A weatherman can predict a hurricane. But can he stop one when it hurtles through his town with 250 KMPH wind speeds, leaving in its wake large debris fields of broken concrete, uprooted trees, fallen poles and upturned cars?
The damage caused by a storm is hard to contain when it hits with extreme force. One such storm that hit the Zimbabwe cricket team at Canberra is called the Gayle-storm: it’s quite difficult to contain, but a treat to watch from a safe distance where you won’t be in its path.
Chris Gayle struck the fastest double-century in a one-day international, and the first in World Cup history, smashing 16 sixes and 10 fours in his 147-ball innings against Zimbabwe. Thankfully, I am neither a weatherman nor the captain of the fielding side at the receiving end of the Gayle-force.
So, as a bowling side, what do you do when a batsman like Gayle is going berserk? How do you bowl to him? And what sort of field does one set when the Gayle-force threatens to blow you away? It all depends what sort of firepower the captain has in his arsenal.
KEEP THE STORM AT BAY.
Trust me—Gayle takes a while to settle down at the crease. And if he is still there after the fifth over, he can launch a serious onslaught. Effortlessly, he clears the boundary in the direction of long-on through to square leg, and if the ball is pitched wide outside the off stump, the Kookaburra flies over long off.
The first thing you need to do is grab any opportunity that he may offer, so every fielder needs to be on high alert, expecting every ball to come his way when Gayle is taking strike.
If you can’t take his wicket, try and restrict the number of deliveries he faces. Fortunately, this will be assisted by the West Indies batting style: dot, dot, dot, dot, dash! The men in maroon do not like to rotate the strike, and you can minimise the damage of the Gayle-force by keeping him at the non-striker’s end as much as possible.
BOWL TO A PLAN. (YEAH, EASIER SAID THAN DONE.)
If Gayle is on the attack, you have to go into damage control: batten down the hatches in order to ride out the storm. As the fielding captain, I would give my bowlers two options: stay over the wicket, and try and fire the ball in at his heels. As soon as he is able to clear his right leg, and get under any sort of length delivery, and those powerful shoulders swing the bat with such force that he usually deposits the ball into the spectators. He will probably know your game plan and try and come down the wicket at the bowler, and if he steps out early, try and take pace off the ball.
The second option would be to ask your bowlers to come around the wicket and bowl full outside the off-stump: yorkers just inside the ‘wide’ line.
Mind you, Gayle is by no means weak through the off side, but he doesn't hit sixes with the same consistency through the cover region. Again, don't be afraid to mix up the pace, as he will try to drag the slower delivery across to the leg side, and hopefully he skies one. Good luck to the fielder under that high ball!
If neither of these plans work, just pray that the Gayle winds bring heavy rains, and you can get off the field.
(Jonty Rhodes served South Africa with distinction in 52 Tests and 245 ODIs, with four World Cup appearances. The first fielding superstar of international cricket, the acrobatic Springbok took many miracle catches, a lot of them at backward point. He'll be writing for Yahoo! Cricket as their World Cup Expert.)