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It ain't easy being Chris Gayle

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Chris_Gayle_cricket_West_Indies.jpgIt isn't easy being one Christopher Henry Gayle. The mighty batsman from Kingston Jamaica has been competing in the international arena for well over 15 years. Starting way back in 1999 when a rather short haired skinny lad broke out on the international scene and alarmed bowlers, only just with that straight bat approach of playing the gentleman's game, Chris Gayle has turned an old man in the context of the rigors of the international game. It's been one hell of a ride for the muscular lefty who has had to deal with fitness and health concerns and a rather bumpy form, whose straying from the willow has caused both Gayle and his struggling Windies many a game.

But, at the same time, the West Indies, one of the poorest cricket teams in the world, both in terms of finances and their form and consistency should feel lucky to have had the services of this record breaking calypso bat. For his flamboyance, cool and unflustered mannerisms, and a calmingly mature outlook to deal with intense match situations, Gayle has been accorded great respect for his outstanding accomplishments in the game. His stay for over 103 tests and nearly 270 one day's from which he has scored over 7100 runs in tests and around 9200 from the ODI's, many of which have come lazily by way of power-packed boundaries and lofty sixes, Gayle has given more to a team that could have ever given him.

Chris Gayle's place in a paralyzed Windies

If you juxtaposition the West Indies against their contemporaries and put them under an unbiased but brutal operative lens of honesty, then you will, in most likelihood run into many complexities that exist in a nation deprived of their earlier glories. Amongst the most pathetically performing teams in international cricket, one which accumulates wins at the pace of a turtle's in a race while competing against a rabbit, their deterioration in both forms of the game, save the mindless but jubilant triumphs they have earned in T20, speak very little of their promise and talent with which their players compete.

Gayle and his indomitable record in ODI's

In the limited over arena, where Gayle's 19 hundreds are the highest ever scored from the present lot of their inconsistent batsmen, his 9000 plus runs have come up against some of the nastiest fast bowlers on their day. His handling of Dale Steyn and Lasith Malinga and some of top class quality spinners such as Harbhajan, Ashwin, Anjantha Mendis and Vettori, all world class competitors have often seen him lock himself up in a shell of concentration, an early exit from which would often dispel Windies' hopes of seizing any realistic chances.

He isn't the most technically correct batsman to have played for Windies nor the most effective in the one day arena. Not an astute thinker like Kallis or Dravid and lagging behind the majestic Lara who would turn the game on his own thanks to his sublime technique and gift of timing or that of Chanderpaul, whose dogged determination stamped a regale authority over his batting abilities, Gayle eventually succeeded by combining a rhetorical methodology of playing an inning with that of his immense self-belief. Chris's philosophy of unleashing upon bowlers a surprise attack has put a stylish undertone to the Gayle form of batting: attack is the best form of defense.

Perhaps one may do well to notice the above in the light of his exploits in the World Cup concluded earlier this year. His 215 run knock might have come against a less than formidable Zimbabwean bowling unit but the manner in which he took the attack on his own hands, taking around 2 to 3 overs to set himself in before starting to send bowlers flying all over the park set the right tone to his Windies' innings. By the end of their 50 overs, West Indies, sorry, Chris Gayle had piled up the runs with Samuels, dishing out an illustrious 372 run partnership out at Canberra's Manuka Oval. The World media especially from his native West Indies were begging for forgiveness having ruled out before the start of the game that Gayle was done and dusted and the mighty Jamaican was stroking his beard calmly in admiration after his team registered an important victory, consolidating their position after the last game's triumph over Pakistan.

An accomplished Test batsman

At times, in test matches, it seems there is a clear lack of application and on most occasions, that of intent, to survive the rigor of 5 days from the part of Chris Gayle's infamous West Indies. On most occasions, when not being saved by Gayle, who now doesn't feature in tests anymore like the recently axed Chanderpaul, one can find their players grabbing beer before the round up of a test game in a pub, still deliberating about a party that they can hang on to for the sake of enjoyment rather than sitting together to understand and diagnose their spiral fall down south. The West Indies' test team is a blood brother of their embarrassing test match avatar. While they are moody and devastatingly unpredictable in the 50 over game, at times sending the likes of even an India or Australia toward their downfall, their test side is anything but indicative of resolve, commitment and work ethic, a pristine quality which defines most of their world class opponents.

You might argue that the likes of Jason Holder and Kraigg Brathwaite along with the "Lara"esque Bravo are vast improvements from some of their nightmarish talents in the more recent past, but had it not been for the exploits of Gayle and the current top batsman Samuels, we would have surely seen the West Indies right at the bottom of the ICC's test rankings.

Chris Gayle, who very recently announced a literal unexpressed retirement from tests considering his frequent back problems, preferring to elongate what is left of his withering body for shorter versions of the game over that of the grilling test format, has been West Indies' top scorer in the last decade. He has to his credit two outstanding triple centuries, each against South Africa (317 in Antigua in 2005) and versus Sri Lanka (333 at Sri Lanka in 2009). This makes him the only other Windies batsman to score two triple tons in a famous league that has Lara, his glorious predecessor and one under whose wings he honed his craft. The mighty Jamaican, who has to his credit a famous 165 run knock, a knock where he derailed the threat of  defeat staring right at Windies, at Adelaide during their 2009-10 series earned him many fans and their respect. He was to follow up with a knock that went down in record books as the fifth fastest test century, earning the not so mighty Windies some pride amidst their torrid test match weaknesses. He was out of action owing to persistent back troubles in 2010, 2011 seasons and came with elan into the national test side, thundering a 150 run knock against New Zealand at home. Yes, there wasn't a Trent Boult then in the Kiwi eleven, but Tim Southee and Vettori were enough to disregard the Windies who went on to draw level at home in 2012.

The Chris Gayle we love, the enigma West Indies knows

Nowhere near his peak but hardly ever seeming below par when it comes to digging something special from within, the 36 year old batsman may be driving the final few laps in his checkered cricketing career.

Given his ability to shine at the big match situation, Chris Gayle has often dissected his personality into three clear compartments; that of a giant sized rebel who doesn't care a darn about the WICB, the other being that of a cautious willower who takes pleasure in seeing his opponents bit the dust and finally, the avatar of a brutal batsman who plays to enjoy the game, rather than the riches and accolades that accompany success on the 22 yards.

At times, it seems that only a batsman of the capability of say a Yuvraj Singh, an AB or Gayle himself can tether bowling attacks with customary ease that truly makes cricket a batsman's game. While Yuvraj's epic show in 2011 World cup left little to imagination as that of his consecutive 6 hitting show in the inaugural T20 world cup, De Villiers has inspired awe, everywhere he has played with elan. His most defining successes in limited over cricket have come against the Windies, where as recently in March 2015, during their tie against South Africa, Gayle saw as did the spectators an AB special. De Villiers' 162 that came off just 66 deliveries commanded imposing will over Gayle's hapless Windies. But, Gayle who couldn't do anything special to justify his glorious name in the Windies eleven has clearly struck some logic defying glories with his bat in both T20 and limited over cricket.

In the same tournament where Yuvraj showed Stuart who clearly was broad and tough between the two with his 6 hitting extravaganza, it was Gayle who struck T20's first ever hundred, a sublime 117 versus South Africa. This knock that came off just 57 deliveries featured 10 mighty sixes, some of them straight over a hapless Ntini's head. De Villiers, who watched perplexed from the bowling end could contribute 16 from the bat.

As recently in 2014 year ending series at South Africa, Chris Gayle helped Windies win a titanic duel with one of their arch enemies. Windies who were taken to pieces, thanks to Du Plesses' classy maiden T20 hundred had to chase 232 off 20 overs. Thanks to Gayle's close friend Samuels', also his chief destructor in charge of winning many games for their home side, Chris managed to score a towering 90 off 41 deliveries, hitting 9 sixes in total. One is sure that De Villiers would have taken note of this heroic exploit as did the worried Indians and an ecstatic Lara who was sure that the upcoming World Cup would see a Chris Gayle show. Alas, that was never to be.

But, even managing to put up a stellar show, at times not from the dizzying heights attained by his bat but by his hysterically funny on pitch shenanigans, Gayle has an element of awe inspiring talent that moves one to jump about as much as it teases to anticipate some further glories, one that can only be expected from the man of Christopher Henry Gayle's class.

 


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