Jamaica senior team cricket coach Junior Bennett says the absence of Christopher Gayle from the 14-member squad for the NAGICO Super50 regional competition is a big blow.
Gayle, still recovering from a hamstring injury sustained on the West Indies tour of India late last year, was recently named Jamaica captain, but a subsequent medical assessment ruled out the star left-handed opener, forcing selectors to turn to David Bernard Jnr to lead the team.
The 34-year-old Gayle led Jamaica to the 50-over title in the 2007-08 season, and again two years ago.
“He’s definitely a big loss to us as a batsman and as a captain,” said Bennett in reference to Gayle’s qualities.
“The last two times we won the 50-over (competition) he was the captain. Everyone knows his quality as a One-Day player, his power and everything. To lose him at this time is a big loss.
“To the younger players in the team he was also a motivational factor. But we just have to go out there and do what we have to do,” Bennett told the Jamaica Observer newspaper.
Gayle, who has suited up for the West Indies in 99 Test matches and 255 One-Day Internationals, has played a total of 322 50-over games in his career and has notched 24 hundreds and 61 fifties at an average of 38.41.
Kenar Lewis, a powerful top-order batsman will replace Gayle in the squad. Bennett said the usually aggressive Lewis has shown improvement in his shot selection.
“He had a fairly decent (series of) trial (matches) and his cricket has been improving over the years. At the trials he had some good innings and he showed signs of batsmanship. It’s a massive opportunity for him and we just hope that he grabs it with both hands,” the veteran coach said.
Gayle was named as captain ahead of Tamar Lambert following a recommendation by the national selection panel, chaired by former batsman Wavell Hinds, that was ratified by the JCA.
Lambert, Jamaica’s most successful four-day captain, was 50-over skipper when the team fell to eventual champions the Windward Islands at last season’s semi-final stage.
The Super50 tournament, scheduled for Trinidad and Tobago, starts on Thursday with Jamaica facing the Windwards in the Zone A clash at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain in the opening game.
David Bernard Jnr (Captain), Nikita Miller (Vice-captain), Kenar Lewis, John Campbell, Nkrumah Bonner, Jermaine Blackwood, Horace Miller, Andre McCarthy, Tamar Lambert, Andre Russell, Carlton Baugh, Andrew Richardson, Sheldon Cottrell, Jerome Taylor.