It is one of the toughest tasks in cricket to keep Chris Gayle quiet or dismiss him before he starts hitting even good balls into the stands. Not many bowlers have been successful at keeping the Jamaican’s strike rate to even a run a ball. A subdued Gayle can explode because he also tends to bide his time before switching gears in case he is not able to find the boundaries early in the innings.
When Gayle isn’t dealing in fours and sixes, bowlers have to worry about the man at the other end Dwayne Smith. The Barbadian can be as destructive as Gayle with his ability to clear his front foot and land those big hits into the stands. Added to that, the wicket used for the West Indies vs India clash was the same one on which Pakistan and Australia had made a combined aggregate of 366 runs a little earlier in the day.
To bowl to Gayle and Smith is not a task for a faint-hearted bowler. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar had the unenviable task for bowling the first over of the match. However, Dhoni’s decision to open the attack with Bhuvaneshwar instead of Ashwin proved to me a master-stroke. In the opening over he gave away one run, in the second he gave away another run and in the third he conceded a single and a bye. There were sixteen dot balls in his first 18 deliveries.
The medium-pacer is at his best when he uses the new ball. He can swing the ball both ways and lands the seam upright more often these days. If he maintains a good line and length he becomes difficult to score off. If the opening bowlers — Mohammed Shami was Bhuvaneshwar’s new-ball partner — knocked over a couple of batsmen then the spinners could add to the pressure by bowling a wicket-to-wicket line.
India’s bowling plans fell into place, just like it had against Pakistan on Friday. For the second successive match the spinners had taken full advantage of the conditions to ensure that the batsmen didn’t face the pressure of chasing a huge total. Bhuvaneshwar was equally impressive.
In the first over Bhuvaneshwar bowled five out-swingers. Smith didn’t get to put bat on ball in the first four deliveries. Off the fifth he didn’t hit the ball where he intended to and crossed over for a single. Gayle didn’t score off the final ball of the first over.
Smith was facing Bhuvaneshwar again in the third over and once again the medium-pacer kept the opener guessing as to which way the ball would swing. The only run came off an extra, a wide. Gayle continued…