By Orin Davidson
Chris Gayle didn’t mince words at the end of another depressing performance by West Indies at Lord’s.
Having stated that the team lost the plot, that allowed England to inflict an emphatic 10- wicket defeat on the team he captained Gayle was being himself – always blunt in his assessment of situations. He was not about to make any excuses for anyone.
And when he assesses his individual performance at Lord’s, the West Indies skipper should conclude that he was part of the reason the players did not give a 100 percent performance from the very first ball.
For most of the first day, the majority of Gayle’s players suggested they would’ve preferred to be anywhere else than facing the cold wintry conditions on the field at Lord’s and a vengeful England team.
As a result they dropped six catches and handed England the initiative they later fortified after the tourists continued another lifeless display in the field the next day, and then batted as though England had scored 77 runs rather than 377.
This is where Gayle comes in, this is where he should’ve taken charge by asserting himself on the field, demanding a better effort from his players that befits the highest level of international cricket.
Too often to the detriment of the team, Gayle has taken his laid back approach to things too far onto the field.
And this is continuing to happen right on the heels of the Duckworth/Lewis debacle when Gayle was criticized for allowing coach John Dyson to blunder away the first One Day International to England two months ago.
Gayle seemed not part of the decision making process then, and he should know by now that fans expect him to take a hands-on approach on and off the field, as it is clear that Dyson is incapable of being in total control of the team.
For starters the captain needs to communicate more with his players on the field to get the best out of them when the going is rough.
It is needed at no better time, on a difficult tour that has come amidst much player-disagreement with the West Indies cricket Board. Also the un-cricket like conditions at a time in May when England never before hosted a Test match this early, is inflicting a double whammy to the psychological state on a bunch of young players.
Gayle has often stated that he is averse to much talking, but he has to understand that the ‘quite cool’ approach would hardly work for a team like the West Indies mainly comprising players unfamiliar with the demands of professional sport.
Mistakes like the unacceptable plethora of grassed catches on Wednesday will not be corrected without the captain’s intervention on the field. Similarly, he needed to take issue with the uninspired bowling that allowed the England tail to add close to 100 runs the next day.
But make no mistake about it, Gayle’s ascension to the captaincy has resulted in an improvement in West Indies’ performances. The players seem more comfortable playing under him, but it is clear he has to do more with his proven ability to inspire his charges.
Test cricket and One day Internationals require full time commitment, part-timing it will not work.
It is a pro-active approach that Gayle must also take into consideration when he assesses his batting.
At Lord’s he failed in both innings when his team needed him more than ever to lead by example. And it does not require a rocket scientist to figure out why he did not reproduce the prodigious form he displayed in the Caribbean, New Zealand and Abu Dhabi.
His technique is vulnerable to the swinging ball which undid him in both the first and second innings. Just as with his captaincy, Gayle needs to get more busy, in this case, with his footwork to counter the seaming ball. Of all the world’s cricket venues, the ball swings more in England than anyplace else. And in this late spring environment at Lord’s it was literally `boomeranging ’ on the three days West Indies lasted.
And if he never believed his lack of footwork would undo him at the highest level, Gayle should be examining it now with the objective eye he has been utilizing all along. He is a tremendous natural striker of the ball, one of the world’s best if not the best in contemporary cricket, in that regard. But his limited footwork renders him one-dimensional. He has to make an attempt to make his feet work for his batting, as getting one’s body close to the ball to execute shots is a non-negotiable requirement against accurate swing bowling.
As a well paid professional in the cricketing context, Gayle has an obligation to his team and the West Indies fans to make time to drill himself to acquire the muscle memory to improve his foot movement.
Failing which he will continue to give critics the ammunition to label him a flat-track bully and Chaminda Vaas’ bunny.
But by working on this vital weakness, the West Indies captain will set a precedent for his charges in the Test team and all the other young Caribbean batsmen hamstrung with footwork deficiency, to address it and become better run scorers.
By virtue of West Indies’ batting failures, aided by their catching fiasco at Lord’s, England are halfway in their quest to regain the Wisden Trophy. They did their homework.
West Indies have nothing to lose by following suit.