There is Chris Gayle and there are others. That is what he showed yesterday in the IPL 2012 match for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Delhi Daredevils. To say this is the most destructive IPL innings I have seen, is not merely a statement of my opinion. It is an opinion I am sure is shared by quite a few others – and you would need at least seven digits to count them, if not more. I have heard of the calm before the (Gayle) storm – I saw it when Gayle patiently batted out a maiden over. I have heard that the eye of the storm is calm (never been in one though) while it wreaks havoc all around. I saw it when Chris Gayle’s face was as serene as a yogi in meditation in the Himalayas while he was batting. One can be excused if we were confused between the two given the locks of hair that seemed to flow down from his head (like Shiva’s mane).
Christopher Henry Gayle definitely has to rank as the most destructive batsman of all times. I know there are going to be lots of objections: Test match cricket is different, batting without a helmet is different, the quality of the pace bowlers is not the same as it used to be, there is no elegance in the shots (it is monotonous and all his shots are in an arc between long on and deep mid-wicket like a golfer practicing his swing). All of these have some merit and there is no simple way to compare Donald (Don) Bradman, Vivian (Viv) Richards, Sachin Tendulkar (at his best which was ages ago) and Virender (Viru) Sehwag.
However, the mere fact that the best batsmen in the world today are all competing and no one has come close to this kind of domination for so long, at least in IPL, is an indication of his prodigious talent. There are many strong people who can hit the ball a long way. There are many people who can time the ball sweetly, but to do both with such consistency is what sets him apart. At the other end, one could see arguably the best batsman of India, Virat Kohli, look pedestrian in comparison, although by any other yardstick, Kohli’s innings was remarkable. Gayle did this to an attack that boasts of two of India’s fastest bowlers and the best prospects – Umesh Yadav and Manuel Aaron.
Commenting on his innings, Gayle said he had been under stress and pressure to perform — well it was not apparent from his face or the way he was stroking the ball. He seemed to be in the now, at peace with the current moment, not resisting or for that matter (perhaps even registering) any of the cacophony from the crowd. He was in the zone and was seeing nothing, but the ball (because everything else is a distraction), just as our little Arjuna was only seeing the bird he was supposed to shoot. It was certainly a spiritual experience watching him bat for me personally – he carried me into his world of calm and I spoke only after the innings ended and all I could say was “It is just not fair (to the opposition).” It is exhilarating to watch some of these peak sports performances in absolute silence – a joy that can not be described in mere words although I have tried to. Thank you Chris Gayle.