Chris Gayle is undoubtedly the hardest hitter of the cricket ball in modern cricket. Ever since he started playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, he became a force to reckon with in the shortest version of the game and also a nightmare for the bowlers across the world.
Gayle’s natural play is to get after the bowler from the first ball. No matter which team you support, you got to sympathise with the bowler when he is bowling to the swashbuckling left-hander.
But considering the fact that Gayle can accelerate the pace of his innings as per his own will, at any given point in a match, the teams now want him to bat through 20 overs, which is possibly not the right strategy. Even while he played for Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore, team owner Vijay Mallya said in a post match interview, that he wanted him to bat throughout the innings.
When West Indies played their first two matches against India and Bangladesh in the ongoing ICC World T20, their think tank probably wanted the left-hander to bat with a similar kind of approach. Windies got off to a bad start against India, because Gayle managed to score 33 runs off 34 balls. Against Bangladesh, his batting was even worse as he scored run-a-ball 48. It wasn’t the Gayle, we have seen over the years, as he was looking to rotate the strike and defend. And after he had faced too many deliveries, he looked under pressure to go for the big hits, and was dismissed while doing so.
It was only against Australia, that Gayle got back into his groove. The first two balls he faced went without scoring, and the next four from Mitchell Starc were sent for boundaries all across the ground. There was no stopping for Gayle from there onwards and he laid a solid foundation for the Windies. Once he played his natural game, the other big hitters in the squad also batted with a positive mindset as the Darren Sammy-led side chased down their highest total in T20 internationals, in an emphatic style.
The strategy to restrain Gayle from playing his natural game early in the innings, can backfire. When at times Gayle consumes too many balls, the batsman at the non-striker’s end gets dismissed in order to do most of the scoring. And when wickets fall at regular intervals, even Gayle doesn’t make up his mind when to attack and when to put the brakes.
Gayle should be told to play his natural game no matter what the situation is, as West Indies have enough fire power in their batting department to chase down any total. Thus, the responsibility of Gayle should be to make the best use of the first six overs of the power play. He can play with a free mind, when he knows he has the license to kill and also with ten wickets remaining, he can unleash the powerful strokes from his repertoire early in the innings.
In case if the team management asks him to bat with a cautious approach, that will not only kill the expectations of thousands of fans who come to watch him bat, but also dent West Indies’ chances of defending their T20 title despite being a formidable side.