Chris Gayle hints at return to Test cricket

In India to promote the inaugural Tamil Nadu Premier League, Gayle spoke to Sportstar about playing in the USA, Test matches, West Indies’ dismal show in the longest format and India’s new star K. L. Rahul....

Chris Gayle T20 cricket, Chennai, 2016, Tamil Nadu Premier League

Chris Gayle is felicitated during a school function in Chennai on Tuesday.   -  PTI

There are very few in the world who have not been mesmerised by his style of play. Whenever he walks to the middle — be it for West Indies or for Royal Challengers Bangalore — the stadium reverberates with ‘Gayle, Gayle’ chants. “Fans want Chris Gayle and the fans will see me soon,” he says.

However, Gayle is quick to acknowledge the achievements of fellow sportspersons too. Speaking about fellow Jamaican, Usain Bolt, he says: “Usain Bolt is a legend. He has nothing else to achieve. Maybe he should try 400 metres or long jump. He has set his standards so high. He has made himself and his country proud and the world as well.”

In India to promote the inaugural Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL), Gayle spoke to Sportstar about playing in the USA, Test matches, West Indies’ dismal show in the longest format and India’s new star K. L. Rahul.

How does it feel to be back in India?

It is good to be back in India. It is like a home to me. Everyone welcomes us with open arms.

How was your experience playing in the USA?

We were there for a short time but the crowd still turned up. The U.S. can be a good market for the game of cricket. CPL (Caribbean Premier League) was also received well. Hopefully international cricket will be big too.

Do you see more cricket being played in the USA? There is a possibility of having a mini-IPL there…

Mini-IPL will be huge, if that actually happens. But, wherever you play IPL, it will be huge. A lot of Indian and Caribbean people live there. It should be great for cricket fans in the United States.

What are your thoughts on K. L. Rahul? He scored a hundred recently against West Indies but he was not even in the starting XI for RCB.

Rahul is a superb player. He has been in fantastic form in all formats of the game. He is definitely one for the future. He might be the next man to give (Virat) Kohli a run for his money.

In T20 cricket, batsmen are dependent on innovative and out-of-the-box shots. What do you make of it when you see someone like Kohli playing those conventional shots with great success?

Mahela Jayawardene, when he used play T20, was not a power hitter. Once he could place the ball, he could eventually play a few sixes. Kohli is like that. Sangakkara and these guys bat normally and are still able to score a hundred in T20 cricket. Those guys can also score at a strike-rate of 120 and 130. They can step it up whenever they want to. They are class players.

West Indies is a two-time World T20 Champion but the team is not as powerful in Test cricket. Players like you are not part of the Test side anymore. Do you see the situation changing with WICB anytime soon?

There are a lot of young players coming up in the Test side. So it will take time. It is like a rebuilding process. It will take time for the younger players to mature in the longer format. They will need a few senior players here and there to guide them along. The Board (WICB) and the players are trying to sort things out. Hopefully, one day, everybody will be on the same page. There are actually efforts being made to get everybody together.

There is a disparity between the West Indies T20 and Test sides. What do you think is the root cause for this?

When you look at the both formats of the game, we struggle to concentrate on long periods of time and it is not something new. This has been there since I have made my debut (2000), under the captaincy of (Brian) Lara. We play cricket in short sessions, so we win short session matches and then we switch off. And that is how we tend to lose the Test matches. When it comes to concentration, we aren’t consistent. It is difficult for us to be patient and bat for long period of time because we are very attacking in nature. We want to play shots most of the time.

Do you fancy yourself playing Test cricket anytime soon?

There is a possibility. It is definitely being discussed. We will see what will happen.

What makes West Indies a big T20-playing nation — both men and women?

For men, Chris Gayle is there (laughs). That is a huge impact. For the ladies, Stefanie Taylor is there as well. It is just about experience. We play cricket all over the world. We play all the T20 competitions, so that actually gives us a bit of advantage as well. We are naturally talented and gifted as well. We have some great fielders, all-rounders and power-hitters. We have everything. It is going to be difficult to beat West Indies in the shortest format of the game.

Cricket leagues are big business. They are giving chances to youngsters but at the same, there is also a lot of pressure on them. Do you think this pressure will affect their development at such an early stage?

No idea. The game has changed over the last couple of years. It is definitely a business with a lot of leagues happening around the world. Players will have difficulties but it is up to the higher authorities to manage and handle the youngsters.

Any advice for the youngsters who are looking to make a mark in T20 cricket?

They got to look at it as a work. Like I mentioned before, it is more like a business. We can make a living out of playing cricket. At the same time you need to be mentally prepared to play the game. It is not an easy task. There will be challenges. They need to be physically and mentally ready.

With T20 leagues mushrooming around the world, how do we make Test cricket more meaningful? Even though you have achieved a lot in Test cricket, people always associate you with limited-overs exploits.

I am not the man to answer that question. You need to speak to the ICC. It will be difficult for me to comment on this. Many times I have commented on this and people have taken it wrongly. So you have to ask the higher authorities.

Has T20 affected a batsman’s playing technique in Test cricket?

T20 cricket has changed the way Test cricket is being played. If you look at a day’s play, earlier you would normally get 180-200 runs; now teams are getting close to 350 and that is because of T20. Batsmen nowadays have started developing their game differently and they know how to score quickly in Tests.

Look at (David) Warner, how he scored hundred from 82 balls (against West Indies in January early this year at the Sydney Cricket Ground). Same with me and (Virender) Sehwag. It is all about the mindset. You have to make necessary adjustments as quickly as possible. It is also about how you practise. Preparation is always going to be the key.