Christopher Henry Gayle, ever since he struck that magnificent 117(57) in the opening game of the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa, has registered himself as the most feared and loved limited-overs batsman in world cricket. Team India’s success in the 2007 T20 World Cup led to the birth of the most lucrative T20 league till date – the IPL, which has been a terrific breeding ground for Gayle barring the 2008 season. He has developed a huge fan-base in India and has done so in Bangladesh as well, having played for the Barisal Burners and Dhaka Gladiators in the Bangladesh Premier League. So, when Gayle is at the crease, it’s not surprising to see the opposition fans enjoying a ‘Gayle masterclass’.
Coming to the bone of contention of this article, Gayle hasn’t been at his usual self in this edition of the World T20 so far. Having struggled to get his timing right and consumed a bucket load of deliveries, he hasn’t found the going easy, so far. We take a look at a couple of factors that have tied down Gayle from striking those colossal maximums, which he is renowned for.
I just get the feeling that opening with Dwayne Smith has made the left-hander from Jamaica a bit unclear about his role: should he go hammer and tongs from ball no.1, or should he just rotate the strike and let Smith, who himself is a delicious striker of the cricket ball, face more deliveries?
In the last couple of IPL seasons, Gayle did take his time to get into his groove, but he made up for it. In the current edition of the tournament, though, he hasn’t quite taken off at the rate like he did during the IPL. Having to partner Dwayne Smith is a primary factor in Gayle not quite being his usual self.
Gayle literally clobbers the cricket ball with all the power he has in those massive muscles of his, but what goes unnoticed is that he actually meets the ball crisply, consequently enabling himself in dismissing the ball from his presence. Like any batsman who strikes the ball hard, Gayle, too, enjoys the ball coming on to the bat and relies on true pace and bounce in the surface. With bowlers like Amit Mishra, Ravichandran Ashwin and Shakib Al-Hasan all finding the right lengths and pace to bowl at the hard-hitting left hander, his confidence has been shaken up.
Mishra, the other day, never provided pace in his deliveries, and hence Gayle was forced to stretch, which subsequently led to the miscued sweep shot that was eventually dropped by Yuvraj Singh at deep mid-wicket. Furthermore, Ashwin and Mishra didn’t fear slowing the pace down, thereby inviting Gayle to stretch far forward to play his natural game. I thought it was brilliant on the part of the Indian spin duo to come up with something as audacious as that.
During his best knocks in the IPL, Chris Gayle might have taken a liking to the spinners like Rahul Sharma and Piyush Chawla, who took the route of darting it in at the rate of knots and ended up disappearing into the stands on a consistent basis. But every time a spinner has had the willingness to slow it down, and even give the ball a bit of air, they’ve forced Gayle into an uncomfortable zone. Let us not forget the assistance from the surface in Mirpur, which promises true pace and bounce, but is anything like it.
From the game’s welfare and global reach’s point of view, the ICC would be hoping that the real Chris Gayle can bring his A-game to the fore sooner than later, but I just think that India and Bangladesh might have conjured up something magical that has stemmed the ‘Gayle storm’ rather easily.