WI takes on Lanka at Gayle’s “home”

In the loving environs of the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Gayle has enthralled the spectators like no other overseas cricketer in the Indian Premier League. In his five seasons with Royal Challengers Bangalore, he has scored over 1500 runs here, at an average verging on 55.

Chris Gayle loves playing at Bengaluru and he will be Sri Lanka's biggest headache in its next match.   -  K. Bhagya Prakash

This is the home of the ‘universe boss’, says Darren Sammy. West Indies is all excited to be playing at Bengaluru. Chris Gayle has scored more hundreds, clubbed more sixes, and made more runs than anyone else in T20 cricket. Last week, he sank England with his relentless hitting, pushing West Indies off to a great start in the ICC World Twenty20.

And now he’s ‘home’, in the loving environs of the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, where he has enthralled the spectators like no other overseas cricketer in the Indian Premier League. In his five seasons with Royal Challengers Bangalore, Gayle has scored over 1500 runs here, at an average verging on 55.

Against Sri Lanka here on Sunday, West Indies will hope Gayle is in his element – hitting the ball far, making big runs and having fun.

Sri Lanka has enjoyed some success against Gayle, limiting the Jamaican to scores of 5, 2, 3 and 3 in its last four T20I meetings, all in the World Twenty20. Two years ago in the semifinals in Dhaka, Gayle fell for a 13-ball three to Lasith Malinga; in the final of the previous edition, he was removed for a laboured, 16-ball three by Ajantha Mendis. As much as Sammy, the West Indies captain, may hail his side’s destructive abilities with the bat, there is a sense that many of those power hitters after Gayle -- the skipper included -- are better suited to cameo roles.

Sri Lankan coach Graham Ford said his side had a plan for Gayle. But he was not sure if the old schemes would still work. “We have put a few things in place in the past,” he said. “In 2012 we did quite nicely against him. Whether that still works – we’ll find out. We’re certainly not going to be telling everybody what we did in those two games to keep him quiet. It’s certainly something we’ll be trying to do again in this game.”

This encounter, though, is about a lot more than one batsman. After defeating Afghanistan in its opening game in Kolkata, Sri Lanka needs to demonstrate that it can defend its World T20 title. Much confidence has ebbed away after seven losses in nine T20Is in the lead-up to the competition.

That Malinga has been ruled out of the tournament does not help either. A great deal now rests on the shoulders of Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath. If Sri Lanka’s own batsmen can put Samuel Badree and Sulieman Benn under pressure, they can reap the runs.