On Friday night, following his team’s dramatic win over Australia, Chris Gayle tweeted, “When you come to shoot — shoot, don’t talk.” This after the West Indian team, with a snarling Gayle leading the way, had turned the Gangnam into their own version of the Haka at Mirpur. This wasn’t the first time that a West Indies-Australia contest had become more than just a game of cricket.
In 2012, post an ill-tempered ODI series in the Caribbean where Shane Watson had repeated run-ins with the likes of Gayle and Marlon Samuels, a couple of West Indian players had revealed to this reporter the best way to deal with the Australians’ infamous ‘mental disintegration’ tactics. “Give it back to them, and the Aussies get rattled. All they know is to dish the verbals out.”
On this occasion, it was James Faulkner who had riled them up. Like Darren Sammy would later admit, the Australian all-rounder had ‘unleashed the lion’ by airing his dislike for the West Indians. This was, however, only the latest instance of Australia invoking an unbridled spurt of aggression from the otherwise genial, laid-back men from the Caribbean. The needle between them has existed since the ‘70s when Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson had humbled the Windies with the ball and the sledges.
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The last few years in particular, have seen a number of clashes between the two teams with Gayle at the forefront — from Brett Lee clashing with the big Jamaican in 2012 to Faulkner giving him a not-too-cordial send-off last year . Even Brad Haddin had indulged in a 140-character war with Gayle. But only once before, had the opener blown his top on a cricket field, with the same ferocity as at the Sher-E-Bangla Stadium. Courtesy Michael Clarke. It was at the Brabourne Stadium during a Champions Trophy match in 2006 where Gayle let it rip after Clarke had allegedly called him a ‘second-class citizen’. Incidentally, it was the West Indian who was meted a fine.
On Sunday, Dwayne Bravo tried to diffuse the heat by claiming that the IPL had helped bring players together. But it isn’t always so. Last year during the IPL, Kieron Pollard let everyone know his feelings towards Shane Watson, indulging in lengthy histrionics after taking a catch to dismiss the Australian opener.
Having said that the West Indies, if anything, owe Faulkner a debt. With his statement, he had brought together a team that only two months ago had been described as ‘lacking in unity’ by their own skipper. Faulkner had given Sammy & Co their own ‘Babylon’ to fight for.
In Mirpur, Gayle turned around a sedate World T20 campaign with a blazing half-century to set the stage up for Sammy’s heroics. Back in 2006, he had gone on to terrorize all-comers with the bat. Pakistan and the rest beware.
Bharat is a principal correspondent firstname.lastname@example.org