Where does Gayle's 175* innings rate?
Before I advance any further regarding his recent extraordinary batting feat, it is worth recalling that Chris Gayle took a brave step a couple of years ago and launched himself at breakneck speed to a career as a T20 juggernaut.
That hand was somewhat forced due to the acrimonious and well-chronicled relationship at the time with the West Indies Cricket Board (that has now thankfully been resolved), but being the pioneer to go this route would have been racked with apprehension.
Well, for most people that is. I know Chris well through my extensive Caribbean work. He is a relaxed, single-minded and confident individual but don’t for one minute think he is a superficial bloke. He would have weighed up all the options and deeply considered his move and identified that although the risk is there, his game could be perfectly suited to the cut and thrust of the T20 stage.
He would have realised the technical changes that he would have had to make and adjusted accordingly. To turn his back on test cricket would have been tough for Gayle. We are talking about someone who had scored two triple centuries and proudly represented the West Indies in all formats. I bet he does not have any regrets now!
Gayle and his blunderbuss bat is a perfect match. If anything he has dumbed down his technique and simplified his batting approach. The big difference with Chris is that he blasts from a solid base, always with a strong core, and maintains his shape at all times.
It does help that he is tall and extremely strongly built but that was all part of his preparation for his newly chosen freelance role. His shoulders just bristle with power and his upper body strength is sufficient to send that white ball soaring out of any stadium.
Many regurgitate that bats have improved dramatically and, yes they have, the general consensus being an upward curve of about 30% in performance, but the gun players are also so much fitter and stronger. When you couple those important factors with the smaller grounds that are often used for T20 cricket, an invigorating package is presented.
Next time you marvel at Gayle’s unique ability and how he goes about his craft in this format, note his penchant for minimum footwork that is superbly compensated by his leaning weight transfer and free-flowing long levers from his 6-foot 4-inch frame. He has also perfected the art of staying deep in the crease to get under the ball for maximum effect.
This by the way was an art that was first introduced by the Pakistan batting maestro Javed Miandad during one-day death overs in the early 80s. Gayle’s strength and technique provides an ideal launching pad for jettisoning that white missile straight as opposed to opting to play across the line as mere mortals choose.
There have been a handful of monumental individual batting performances that have altered the landscape of the art that I can remember watching. The first that comes to mind was Barry Richards in World Series Cricket when he made 207 in a day for the World XI against Australia in 1978 in Perth without breaking into a sweat.
Next in my book were Kapil Dev’s 175 off 138 balls during the 1983 World Cup versus Zimbabwe and then comes Viv Richards’s 189 in 1984 at old Trafford against England.
My next noted performance is courtesy of VVS Laxman for his 281 against Australia in Kolkata in 2001 and Herschelle Gibbs got tongues wagging with his 175 off 111 balls against Australia at the Wanderers in 2006. Sachin also startled cricket heads when he scored 200 in a one-day international against South Africa at Gwalior in 2010.
It will always be challenging to rate which performance was the finest due to the different eras and conditions but for sheer ferocity and batsmanship in a modern cricketing world we have all just been fortunate to witness precision savagery of the highest order.
Take a bow Chris Gayle.
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