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Will KP do a Gayle?


Kevin Pietersen is all set to make a comeback to international cricket after nearly 3 months of absence. It has been in the news for some time now that KP has been reintegrated in the English squad which will be touring India for a series of 4 Tests, 2 T20Is and 5 ODIs starting next month. For now only the Test team has been announced which includes Pietersen.

He is today known as one of the two most destructive Twenty20 batsmen in the world. The other - the intimidating Chris Gayle. While both players have abilities that strike immense fear in any bowler and reduce the morale of the bowler to ashes, each also has an equal potential of single handedly changing the course of any match.

About the players:

Kevin P. Pietersen, the South African born English cricketer, has been a phenomenal player for the English side right from the time he joined their team. The English team’s reliance on Pietersen can be well understood from the fact that he played only one first-class match between 2005 and 2010, for Hampshire after which he went on to play for Surrey. His feats include scoring the fastest 1000 and 2000 ODI runs (at his time, in terms of matches) and the fastest 4000, 5000 & 7000 Test runs (at his time, in terms of number of days played). His exceptional performances and contributions to the English team have earned him titles like “The most complete batsman in cricket” (by The Times) and “England’s greatest modern cricketer” (by The Guardian). Not to forget, he also invented the famous “Switch Hit” shot.

Chris Henry Gayle, a player who appears cool and calm on the surface has had quite an opposite career. He has always been in the news, either for his ‘bowler-confidence-shattering batting’ or his controversies or his Gangnam style celebrations. After a slow start to his cricketing career, his career took a jumpstart following 3 centuries against India towards the end of 2002. From there on he never looked back. Today he is one of only four cricketers who have scored two triple centuries (317 and 333) at the international Test level. He is also one of only six cricketers to have scored 150+ in ODI cricket. He is also the first batsman to have scored a century in all three formats of international cricket. His see-and-hit style of batting has favoured him a lot in the Twenty20 format of the game. He is today regarded as one of most destructive batsmen in this format. He also played a key role in West Indies winning the 2012 ICC World Twenty20.

Performances, statistically:

While both KP and Gayle do a bit of bowling, their batting performances are something any team would want to possess.

Statistically, Chris Gayle’s strongest format is undoubtedly Twenty20 where he possesses over a 100% batting strength and scores at an average boundary rate of 57%. This means out of every 100 runs he would score at least 57 runs in boundaries. That in itself is an exceptional number. However, his batting style is such that scoring a century consistently is quite difficult. But the start that he can give to his team as an opener even if he scores around 50-75 runs, and at the pace mentioned above can be quite intimidating for the opposition. As anyone could have rightly guessed, his second best format is the ODIs where he has a batting strength of 71%. He has a 60% batting strength in the Tests. Despite these varying batting strengths, his boundary dependency rate is still around 60%-65% in these formats. On an average Gayle makes a score of 50+ every 3-4 games in any format, making him one of the most redoubtable players of the game.

KP, on the other hand, is more of a balanced player. Statistically, he has a 95% batting strength in the Twenty20 format where he scores at an average boundary rate of at least 57%. In ODIs and Tests, he has around 73% batting strength scoring nearly half of his runs in boundaries. Like a lot of other English cricketers he has a better Test record (scoring a 50+ innings every 3rd match) than ODIs and Twenty20s, where he scores a 50+ in every 4-5 innings. Pietersen’s high Rotation Rate as compared to Chris Gayle in any format, is the biggest factor which talks about his balanced style of batting. This also makes him a good middle-order batsman. He can effectively switch between stabilizing an innings and improving the team’s scoring rate, as may be the need of the situation. On the contrary, as mentioned above it can be clearly observed that Gayle’s batting style befits him as an opening batsman with an impeccable ability to hit 4s and 6s while at the same time not being vulnerable to the bowlers. Also Pietersen’s Match Winning Contribution is higher than that of Gayle’s.

An exciting thought:

Till date these two giants have only once been on the same side, but that was a long time ago in 2005. With their form and performances in recent times, it would only be an exciting scene to see both of them, play on the same side. You could have all sorts of possibilities, like bowlers refusing to bowl (as we saw with West Indies in the Twenty20 World Cup). These two could make one of the best and probably even the best lefty-righty batting pair ever.

Comeback post exclusion:

Post inclusion in the West Indies side after nearly 15 months of expulsion, Chris Gayle was reintegrated in the West Indian team to play against England in the 2nd ODI of the series. Though he scored 53 from 51, West Indies lost the match and the ODI series followed by the loss in the Twenty20 game. Later when New Zealand toured USA and West Indies, Chris Gayle invigorated the crowds with some exceptional performances which included 4 fifties, a century and a 150. West Indies would go on to beat New Zealand 2-0 in Twenty20 series, 4-1 in the ODI series and 2-0 in the Test Series. The Windies had rediscovered form and were back in the main league. Experts were also aware that this rejuvenated West Indian side could well take another World Championship back home. With high spirits and the Gayle magic, West Indies entered the ICC World Twenty20. With 222 runs in 6 innings @ 44.40 and a top score of 75* plus 3 wickets, Chris Gayle played a key role in bringing the World Championship back to the West Indies - the most perfect gift that Gayle could have given to his team and followers who backed him in those fifteen months and all throughout.

With Kevin Pietersen all set to make a ‘gun blazing comeback’ to international cricket after nearly 3 months of absence, cricket fans from all around the world have their eyes on what may be called as one of the most talked about comebacks in cricket history ever and I am not referring to the Pakistani players who have a knack of retiring and making a comeback. ECB no doubt has made a smart and timely move by reinstating Pietersen. But can he make a remarkable comeback against India is the question. I say not. While Gayle had the support of his team, Pietersen’s controversy has deteriorated his rapport with his teammates. It is going to be difficult. He might not even make it to the final XI for all the Tests. He might have done a Gangnam Style dance better than Gayle but Chris had his team with him, KP does not. The worst is he might actually perform not up to the mark and be dropped again. After all, this series is very important for England because if they do not perform well, they might even lose their 2nd position in the ICC Test Rankings considering Australia’s better chances as they host South Africa which also happens around the same time.

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