England leg-spinner Adil Rashid says he is excited rather than intimidated about the prospect of bowling to Chris Gayle after the West Indian opener said England’s bowlers should beware of him during the upcoming five-match ODI series.
Gayle, who announced he will retire from 50-over cricket at the end of the World Cup in England this summer, said he will be looking to put on a show for his home supporters during the series which starts on Wednesday at Kensington Oval, proclaiming himself as the best batsmen in the world and saying he remains the “Universe Boss”.
“It’s exciting,” Rashid said when asked about Gayle’s comments. “It’s a challenge for everybody, we have people who hit the ball a long way. It’s exciting for me, I can put my game plans into place, use my variations and being clever with what you bowl. I’m looking forward to it.
“There are obviously some concerns but you have to believe in yourself, you’ve got to have confidence. You have to go out and stick to your strengths and be confident that you can get him out. He’s only human. We’re all human and make mistakes. So it only takes one ball for him to make a mistake and get out. It’s that kind of mindset that we need.”
Rashid, who took 2 for 21 from seven overs in England’s warm-up match in Barbados on Sunday, is a key part of England’s ODI team, the man responsible for taking wickets through the middle overs to keep opposition batting line-ups in check. It has been a role he has been playing expertly. In the past two years, he averages 26 with the ball in ODI cricket with an economy rate of less than 5.4 an over.
His position with the white-ball stands in contrast to his place in Test cricket which is, at present, more marginal. He played in the first Test of the series against West Indies in Barbados but went wicketless during England’s defeat and then returned home for the birth of his second child having been told he would not be selected for the second match. Having played nine consecutive Tests, being dropped is a setback to his ambitions of playing in this summer’s Ashes series.
“[My role in the ODI team is the] same as it has been for past three or four years,” he said. “Nothing changes. It’s to create chances, look to bowl variations and if it happens, great, and if it doesn’t, fine. So I think my role is that same as I’ve been doing for the past three or four years.
“You have to work hard and have performances day in, day out. I’m still a long way off that in Test cricket becoming that world-beater. You have the odd performance here and there but to back it up consistently has so far been a bit of a challenge or whatever. Now the preparation is white-ball cricket. Focus on that, my strengths, what I’m looking to work on, whatever it is leading up to the World Cup and beyond.”
Despite the allure of challenges ahead, Rashid says England are focused on starting the run-in to the World Cup with some good performances in the Caribbean. “The World Cup will be massive,” he said. “We’re all looking forward to that. But there’s a lot of cricket to be played before then. We can’t take this series lightly, we’re going to give it 100%.
“It is important to start any game well. We won’t look too far ahead knowing there is a World Cup and Ashes, it is still a long way away. Take it a game at a time. We’re just looking to concentrate on this West Indies series.”