Chris Gayle might be synonymous with the shortest form of the game but the explosive West Indies opener fears for the future of test cricket among the sport's lower-ranked nations.
Three years after making the startling admission that he would not be saddened if test cricket died, Gayle has softened on his views on the game's most traditional format, saying he still regarded it as the pinnacle of the sport. ''It is, and that won't change,'' he said.
Fresh from a test and ODI series against Bangladesh, the former Windies skipper wants his team to be given more chances against the elite test-playing nations.
The world No 7 Windies host Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in two-match series next year before a trip to New Zealand, and must wait until early 2014 for their next chance to tackle a top-four nation.
The Windies were competitive against Australia and England this year but succumbed to 2-0 defeats. They are on a four-game winning streak after victories against New Zealand and Bangladesh.
''[Test cricket] has changed from the point of view that the lower-ranked teams are playing each other more and not given the chance to play against the top-ranked teams to create points and be up there and have a crack at the No 1 position,'' Gayle said. ''They're the changes I'm seeing right now. I think we're going to struggle there in test cricket.
''To get to the No 1 position is going to be a hell of a leap to get across that hurdle. Sometimes if you do play a lower-ranked team you can even lose points by winning the series. It's very tricky. I don't know what the future holds for the lower-ranked teams in test cricket, to be honest ... it's a bit divided. Some big teams you won't see for a year or two.''
Gayle, who ended a 19-month test hiatus earlier this year, declared he was still enjoying the five-day game. ''Once the body can't continue then I'll make it known, but for now I'm still having a crack at it and see how long I can go and contribute for West Indies cricket,'' he said.
Gayle arrived in Sydney on Wednesday to start his duties with the Thunder, who claimed the wooden spoon last season in the Big Bash League, and are again unfancied this summer.
But Gayle believes the Thunder have built an improved list, particularly in the batting stocks where the arrival of Mark Cosgrove and Azhar Mahmood have given them some extra firepower.
Gayle, however, remains the team's main drawcard on and off the field, and attempted to coin his own nickname for the tournament.
''Golden-arm man, I'm the golden arm,'' Gayle said. ''Hopefully this time can be different [to last season] and everybody can be more relaxed and express themselves freely and enjoy the game.''
One of the stars of the first Big Bash, Gayle enters the tournament following a lean run in Bangladesh where he failed to pass 50 in each of his 10 international innings across the three formats.
''I definitely think I'm due; it wasn't the best series I had in Bangladesh,'' said Gayle, whose most notable contribution on the tour was becoming the first man in test history to hit the opening ball of a game for six.
The Thunder, handsomely beaten by cross-town rivals Sydney Sixers last weekend, will play Melbourne Renegades at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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