Gayle relishing limited-overs return
Chris Gayle is doubtless relieved at the chance to return to his specialist subject as West Indies turn their attention from Test to one-day international cricket.
The Windies captain infamously prefaced his team’s innings defeat in the second Test at Chester-le-Street by apparently dropping his guard in an interview in which he admitted to preferring limited-overs matches to five-day ones.
His team-mates have since insisted his remarks and resultant flak had no effect on their performance or his demeanour on and off the pitch in a match lost by mid-afternoon on the final day yesterday.
But there was little consolation - even in a first-innings hundred for Ramnaresh Sarwan - to soothe the pain of losing the npower series 2-0 and therefore allowing England to regain the Wisden Trophy in record time.
Yet for Gayle there is still the memory of West Indies’ last unsuccessful Test tour of this country, just two years ago - after which he took over the captaincy from the injured Sarwan for the NatWest Series, and promptly won it 2-1.
The Jamaican, so at home with his big hitting at the top of the order in the shorter format, is clearly hoping for a repeat in a three-match series set to get under way at Headingley Carnegie on Thursday.
"We still have three ODI games to look forward to - and we hope we can win that series,” he said. "It will be a tough task, but we will just have to regroup again.
"We'll have to go about our business properly. We will have to put our best foot forward.
"These two Test matches are behind us now, so we are looking forward to these three ODIs - and we actually have the guys to do the job.”
With the World Twenty20 following in this country next month, Gayle ought to be in his element - and his eyes light up at the prospect of taking on the best at his favourite discipline.
"Anything is possible in that shorter form of the game. There is no one particular team to go and dominate,” he claimed.
"It will be a great challenge.”
Gayle’s opposite number, Andrew Strauss, is wary of the Windies as he sets his sights on adding 50-over success to a timely revival in England’s Test fortunes.
“They are always a very dangerous one-day team; you only have to see the way Chris Gayle was playing in the Test match to see you can't set fields for that type of batting,” said Strauss.
“They've always got the capability of winning matches and have two or three match-winners in their side.
“It is in our conditions, and I think we play better one-day cricket at home than away - so there's no reason why we can't go on and win this series - but we'll need to be bang on the money from ball one in that first game at Headingley.
“If you give them a start it's very hard to drag it back.”
Gayle, meanwhile, sought to set the record straight over those pre-Riverside comments in which he also hinted he may not be too keen to continue leading the Windies’ Test side for too much longer.
"I'm definitely enjoying the captaincy,” he insisted. “It's done a lot for me as an individual, and I am grateful for that. I'm happy to lead the West Indies team - whenever, wherever.”
As for England, he concedes they are formidable opponents in Test cricket - and is expecting to hear of a tough battle for the Ashes when Australia arrive for the second half of this summer.
“England are a quality team, definitely,” said Gayle. “A lot of their guys average close to 50, some above.
"Then in the bowling department, they have Jimmy Anderson - and (Graham) Onions, who made his debut at Lord's and has made a brilliant start to Test cricket.
"On their day, they can beat any team. As for the Ashes, all I can say is 'good luck to both, and may the better team win'.”
Anderson, in particular, has become a major asset to Strauss and Co, according to the man who has opened the innings against him four times in the last two weeks.
"I've played against Jimmy for the last couple of years, and he's totally a different bowler now,” Gayle contended.
“He's well-equipped, has some pace, bowls good areas - and can swing the ball both ways.
"He's definitely improved as a cricketer, and the same goes for (Stuart) Broad as well.”