KINGSTON - The last time Chris Gayle turned out for the West Indies was back on April 3, 2016, at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, when Carlos Brathwaite, then a rookie, had smashed four consecutive sixes off Ben Stokes to win Windies the World Twenty20 title.

Gayle, now 37, recently became the first man to score 10,000 T20 runs and has a Windies record 1519 runs from 50 T20 Internationals, scored at an average of 35.32 and a strike rate of 145.49. The Windies – led by Brathwaite since the end of that World T20 – would be hoping that Gayle adds to those numbers when it takes on India in a one-off T20I at Sabina Park in Kingston on Sunday to round off a short limited-overs series.

In its last bilateral series in the format, the West Indies got the better of Afghanistan 3-0 in June, with all the matches played in Basseterre. But it hasn’t been too hot a streak for the Windies outside of that series, with Pakistan, especially, seemingly having its measure. Pakistan swept a three-match series at ‘home’ in the United Arab Emirates in September 2016, before pulling off a 3-1 win in the Caribbean in March-April this year.

Largely keeping their faith in the squad that did duty against Afghanistan, selectors brought in Gayle at the expense of Lendl Simmons, the opening bat who played in the middle-order and managed only 6, 17 not out and 15 in the three games. Coming as that sequence did after an average run for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League 2017, where he scored 137 runs in seven outings with two half-centuries, Simmons was left out.

Gayle himself has been off the boil too. In IPL 2017, he tallied 200 runs from nine innings, a 77 from 38 balls against Gujarat Lions early on in the script his only knock of substance. Prior to that, in the 2017 Pakistan Super League too, Gayle managed just 160 runs from nine games for Karachi Kings.

If Gayle finds a place in the Windies’ XI on Sunday, Brathwaite will be right in expecting big runs from the big Jamaican, who will be playing his first T20I at Sabina Park, his home ground. Especially because it would mean a tweak to the batting order, with Gayle logically slotting in at the top in place of either Chadwick Walton or Evin Lewis, who opened against Afghanistan. Neither of them did exceptionally well, though, Walton scoring 51 runs with a best of 29 and Lewis 70 with a best of 26. That series, really, was headlined by Marlon Samuels, who scored 35, 22 and 89 not out to top the charts and win the Player of the Series award.

That top order will need to deliver to stretch Windies’ 4-2 win-loss record in the format against India, who come into the match after sealing the preceding One-Day International series 3-1. Ominously for Windies, Virat Kohli has looked in great touch. His 87 in 66 balls in the win in the second ODI was solid, but the unbeaten 111 in 115 balls in the series-clinching win in the final game was outstanding.

It’s not just Kohli. Ajinkya Rahane was amazingly consistent in scoring 62, 103, 72, 60 and 39 in the five games. Shikhar Dhawan, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik and MS Dhoni all had at least one good innings, while the bowling was excellent on the whole too. Umesh Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav and Hardik Pandya were miserly and got among the wickets, while R Ashwin and Mohammed Shami kept things tight and struck occasionally as well.

Indeed, bar the botched chase in the fourth ODI, India has looked great, and despite being away from home, should fancy its chances. The last time India played T20Is, it was at home against England earlier this year, when it won the three-match series 2-1. Considering that and the form it showed in the ODIs, India should start favourites in the Sunday game.


WEST INDIES: Carlos Brathwaite (capt), Samuel Badree, Ronsford Beaton, Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Rovman Powell, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Chadwick Walton (wk), Kesrick Williams.

INDIA: Virat Kohli (capt), R Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant, Ajinkya Rahane, Umesh Yadav, Yuvraj Singh.