for first for Australia. We have given the players here a chance in this series and we know we have players outside who may be coming in later on as well, so it's good to give those here another opportunity."

The T20I series begins in Hyderabad on December 6. There are two further T20Is, in Thiruvananthapuram and Mumbai, before three ODIs in Chennai, Vizag and Cuttack.

T20I squad: Fabian Allen, Sheldon Cottrell, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Brandon King, Evin Lewis, Keemo Paul, Khary Pierre, Kieron Pollard (capt), Nicholas Pooran, Denesh Ramdin, Sherfane Rutherford, Lendl Simmons, Hayden Walsh Jr, Kesrick Williams

ODI squad: Sunil Ambris, Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Brandon King, Evin Lewis, Keemo Paul, Khary Pierre, Kieron Pollard (capt), Nicholas Pooran, Romario Shepherd, Hayden Walsh Jr.

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