India ready for Gayle force

PERTH. — Defending champions India will look to continue their recent success against Chris Gayle when they clash with the West Indies in the Cricket World Cup at the WACA ground in Perth today.

The explosive left-hander has not passed 50 in his last 10 one-day innings against India and not hit a century against them since 2006, but Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men know that does not guarantee another cheap wicket.

Just last week, Gayle hammered a record World Cup score of 215 off 147 balls against Zimbabwe in Canberra, demolishing the bowling attack like only he or South Africa’s AB de Villiers can do. De Villiers gave Gayle a taste of his own medicine a few days later in Sydney, smashing a glorious unbeaten 162 off 66 balls that drew warm applause even from the awestruck Jamaican.

Dhoni conceded it was tough to have a bowling plan or set fields for batsmen like Gayle and De Villiers.

“If the individual is hitting sixes, you can’t have fields for that,” the Indian captain said.

“There’s not much you can do. You certainly can’t have a fixed plan for something like that.”

India can draw comfort from the unpredictable game of the West Indies, where highs and lows mingle so frequently that is leaves even the most passionate Caribbean supporter exasperated.

In their first three matches of the ongoing World Cup, the West Indies posted 304-7 in losing to Ireland, 310-6 against Pakistan and 372-2 versus Zimbabwe in a grand show of their batting prowess.

But they crashed to 151 in their next game trying to chase South Africa’s 408-5 with leg-spinner Imran Tahir returning with five wickets.

In contrast, India have played consistently to record three consecutive wins, including a 76-run defeat of old foes Pakistan and a stunning 130-run win over the mighty South Africans.

A nine-wicket hammering of minnows United Arab Emirates at the WACA ground last week provided Dhoni’s team a chance to adjust to the hot weather in Perth and the challenges the hard pitch poses.

With six full points in the bag and matches in hand against the West Indies, Ireland and Zimbabwe, India will eye the top spot in Pool B to ensure they don’t face either of the co-hosts, Australia and New Zealand, in the quarter-finals.

But the West Indies, who have two wins from four games and both Ireland and Pakistan breathing down their necks, must defeat India and the UAE in their last two matches to confirm a knock-out berth.

The West Indies have brought in attacking batsman Johnson Charles to replace the injured Darren Bravo, but former captain Darren Sammy said the key to his side’s success lay with the fast bowlers.

“Any fast bowler would be excited to bowl at the WACA as it is one of the quickest wickets in the world,” said Sammy, “But India are playing well and our quick bowlers can’t just come and blast the batsmen out.

“They have to put the ball in the right areas.” — AFP.

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