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Chris Gayle finally flexes his muscles

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Chris Gayle_West Indies_cricketIt isn't easy being a West Indies cricket fan. It can be a whirlwind journey of many emotions and heart stopping moments. You have to stand in long passages of time before the team brings you something exquisite and truly joyful. The team can certainly take their admirers and believers world over on a cataclysmic route before they manage to scoop a memorable success, one that lasts longer than their span of continuous bashings. This usually happens after a series of events that seem to be structured in a chronological order. First, the West Indies begin to lose some form which usually leads to less than average outings with the bat. If the batsmen somehow manage to chip in with useful contributions, then the bowlers completely hit hard with an indifferent seam that doesn't quite help their performances. The immediate aftermath of their poor showing on the field suddenly transpires into a harsh bruising of words, all deriding them on every aspect of the game. Their veterans who mostly remain unreachable at the advent of a spirited resurgence, appear out of nowhere to reflect on their glorious past and that how the youngsters have let go of that burning passion. Commentators, analysts and the goofiest of critics sing in unison spelling Caribbean doom. When on song during their loss of form, heavyweights like Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels all seem brittle and uninspiring against bowlers who are yet to be sugar-coated as being amongst the world's best. The performance being jaded and out of sorts can still be dealt with but it is their morale and team spirit that gets the biggest jolt. For people who are aware of their era of dominance, there cannot be a more painful sight than that of the playing eleven crawling on the cricket field with shoulders drooped and confirming another shattering loss. Often does one find the Windies presenting themselves to the opposition like lambs out for manslaughter.

Then suddenly out of nowhere, the team manages to find their way out of the hell of average performances by tussling a great deal in winning a one off match or perhaps a solitary tie having lost the full series. By then, though they become the favourite bunnies of critics who make headlines tossing their reputation, the home side succeeds in showing that lost smile and then newspapers report in bold that - The West Indies have turned a corner. Showing torrid rebuke to this preconceived notion, Michael Holding a few days ago absolutely lambasted a local Aussie newspaper that had reaffirmed this notion with the team upstaging Pakistan in a near one sided affair. Where is the consistency and that spark Mikey asked? Even that 160 run win over Pakistan didn't convince the former legend of a certain Windies revival. Worst, Sir Richards shared similar thoughts in local Windies news. But, what about the team, one asks? Were they certain that their worst form in the recent past had ended having triumphed over a relatively powerful one day side?

Jason Holder seemed to have been hiding his uncertainty about his team behind that nervous smile at the after match presentation ceremony. He couldn't have asked more from elder statesman Darren Sammy or of Denesh Ramdin and their most unexpectedly consistent bat thus so far- Lendl Simmons. After all there was much at stake given the dismal showing of the West Indies top order. Not one or two but three failures by all top three batsmen aren't a positive sign after all given the format of the tournament. You could spare a thought for Samuels who has been scoring heavily for about a year but how could you possibly avoid throwing an indifferent look at a certain Chris Gayle? If the last outings with the bat do not quite project his dry form where scores of 4 and 36 have hardly excited statisticians or favoured his home side, then the ordinary outing in South Africa can be considered as an instance of the big man's dismal form where he didn't manage to score even a fifty. Everyone had thought that given the jovial and happy go lucky nature of the brute batsman, he would do well to put this torrid past behind him, even if it had never occurred to him that he had failed to score a hundred in last 19 innings with the bat!

Come Tuesday and the crucial game versus Zimbabwe, a side that very nearly gave South Africans a run for their money, managing to score over 275 in their chase, the West Indies was a side with intent and a certain hunger to denounce their often criticized casual approach. For a change they won the toss and the focus once again was that man in the middle- Christopher Henry Gayle. Just as he helplessly saw Smith loose his timber to an incoming delivery that seemed to have kept low, Gayle would have been concerned thinking of the surprising knack of the Zimbabweans to upset key batsmen. Realizing that this had already been tagged as an average tournament for him with the bat, there couldn't have been a better time or perhaps an evenly balanced opponent for Gayle to recuperate from the reticence of his willow, by surging ahead with positivity. At best his fans and his side would have expected him to go past a fifty since big scores just weren't cut out from his bat it had seemed. But, what transpired at the end of the West Indies' innings was literally jaw dropping. The mighty Chris Gayle, went on to make 4 fifties in the score of one, managing to go past the seemingly unimagined double hundred and on his way to some record break statistics. At 215 with 16 sixes, Chris Gayle had moon-walked within to the merciless big hitting cavalier Jamaican that the world was accustomed to see. He started slow, rotated the strike and kept off from the desire to go for big hitting strokes at the early stages of the game, something which Gayle doesn't quite often do in a one day knock.

When he first lifted the bat upon completion of his fifty, it seemed he still was searching for a lot of answers within. Then on his hundred, he still seemed a batsman curious to extract more from his talent and might. The fire was beginning to set in the big man was cutting lose. Every run scored from there on upon the completion of the ton around the 40th over was carved with a typical Chris Gayle signature thumping on it. All of a sudden, the huge heaves over long on and mid wicket were back, giving company to the hoisted blows over mid off and long off region. Gayle wasn't just back, his bat was roaring. Giving him company was the stylish Marlon Samuels who played the patient game before accumulating runs in only boundaries and sixes post the 46th over. Marlon wouldn't have been too surprised to have gone out to the middle so early within the first over, since Smith doesn't leave much to imagination. Together, the Jamaican duo put on a world record stand of 372, which is the highest of all times in one day internationals, surpassing the previous best of 331 put on by Dravid and Tendulkar. But, there was something more to this Gayle inning. How many times has one seen him carry the bat to the very last ball of the inning? He did it this time having opened the innings. In an amazing show scripted as much by brawny power as my mental toughness, Gayle the potent threat to Zimbabwe was a man conscious of the growing concern of his fans and that of his team about his hugely indifferent form with the bat. Jokes over social media demanded him to be given a retirement package since scoring runs was seeming like an occurrence from the distant past.

It seemed that a big knock was in the offing but how big was always the question. None could have predicted such a pretty outing for the smiling Jamaican who since the start of him taking guard till the dismissal on the last ball seemed like a man who was eager to give back some joy to his fans from which he has collected such warm love. What the critics make of this inning still remains to be seen. Whether they will dub Gayle's knock as a one match wonder or yet another convincing example of Windies having turned a corner, will still draw evocative reactions from the likes of Holding, Richards and company. But for now, it seems there is only one confirmation. Chris Gayle has begun to enjoy what he does the best- dancing down the pitch. After all, he has much to do with the expectations to sizzle on Gangnam style resting heavily on those tired muscles. This has been a musical night and Gayle the best orchestrator.



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