Chris Gayle relaxes during a training session on the eve of West Indies' quarter-final against Pakistan, World Cup, Mirpur, March 22, 2011
There's no running away from Chris Gayle © Associated Press
Chris Gayle's shadow hung over the press conference. It was Suresh Raina who nailed Gayle's impact in a delightful moment of humour-infused candour. The question was a direct one: Are you relieved or are you disappointed that Gayle isn't playing? "To be honest I am a bit relieved at the moment," Raina said, as the press room filled with laughter.
The mood, though, turned sombre when the Gayle issue was put forward to the West Indies captain and the coach. Uncomfortable silence was punctuated by a note of defiance. It's an issue that has dogged West Indies for a while now and seems to be heading into a cul-de-sac. And so necks craned forward when the coach Ottis Gibson, who is alleged to have had problems with Gayle, was asked for his opinion. Gibson paused before he tried to be diplomatic. "There is a lot being said. I have left the board to deal with it and have tried to focus on cricket. I have been doing that since the Gayle issue started." The questioner persisted. Do you think both sides have been stubborn? "I don't know." Silence.
It was Darren Sammy's turn next and he chose to take a detour around the question. "It's an opportunity for all the other guys to perform." Diplomacy then gave way to pride. "We won a Twenty20 and a Test match against Pakistan. We have not done it since 2009 and didn't win for 17 Tests. We have managed to draw the series at home against a higher-ranked team. The guys represented West Indies proudly and played their best. We are looking again to play a team and do well." No mention of Gayle in there. Conspiracy theorists will spin it the way they want and Sammy fans will say there's little else he, as a captain, could have said.
Later, as the conference ended and Gibson was on his way out, he was again asked by couple of journalists about the Gayle issue. Do you think the board will arrive at a compromise and Gayle be picked for the third ODI? "They probably will." How are you going to react to that situation when Gayle comes back into the team? Pat came the reply: "I don't have a choice."
The rest of the conference was mundane. Raina and Duncan Fletcher talked about how this was a good opportunity for the youngsters in the team, Gibson and Sammy said they were looking forward to testing their skills against India. Raina said all the right things. "As long as you are playing for your country you get goosebumps. We have a responsibility to do well as the world champions. We will play our natural game and prepare for every match in a good way." Sammy, too, was upbeat. "Playing the No.1 team in the world should be motivating to any player. To do best against the best".
Even as the press meet was on, it rained outside. The covers were on and the Indian team practiced largely indoors. More rain is forecast for tomorrow.
There was one further tricky question that awaited Sammy. It was a direct question about his place in the Test side and how he was handling the growing feeling that he wasn't fit to be in the playing XI. Sammy leaned forward and looked at the questioner. "I go out and do what I have to do. Check the stats and stuff; I have done quite well as a Test cricketer. Whenever I step on to the field, I have West Indian cricket at heart. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but I have the support of my team. I believe in my own ability and I just try to do my best. I try my best. When I step on the field I try to play cricket for all the fans who want to us to get back on top."