x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Gayle's ready for the storm

The West Indies captain Chris Gayle is relishing the chance to face his old adversary Shoaib Akhtar in the Fortune Cup.

The first man to break the 100mph mark for a delivery, the Pakistani bowler Shoaib Akhtar practices to take on Chris Gayle and the rest of West Indies team in the Fortune Cup.
The first man to break the 100mph mark for a delivery, the Pakistani bowler Shoaib Akhtar practices to take on Chris Gayle and the rest of West Indies team in the Fortune Cup.

ABU DHABI // They were supposed to be teammates earlier this year in the Indian Premier League for Kolkata Knight Riders. For very different reasons, the West Indies cricket captain Chris Gayle and the Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar never managed to share the same changing room. Gayle was injured before returning home to lead the Windies in the series against Australia. The story was slightly different for Akhtar. He had just been banned for five years following a clash with fellow paceman Mohammed Asif in which he hit him with a bat. The pair had previously been banned for two years in 2005 after testing positive for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone. Asif, who spent 19 days in a Dubai jail for allegedly possessing a recreational drug before being deported, is currently facing a two-year ban for testing positive for nandrolone during the IPL. Akhtar, 33, who still faces a ban from the Pakistan Cricket Board and a hefty fine, seems to court controversy wherever he goes. That was despite being the first man to break the 100 miles an hour record for a delivery in 2002. However, yesterday, at the nets housed at the academy pitches adjoining Abu Dhabi's Zayed Cricket Stadium, he was all smiles as he raced in off his full run-up. And Gayle, 29, the West Indies' opening batsman, is relishing locking horns with his old adversary when they two teams contest the Fortune Cup, which begins on Wednesday. "He is the fastest bowler I've ever faced," said Gayle, who recently became a US Dollar millionaire thanks to leading the Stanford Superstars' victory in Barbados. "Shoaib is always a challenge to take on and I don't see this as being any different. He is a top fast bowler." Gayle and his counterpart Shoaib Malik cut relaxed figures as they faced the media. Malik has been under increasing pressure in recent days, despite his side not playing a Test match this year due to the troubles in Pakistan. Malik was part of the squad for the one-day series against Sri Lanka last year, which Pakistan won 2-1. "Abu Dhabi is a great place to be," he said. "Not just for cricket but for enjoyment as well, so the players are really looking forward to it. We are well prepared and the players are confident that we can play good cricket." His sentiments were echoed by Gayle, who said: "It's the first time I have been here and we are really looking forward to seeing the place and playing some competitive cricket." The matches will be day-night affairs with tickets ranging from Dh25 to 300. mwalker@thenational.ae