Beach, six-hitting all enjoyment for carefree Gayle

Gros Islet (St. Lucia), Jan 21 (IANS/CMC) Only a few days ago, Chris Gayle was lying on a beach in Jamaica soaking up warm mid-January sunshine and unwinding from a difficult Australian Big Bash League (BBL).

There were no thoughts of the ongoing Caribbean Twenty20 in St Lucia after not being considered for the Jamaica squad because of his contractual obligations to Sydney Thunder, reports CMC.

All it took was a single phone call and Gayle got dressed, picked up his gear and exchanged the tranquillity of the shoreline for the intensity of the cricket field. The rest, as they say, is history.

He announced his arrival with an awesome 85 against Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) Friday before unveiling a breathtaking unbeaten 122 off 61 balls in the playoff final against Guyana, albeit in a losing cause Saturday.

"When I came back from Australia I only spent two days in Jamaica and then I had to travel again. I spent a few days on the beach with family and then I got the call and had to jump on a plane to come here and play cricket," Gayle said.

"I am a cricketer and once you're a professional and you prepare yourself mentally for the unexpected, I'm sure you can still do well."

Gayle struggled with uncharacteristically poor form in the BBL, accumulating just 137 runs from seven innings, at an average of just over 19. His highest score came in his final innings, 65 against Melbourne Stars.

Revelling in the Caribbean, Gayle shook off his lethargy to blast four fours and nine sixes to decimate a hapless CCC attack at the Beausejour Cricket Stadium.

"[It] felt good to be back here in the Caribbean playing cricket. It was a tough challenge for me out there to get 85 runs. The first over was, I don't really know how to describe it but I was just happy I got through it and was able to take it from there," Gayle explained.

In both innings, Gayle traded mainly in sixes. During his hundred against Guyana, he added another 12 sixes - including the longest of the tournament which measured 112 metres off leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo.

Gayle said his phenomenal six-hitting powers had more to do with balance than brute strength.

"You need good balance. I was in the gym so I feel strong and that helped as well. You have to set the foundation when you're batting, the balance is key. The bat that you use is key as well, you need a good bat in your hand and once you have that right, the ball can travel a long way," he said.

Jamaica's six-wicket defeat at the penultimate stage of the tournament meant the end of the Gayle entertainment show. He will pack up and return to Jamaica but on this occasion there will be no time for leisure.

In another few days, he will again exchange the familiarity of the Caribbean for the cricketing cauldrons of Australia when West Indies do battle with the hosts in five One-Day Internationals and one Twenty20.

The left-hander anticipates tough time for West Indies but believes the Caribbean side has the mettle and know-how required, to prevail.

"It will be a challenge for us. Playing Australia in Australia is never easy but five ODIs, I think we will be looking to get the better of them in this format. We want to get off to a good start. It will be key for us to cash in on those first few games but once we get in and get accustomed to the conditions, [we should do well], he said.

"The good thing about it is that a couple of our guys have been down there already and hopefully that can help the team as well in terms of utilising the conditions and sharing their experience with others."

--IANS/CMC

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