Joined: 17 February 2010
He isn't too
eager to play front foot cover drive at first opportunity even if the fielders
are inside the circle. Still, he has managed to score seven T20 hundreds. Don't
dub him as T20 player. He has got two Test triple hundreds likeDon Bradman, Brian
Lara and Virender Sehwag.
That's Christopher Henry Gayle for you. Phenomenon of modern-day batting.
Are bowlers all over the world fools not to exploit Gayle's allergy against the cover drive? Is that the reason why he's not that comfortable against off-spinners?
We will come to that. But first see Gayle's initial feet movement.
Former Maharashtra player and Level III coach Mandar Dalvi said: "His feet are unbelievably still till the ball is delivered from the bowler's hand."
Now, look at his stance. "He takes leg-stump guard. And remains there almost till eternity," said Dalvi. "That's why he hardly gets out lbw."
A quick glance at Gayle's types of dismissals suggest Dalvi is right. In 20 T20 internationals, he is lbw just once, off Dale Steyn on the leg stump.
In 99 T20 games, he has been lbw just nine times. And five times in 35 IPL games.
His majority of lbw dismissals came against off-spinners. But most off-spinners don't have a heart to toss it up to him. Most captains can't attack Gayle with off-spinner in the powerplay overs.
And after the powerplay, Gayle gets his eye in and dagger out against any bowler. Plus single is there for the taking against off-spinner once the field is spread out.
Former chairman of national selectors Kiran More said, "Gayle is special because he is a Test player and scored two triple hundreds. His position at the crease and balance is superb. Excellent bat swing. Plus he is smart and uses his brain."
Current national selector Surendra Bhave said: "Gayle's USP is still head position and clean batswing."
Gayle gets out bowled more often because he goes for his shots and doesn't use his feet and second form of defence. But not getting out and scoring runs at a brisk pace are two different things altogether. And that too considering he is not a great reader of length and bowlers' mind. But he does two things exceedingly well: hand-eye co-ordination and see-the-ball-hit-the-ball technique.
Former Mumbai coach and World Cup winner Balwinder Singh Sandhu said: "Every batsman has his strengths. It's not necessary to possess a cover drive. Gayle is a smart cricketer who sticks to his strengths and gets his runs in his areas."
Out of 10 good batsmen, almost all are more than eager to play cover drive to an over-pitched ball. That's a bread and butter shot for them. But 32-year-old Gayle uses it sparingly. But how does the Jamaican tackle those balls which are meant to be cover driven? Well, he plays them over the bowler's head or uppishly in the 'V' over a fielder in the circle. That's almost like a baseball hit with diagonal bat. He has a second shot for that type of ball too: fierce slap drive from the backfoot, preferably past mid-off.
When the ball is bowled in the same line but tad short of length, he pushes it around cover point for a single.
The key to most of his big shots is getting that swivel of the bat right. Though he doesn't take a wild swing or jaw-dropping follow-through, he packs quite a punch. "Once his front foot remains on or outside leg stumps, he has enough room to move his bat," said Dalvi, who has been on the coaching staff of MPL team, Vidarbha and Jammu & Kashmir.
If you bowl outside the off-stump, he gets enough width from that position. If you bowl within the stumps, he uses the bottom hand to dispatch you in front of the wicket. And if he is in the mood, he even takes a single!
And there is no one on the planet who hits flattish sixes like him. Gayle has taken his un-classical batting to the unprecedented level. He gives us a chance to openly applause cruelty.
Gayle in figures
13 Test hundreds, 19 ODI hundreds, and breath easy, seven T20 hundreds.
T20 mayhem: career strike rate: 154.70 over 97 innings @ mind-boggling 41.02. That's shade better than his ODI average and almost same as his Test average.
T20 boundaries: 283 fours and 241 sixes. In his book, not much difference between a four and six.
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