As Chris Gayle sent yet another delivery sailing into the Bullring crowd the other night, a thought occurred to me. Has anyone ever been so far ahead of the rest in terms of batting?
If we narrow our thoughts down to just the T20 game, then I think it is reasonable to argue that Chris Gayle is currently as far ahead of his nearest rival, as anybody has ever been.
His two innings’ against South Africa were a vivid reminder of his abilities, as he single-handedly won his side both matches, and with them, the series. Starting with the subjective parts of the game, it is easy to see how Gayle can be considered the chief T20 batsman in world cricket.
If you’re a bowler and you have to name one man you definitely don’t want to see staring at you from the other end – top of that list would be Gayle. At times, it appears as though he is batting with a railway sleeper and even mishits carry 10 or 20 rows back into the stands.
During his innings’ against South Africa, it just seemed too easy to be able to step towards leg and lever the ball over the off side for yet another monstrous strike. It is the inevitability when watching Gayle that strikes me. With no other batsman in world cricket, do I watch him take guard and feel so confident that he can hit a boundary at will.
It seems not to matter what type of bowler he is facing, nor the conditions he is playing in. He has made hundreds all over the globe and for many of his 14 T20 sides. 14 T20 Sides! Gayle was truly the first cricketer to embrace the modern T20 era and can lay claim to being the first freelance cricketer.
Indeed, it was a surprise that Gayle appeared on the team sheet for the West Indies in the first T20 against South Africa, I half expected him to be sunning himself playing in some exotic overseas league. But you can’t knock Gayle for picking and choosing his cricket.
He is coming towards the back end of his career, and it’s doubtful that his body, or indeed his batting style, would still hold up to the rigours of the long form. You also can’t forget that he has played over 100 Tests for the West Indies, so perhaps he should be cut a little slack for pursuing a final few paydays in the sun. He has only played 12 Tests in the past four years, and it looks more and more likely that his West Indies Test career could well be coming to an end.
Looking at his T20 career statistically, it again backs up the statement that he is streets ahead of the rest. He has the most runs in T20 cricket in the world – some 600 runs ahead of Brad Hodge, and from 37 fewer innings too. His is also one of only three men with over 1,000 T20 runs who averages in excess of 40, and he has 5 times the runs of both the others – Shaun Marsh and Phillip Hughes.
His total dominance of the T20 game is best depicted in his ability to score centuries. Most batsmen are thankful just to register a single century in T20 cricket, in a form of the game where time and pressure to score quickly makes 100’s a rare feat. Gayle has managed to rack up 13 tons and a further 45 scores of 50+ in his career. Next on the list is David Warner with, in comparison, a paltry 5 centuries.
In both Test cricket and ODI cricket, there is stiff competition at the top of the century makers list, in T20 cricket its an altogether different story. Gayle is head and shoulders above the rest, scoring more than double the amount of centuries than his nearest competitor. His consistency is not in questions then; nor his propensity to make a huge individual score.
But what about his striking ability? Again, it is difficult to find anyone who can match up to Gayle in the T20 game. In his 191 innings to date, he has cleared the ropes a scarcely believable 486 times. This means that, on average, he will strike 2.5 sixes per match. Second on the list is his compatriot Keiron Pollard, who is a mere 151 maximums behind Gayle – and that’s from 45 more innings!
So it appears that both statistically, and in perception, Gayle can be seen as the premier T20 batsman in the world. The most intriguing aspect now, will be just how many runs he can score. Will he be the first man to score 10,000 T20 runs? In all likelihood he will, he’s showing no signs of losing form or interest and could realistically get there in the next three years if he continues his globetrotting career.