Gayle looking for happy return at Sabina
KINGSTON, Jamaica –Opener Chris Gayle says he is ready to take on Ireland this week.
The big left-hander, who has been out of the game since suffering an injury in India last November, returned to intense training as the Windies assembled on Monday at Sabina Park.
"I'm 99% fit," he said with a laugh, following a training session that saw him entertain a few fans with some massive shots into the stand.
"As everyone knows I had an injury last year but I have done my work and I'm happy to be back in the set-up," he said. "This is just my first training session back at the 'peak' level.
"It's good to be back again and I'm looking forward to the first game and getting that feeling back out there in the middle again. I haven't trained this intensely for a couple months so I hope to get a kick-start and get back into the groove of things as soon as possible.
West Indies will start the series with a T20 International on Wednesday, with the second match carded for Friday. First ball is 2pm (3pm Eastern Caribbean Time).
Gayle said he expected the local-born players to step up in front of the home crowd as he saw the series as a "special occasion".
"We have a few Jamaicans in the team. We have Santokie, Marlon is back and Russell too. Santokie did pretty well and he was the best bowler in the CPL so it's good for him to be given a crack at it in front his home-crowd," Gayle noted.
"This is a big boost for us going into the World T20s. West Indies have a lot of cricket to play leading into this tournament so we're just looking to get past this (Ireland) series."
The 33-year-old said it was a great possibility he would open the batting with Dwayne Smith, who was recently named MVP of the NAGICO Super50 tournament.
"This partnership is a reality. He (Smith) is in good form and it would be nice to have a Dwayne Smith atop your batting order. He can get the pressure off you. His form is spot on and we're all happy to have him back. It would give me room to bat a bit more freely."
SQUAD vs IRELAND:
Darren Sammy (Captain)
Chris Gayle Sunil Narine Denesh Ramdin
Marlon Samuels Krishmar Santokie
Ottis Gibson (Head Coach)
Richie Richardson (Team Operations Manager)
Stuart Williams (Assistant Coach)
Andre Coley (Assistant Coach)
Saqlain Mushtaq (Assistant Coach)
C.J. Clark (Physiotherapist)
Hector Martinez Charles (Strength & Conditioning Coordinator)
Richard Berridge (Video & Statistical Analyst)
Virgil Browne (Massage Therapist)
Philip Spooner (Media Manager)
SCHEDULE – start 2pm (3pm Eastern Caribbean Time)
Wednesday, February 19: 1st T20 International – Sabina Park
Friday, February 21: 2nd T20 International – Sabina Park