Mirpur: Chris Gayle will be itching to get back to his power-hitting ways when West Indies lock horns with Australia, who will depend on Glenn Maxwell's pyrotechnics, during their crucial Group 2 League encounter of the ICC World Twenty20 here tomorrow.
With scores of 34 and 48 in the two matches, no one can say that Gayle is not scoring runs but the strike-rates of 103.33 and 100 in the two games against India and Bangladesh tells a different story. Gayle has struggled in the Powerplay overs and failed to get the momentum even in the later stages of the match.
But Australia is no mood to take him lightly as wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin made it amply clear. "I think we have seen over T20 cricket for a long time that Chris Gayle is one of the most destructive batsmen along with Shane Watson in this form of the game.
The earlier you get guys like him, the longer you go in terms of winning the game," Haddin said at the pre-match conference when asked about the Gayle-factor. "It's important that we get him early and it's no different with any stroke-maker with that sort of power in the batting line-up.
You want to get them early," he added. Someone, who is never a swift runner between the wickets, Gayle has been seen hobbling from one end to the other but his captain Darren Sammy is not concerned.
Questioned whether Gayle has any fitness issues, Sammy said, "As far as I know, Chris does not intend to miss any match in this World T20.
Also each and every cricketer who plays is not perfectly fit. You will have a niggle or hamstring problem. Nobody is ever perfect." While West Indies have made some sort of a comeback with a facile victory over Bangladesh, it will be a do-or-die situation for Australia, who would want to win to stay in contention for a semi-final berth.
Haddin believes the situation can take the pressure away. "Sometimes that can relieve the pressure because you know where you stand now. There is no second chance for us. We have got to make sure that we bring our 'A' game and deliver under pressure.
We have done that well over the last four months and I see no reason why we can't continue with that," the veteran glovesman said. For West Indies, it will be a challenge bowling to Maxwell, who scored a dashing 73 against a Pakistan attack that had Saeed Ajmal.
Therefore the task is cut out for Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree as they will be pitted against the talented Victorian apart from the dangerous David Warner and an equally useful Aaron Finch. "It will be a good contest (Aussie batsmen versus Narine and Badree).
Narine and Badree are ranked Nos 1 and 2 in the ICC ranking for T20 bowlers. The best part is that Badree is getting wickets upfront. It won't be an easy game as the team that executes its plans under pressure will prevail," Sammy said. Haddin also agreed that wrist spinners (leggies and chinaman) could prove to be dangerous.
"I think wrist spinners are dangerous in any format. Conditions have ensured that the real wrist spinners have been very effective in this tournament.
They are an asset to have in your team especially in T20 cricket when they turn the ball big and the batsmen are going hard," he said. Australian team management is mulling on various options and one of them is to induct all-rounder James Faulkner in the playing XI.
Haddin gave an open-ended answer about Faulkner's inclusion. "I'm not sure about the balance we will go in with. James can bat from No. 6 down and he can cover all bases as he is pretty reasonable with the bat in this format," he said.
"He is a big asset to us with his bowling as he can jam in the yorker and close out the back end of a T20 game. He's a guy who likes winning and is a huge competitor, sort of guy you would like in your team."
Talking about Faulkner, who had ugly verbal exchanges with Gayle during a match in Canberra last year, has recently said that "he does not particularly like them". When Sammy was asked about it, he gave a sarcastic reply, "Australians, you know have a lot to say.
I believe James is the only cricketer in the world who does not like West Indies players!" Expect more fireworks on Friday afternoon.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Lendl Simons, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Samuel Badree, Sunil Narine, Krishmar Santokie, Johnson Charles, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Andre Fletcher, Sheldon Cottrell, Ravi Rampaul.
Australia: George Bailey (captain), David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin, Nathan Coultier-Nile, James Muirhead, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Mitchell Starc, James Faulkner, Doug Bollinger, Dan Christian, Cameron White.