The Windies big-hitting opener tweaked a hamstring while fielding against Sri Lanka on Sunday night and was dropped down to number six, much to the disappointment of the Bangalore crowd.
Gayle’s services weren’t required as replacement opener Andre Fletcher hit 84 not out to power the Windies to a seven-wicket victory.
It was the West Indies’ second win of the tournament after a Gayle century, which included 11 sixes, inspired them to a six-wicket triumph over England in their opening match.
They sit top of Group One on four points and a defeat of South Africa in Nagpur would see them become the second team to qualify for the last four, after New Zealand.
Gayle and Fletcher are expected to open the Windies’ with Johnson Charles moving down.
“I’ve opened the batting with him on many occasions so I know what sort of a player he is, he is very dangerous and he’s capable of getting big scores as well,” Gayle said of Fletcher.
South Africa desperately need a victory after picking up one win from two games as they bid to show the world that they have what it takes to clinch a first international trophy.
They are yet to get up to full-steam after a stunning opening defeat to a record 230-run chase by England was followed by a win over minnows Afghanistan, leaving them precariously placed in third spot, two points behind England.
If South Africa fail to beat the Windies then England would be in pole position to qualify from the group going into the last round-robin game.
The Proteas’ preparations were dealt a blow after all-rounder JP Duminy was ruled out of the match with a hamstring injury he picked up in the 37-run win over Afghanistan on Sunday.
The right-arm spinner, who bats left-handed, has been in fine form, making scores of 54 and 29 without being dismissed.
“JP is a big player for us. Not having him is a big blow and does upset the balance of the side,” South Africa coach Russell Domingo said in quotes carried by Cricinfo.
The absence of Duminy however means the tournament debut of Aaron Phangiso’s new bowling action.
The left-arm slow bowler was cleared to play just days before South Africa left for India after it was earlier announced that he had been banned from bowling in domestic cricket.
Domingo said spin was going to be important in Nagpur and that he was confident Phangiso would get “game time”.
South Africa (from): Faf du Plessis (captain), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, Imran Tahir, Chris Morris, David Miller, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, David Wiese.
West Indies (from): Darren Sammy (captain), Samuel Badree, Sulieman Benn, Carlos Braithwaite, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder, Ashley Nurse, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Evin Lewis.