Christopher Henry Gayle! Well, just call him Chris. If not, by the time you finish pronouncing his full name, the ball would be lost beyond the stadium roof.
At 33, he sports a T-shirt with the number 333, his highest Test score. Probably, with the Orange Cap firmly perched on his head with 432 runs, it would be tough for any one to snatch it away from him for the third successive year.
In a matter of two years, 2011 and 2012 to be precise, Gayle has become a household cricketing name. The highest run-getter in the two previous seasons – the highest six-hitter too, Chris is well on the way to immortality in the shortest format much as Don Bradman is in Test cricket.
Somehow the purple and gold that he sported in his Kolkata days, did not bring out the best in him. But the moment he changed to the red and gold of Bangalore, Chris’ towering personality grew in stature. So much so that a no-Gayle show in Bangalore is reckoned a no-show.
Statistics convey a lot about his batting prowess. But his true magic cannot be enjoyed by sheer numbers. At 6’ 3” in his socks, long hair that pops out of his helmet or cap, a scarf tied around perhaps to absorb the sweat from his helmet, Gayle makes for an imposing figure. His height gives him a rare reach and nothing can get past him, should he decide to put timber to leather.
Instantly, the spectators reckon that an entertainer par excellence is walking up. Gayle hasn’t disappointed them often, though he has failed in some crunch games, like the IPL and the Champions League finals two seasons ago. The most significant aspect of his power game is the ease with which he sends the ball soaring. With a minimum of movement, a flick of the wrist and a short lunge, Gayle can dispatch the ball to any part of the stadium he wishes.
Captains are at their wits’ end to set a field. Bowlers swipe the dripping sweat from their brows, colleagues run up to pat them on their backs and encourage them from the discouragement dished out so mercilessly by him. But nothing changes.
Yet, Gayle has always paid due respect to the opponent bowlers, never trying anything fanciful. For a man who can convert the best of balls into bad ones, it must come as a compliment to any bowler should he choose to dead-bat them.
Gayle has also played according to the situation. If there is a need to keep his end going, Gayle will. He showed that against Rajasthan when he hit only one six to finish off the game in the end.
Way back in 1968, another more illustrious compatriot, Sir Garfield Sobers hit every ball off Malcolm Nash’s over for a six. “It’s still talked about,” Nash had said a couple of years ago. Well, Gayle has given that treatment to so many bowlers and it’s going to be talked about for even longer maybe.