Malinga versus Gayle – one of cricket’s finest rivalries


Rex Clementine

in Durham

Both Sri Lanka and West Indies, former champions of the  World Cup, have blown hot and cold in this  edition of the tournament. But when they lock horns today (Monday) here at Chester-le-Street in Durham, a lot of fans will be looking for one keen contest. Lasith Malinga and Chris Gayle are two of the oldest players in the competition. The Jamaican will turn 40 this year while the southerner will be 36 in seven weeks time. Despite the age, they still remain match winners and their teams will bank on them heavily.

Not just for their respective teams in international cricket, but Malinga and Gayle have competed against each other a lot in the IPL as well. Floyd Reifer, the West Indian Head Coach, who had made his Test debut against Sri Lanka in 1997, expected a keen contest between the two players.

"These guys have played against each other for the last 14 years so they have had some good battles. We expect a good battle tomorrow between Malinga and Chris," Reifer told journalists.

West Indies have only three points with just two games left in their campaign. But that’s no indication of how well they have competed so far. They nearly beat New Zealand and almost overcame Australia and with bit more fortune behind them, they could have made a massive impact.

"I think we didn’t seize the key moments in games. You look back at our tournament, we played well against Pakistan. We had Australia on the ropes. New Zealand as well, you know. At crucial times, you know, we dropped a few chances as well. And then collectively we didn’t bat properly. So it’s just small things that we didn’t do, the one percenters that we didn’t do well."

Despite their not so impressive campaign, the fact that the average age of the West Indies squad is 27 is an indication that the future looks good for the Windies. "The future of our cricket is good. You know, we have a lot of young guys here. Shai Hope, Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer and Oshane Thomas. We have young John Campbell too, who was injured. So our future is good. I’m confident in these youngsters that going forward we can bring West Indies cricket back to where it belongs at the top," Reifer  reiterated. 

"Yes, it is unfortunate we didn’t get to the final four in this competition, but going forward I’m happy from what I have seen. Sheldon Cottrell had a very good World Cup. So we have a lot of young guys that we can mould and build a strong unit going forward," he added.

That’s a good sign for West Indies cricket as they have struggled in the last two decades. They have not reached  the semi-finals of the World Cup since 1996 and had to play a qualifying round to get through to this competition.

"We have good talent in the Caribbean in the system. We have to make sure that we nurture that talent very well. When we get back to the Caribbean it’s important that we, you know, put guys in the environment and put them in a tough situation where they have to train and train hard and prepare and prepare well."

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