Gayle's late show 'devalues' Tests

Strauss voices scathing criticism of West Indies captain's attitude to game

The Great Exhibition officially begins at Lord's today. It is a cast iron certainty that it will fail to live up to the billing, but then the "Minor Exhibition of Not Much Interest" was hardly the sort of name the marketing chaps were searching for when they were cooking up a label for the long, long summer of cricket that lies ahead.

There is plenty of alluring stuff to come but another Test match between England and West Indies in the first week of May, the earliest an international game has started in this country, probably does not come into that category. The cricket-watching public, a long-suffering breed, appear to be voting with feet which are not heading for the greatest cricket ground in the world, with only 12,388 tickets for the opening day sold by last night.

In the next few days the crowd will pick up slightly – though the ground will be no more than two thirds full at any stage – but that will not erase the feeling this is all too much too soon. Nor has the suspicion been allayed that for all the public pronouncements about the primacy of Test cricket, it is not being reflected in deeds.

Andrew Strauss, England's captain, was as scathing as he could be about the decision of his counterpart, Chris Gayle, to arrive in England only 48 hours before the start of the npower Test. Gayle had delayed leaving South Africa so he could play one more match in the Indian Premier League.

England's newly anointed player of the year also mounted a plea for the integrity of Test cricket but with both players and administrators seemingly playing fast and loose with it there was abundant stony ground on which his words could fall. Between today and the end of September there are seven Test matches, 10 one-day internationals and the World Twenty20 to be negotiated.

"There's a lot to fit in so you have got to start somewhere," Strauss said. "I don't think there's too much. I think what's important is that you can play a lot of cricket but you need a break at some stage. That's something we have got look at, how we get those breaks in and a two-week break, a three-week break is not ideal."

England arrived home from the Caribbean on 5 April and most of them had no more than a fortnight away from the game. Three of the team that will start today have spent the intervening period at the Indian Premier League in South Africa.

It has been almost surreal preparation for a Test series, overshadowing the composition of the teams on another flat Lord's wicket, and the fact that England should be expected comfortably to regain the Wisden Trophy they lost in the Caribbean two months ago. Gayle, West Indies captain, seemed to stipulate exactly where this rubber and Test cricket in general stood in his scheme of things by choosing to arrive in the country only on Monday, 48 hours before he was due to toss. He has joined a team that look well off the pace.

The history of the game is littered with examples of players who have arrived in the nick of time to play in a Test match. Two months ago, Ravi Bopara took 24 hours to fly from New Zealand after he was summoned to the Caribbean to join the senior England squad and four days after arriving, still suffering from jet lag, according to the scientific manuals, scored his maiden Test hundred.

Gayle, however, chose to go to the IPL instead of playing in any of the West Indies' three warm-up games here and decided to stay to play an extra game to boot. It would be just like him to go out and score a hundred today but when he was speaking in his ultra-cool fashion yesterday it was difficult to dismiss from the mind the mantra that if you fail to prepare then you will prepare to fail.

Strauss said: "I think the important thing is that Test cricket gets the attention it deserves and that means people prepare themselves properly for any Test they play. You don't want Test cricket to be devalued in any way, shape or form and there's a line there. Certainly we wouldn't want our players to arrive two days before and we're trying to avoid going too far over that line. I think that's an important thing." Ouch.

The line presumably was five days before, England's players having arrived back from South Africa on Friday. But Strauss offered a mild and veiled recrimination about that.

"Judging from what our guys have said about the IPL they have really experienced a huge number of new things and some of that has to have rubbed off on them," he said. "For the Twenty20 World Cup it's fantastic they were there. For this Test series it's important they put all that to the back of their mind and concentrate on what they're good at Test cricket-wise. That's a bit of a challenge for them clearly but they're all good experienced players and there's no reason they can't do that."

Gayle, naturally, was unfazed. "There was no way I would have avoided coming to England, it was a must to participate in the series," he said. "It's a privilege to lead the entire nation and it's a good bunch of lads to lead."

But, of course, he will lead them when he wants to lead them and not before. Gayle being the cool dude he is seemed not to recognise the fuss his late arrival had caused. Nor was he remotely perplexed that he had not seen or faced England's two new fast bowlers, Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan. "Actually, I haven't even tasted Onions," he said.

It is to be hoped he does not make an exhibition of himself today.

First Test Pitch, weather and England fixtures

*Pitch Report

A tinge of green yesterday should not deceive anybody into thinking the surface will be anything than flat after the first morning and possibly getting better. Weather conditions, however, may persuade some to think otherwise.

*Toss?

Win it and bat.

*Weather report

Today: Warm, 20C, generally cloudy

Tomorrow: Light showers throughout the day, Max temp 16C

Friday: Mostly cloudy with sunny spells, 16C the high

Saturday: Overcast with sunny Intervals, 17C

Sunday: Broken cloud with sunny spells, possibility of rain.

*England's summer calendar

1st Test v West Indies (Today-10 May)

2nd Test v West Indies (14-18 May, Riverside)

3 ODIs v West Indies (May)

Twenty20 World Cup (5-21 June)

Five Tests v Australia (July-August)

ODI v Ireland (27 August)

7 ODIs v Australia (September)

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower