Chris Gayle lauded Virat Kohli as a “world beater” on Tuesday but warned that the West Indies were ready to upset hosts India in their World Twenty20 semi-final this week.
Kohli has excelled so far at the tournament and hit an unbeaten 82 to lead India to an improbable victory over Australia in a do-or-die final group match on Sunday.
The 27-year-old’s exploits led Indian great Kapil Dev to describe him as “a genius with the bat”, while some commentators even went as far as drawing parallels with the legendary Sachin Tendulkar.
Big-hitting Gayle said the form of Kohli, who is the highest scorer of players still in the tournament with 184 runs, was “no surprise” and jokingly urged him not to fire on all cylinders on Thursday.
“I have said it over the years that he is going to be the world beater he is today,” Gayle told reporters in Mumbai ahead of the last-four clash at the Wankhede Stadium.
“I am hoping, please don’t fire, Virat. He can still get runs but for a losing cause. We’ll be happy with that as well,” joked Gayle, 36.
Kohli also steered his side to victory over arch-rivals Pakistan earlier in the tournament with a composed half century, but Gayle stressed that the Windies wouldn’t direct their efforts solely towards India’s talisman.
“We are not going to focus on only Virat, there are so many match-winners there and anyone of them can actually fire on any particular day,” he said.
“It is very difficult to pinpoint one particular player in the Indian team. It is a very good all-round team, a good fielding team as well.
“That’s why India are the favourites. It is always going to be difficult to beat them here. But like I said, West Indies are ready for an upset,” Gayle added.
The destructive left-hander smashed a 47-ball century that included 11 sixes in the Windies’ opening-match win over England, but he has failed to reach those heights since as the Caribbean team topped Group One.
A hamstring injury meant Gayle didn’t bat against Sri Lanka, while he only made four runs against South Africa before being rested for the defeat to Afghanistan.
But Gayle said he was “mentally prepared” for whatever India have to throw at him as the Windies seek to continue their bid for a second World T20 title after their 2012 triumph.
They will have to overcome India without top-order batsman Andre Fletcher, however.
The 28-year-old, who scored 84 not out in the West Indies’ win over Sri Lanka, has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament after injuring his right hamstring in Sunday’s match against Afghanistan.
He has been replaced in the squad by Lendl Simmons, the International Cricket Council said in a statement late Tuesday.