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Saturday, 6 October 2012

15 Reasons Why Gayle is a Legend

Christopher Henry Gayle, the big Jamaican, has established himself as a legend of the shortest format of cricket. His batting average of over 44 in T20s is enabled largely by his 306 big hits over the fence, some bigger than his fellow country man, Usain Bolt's, favourite distance!

Gayle wrecks havoc when he gets going and is undoubtedly the biggest nightmare for bowlers and their captains. He fills stadiums everywhere he plays, with fans all over the world eager to witness the "Gaylestorm". T20 record books have new chapters and statisticians remain ecstatic each time he steps out to bat. With his consistency in the format, he may well remain the best T20 specialist batsman for a long time.

But what makes him so special? What sets him apart and above the other big hitters of the game? His strength and power, ultra-cool demeanour and that tree trunk of a bat, while impossible to miss, conceal the underlying attributes that set him well above his compatriots.

Elements of his technique, his mental strength, his awareness and cunning, all make Gayle the real danger that he is. Consider some of the less obvious strengths that combine to make him a such a lethal willow wielder.

1. At the crease when setting up to receive, he gives little away by a big trigger movement. To intimate and force an error, he may move around occasionally, as a specific tactic.

2. Gayle has no favoured sides of the pitch, the on-side or the off-side are both his favourites, making it impossible to pack one side or force a false stroke.

3. He is classical in his shot selection, more often than not playing with the sway, be it spin, seam or swing.

4. Gayle has great balance when striking the ball, keeping a steady head, never really over-hitting and losing his shape in the process.

5. He has good hand speed to complement his strength and heavy bat. The momentum that generates has to be truly immense.

6. Gayle plays in the "W", a wider version of the classical "V", if you will. He clearly favours the full straight blade, to cross batted horizontal shots. Not to say that his horizontal blade strokes, when deployed, aren't equally fierce.

7. He demonstrates surprisingly nimble footwork in the crease, using the depth well, although he rarely charges down the track. Digging out full pitched deliveries for straight sixes is more than brute strength.

8. Gayle plays from a rather stable stance, but is very adept at making room quickly, with the front toe pointing perfectly, for a full free swing of his blade and a comprehensive follow through.

9. While he intimidates by his sheer presence, he is also cunning, in targeting the right bowlers and forcing them into errors. While it all does look easy flowing, Gayle's awareness and ability to pick out the bowlers and the areas to target makes him a real headache for fielding captains.

10. His supreme confidence in his own ability, to drive up the run rate, allows him and his team mates, to be never daunted by a few tight overs. This takes away one of the key pressure tactics of the T20 format.

11. Gayle is taken for granted for his impeccable execution of the big shots, allowing little margin of error to his opponents. That in itself has to come from hardwork and practice, despite appearing completely natural.

12. Gayle's awareness extends to knowing his own weaknesses. Being a big man he needs few strides to complete a run. Yet he hardly ever pushes for cheeky singles, risking a run out.

13. The ability to think boundaries from the first ball is never in question, yet Gayle takes a few deliveries to get used to the pace and bounce of the surface. Despite being aggressive, he does not get frustrated by lack of strike or a few good stops in the field.

14. A subtle yet crucial skill is Gayle's ability think like a bowler, anticipating and pushing them into bowling his areas, being ready to pounce as they do.

15. He brings no apparent weaknesses or pre-dispositions, which can't be an accident. Never have you heard that he needs pace on the ball to play his strokes or conversely that he is susceptible to seam or bounce. Never rated as a great player of spin, he is not threatened by turn and mystery.

Chris Gayle is the cool assassin who genuinely enjoys his profession to the hilt, as is apparent from the flair and joy with which he plays, speaks and celebrates. His calm presence at the crease, allows his team-mates the freedom to play their game, with the confidence that they have the most competent partner at the other end.

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