West Indies opener Chris Gayle step onto the outfield at the P Sara Oval on Wednesday. (Photo by Philip Spooner/WICB)

Colombo, Sri Lanka – On the eve of his 33rd birthday Chris Gayle spent part of Thursday morning answering questions from members of the media assembled for the ICC World T20, after he entertained onlookers with some stunning strokeplay. The powerful six-footer started the day with a demonstration of his strength as he hoisted several balls out of the Colts Cricket Ground when the Windies held a full training session.

According to Gayle, the pieces are falling into place as the West Indies get ready for their opening Group B contest against Australia at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. First ball on Saturday is 7:30 pm (10 am Eastern Caribbean Time/9 am Jamaica Time). The Windies arrived in Sri Lanka ten days ago after a nine-day camp at the Sagicor High Performance Centre in Barbados, and Gayle said everyone is eager to get going.

“In our team we bat right down and bowling-wise we have spinners and fast bowlers. The key for us is to get to the second round and try and take it step by step. My birthday is coming up tomorrow, but my mind is on Saturday when we face the Australians. The first game is vital. You don’t want to play catch-up cricket in T20, so it’s a very big match for us. It will also get our confidence going,” Gayle said.

The left-handed opener has dominated all three formats of the game. He has reached a triple-hundred in Test cricket on two occasions. His highest score of 333 came against Sri Lanka in Galle two years ago.

Gayle has scored a West Indies record 20 centuries in One-Day Internationals. He is also the most feared batsman in Twenty20 cricket. His 117 against South Africa at the Wanderers in 2007 is the only century by a West Indian in the shortest format and he has hit a world-record 290 sixes in 110 T20 matches.

He also gave some insight into how he goes about his game and how he does the business for West Indies.

“It takes a bit of strength work, to be honest, and once the ball is in your slot you go for it. I am sure everyone can hit a six these days. It doesn’t seem so hard these days with everybody getting big bats and clearing the boundary is easy. So it’s one of those things – you try and get a start and once you are set, you can take advantage of the conditions once you get accustomed to all the bowlers,” the Windies Number 47 said.

“It’s instinct… to be honest, you have to let the mind and body flow together. You don’t want to get stuck in a two-minded situation. You just try and be natural out there and things will actually flow for you in the end.

Gayle continued: “The key is balance. You have to have good balance to be able to hit a lot of sixes. I try and make sure and I pay special emphasis to my balance. You have to realise that bowlers aren’t always going to make it easy for you. You have to create the shots, so you have to make sure you do it well. You have to be mentally prepared as well.

“I play like this naturally. Even in Test cricket and ODIs, before T20 came around, this is how I used to play. But you learn different skills in T20 and you can take them to Tests and make a lot more runs. It adds to the fun factor as well and you realise that whatever the means necessary to score runs, you’ll do it.”

Asked about his plans for Friday, he jokingly suggested; “No real big plans… am going to spend it with the West Indies women’s team.” He added: “I’ll be 33 so I’m really looking forward to it. I’m looking to celebrate with a win over Australia on Saturday night.”