Sunday 20 March 2011

Chris Gayle Flicks The Switch

Power is an odd thing in batting. It's not absolutely necessary, or at least for a century and a half it wasn't. There's a great story about Geoffrey Boycott berating his batmaker because he'd been offered a gun bat 'that will really fly Geoffrey'. 'I don't want it to bloody fly,' the great man retorted. 'I want it to roll to the boundary. I still only get four for it'.

This is true of course, yet there is visceral shock to how hard the ball can be hit that has a psychological element to it. It's about dominance, even fear. I first experienced it in the nets at Alf Gover's as a young kid when Carlisle Best turned up. The ball came off his bat like a shell. Monty Lynch used to practice there often, and he could really lace it.

Currency has changed now, of course. You can talk about bat technology, shorter boundaries, the IPL, money, and you'd be right, but the real revolution is in the heads of the players. The culture has shifted, the sense of what's possible has moved. Hitting a long ball is now coached as legitimately as the forward defensive. It's in the mindset now.

There are lots of players who hit it miles. There are fewer who repeat the skill over and over. And then there's Chris Gayle. People hit the ball further than Gayle, but no-one hits it harder. Gayle doesn't go for distance, he goes for trajectory - flat and lethally powerful. His technique, with legs wideset, means that he will almost always carve square or hit straight, and he does so with fearsome velocity.

Yet what's more remarkable about it is its apparent randomness. Against England the other day, there was no logic to his onslaught - in fact it seemed to inject a mania into the West Indies chase that soon converted into desperation. They only needed 240-odd after all. But it's Chris Gayle's nature. He is a man at the mercy of his muse. When it happens, it happens. Very rarely in Test cricket he has subdued it and dug in for a hundred. The rest of the time, he surfs his own wave, a man apart.

He's inspiring and frustrating, comatose in the field and then savagely alive when he bats. He's sponsored by an obscure Pakistan-based batmaker when you would imagine that every major manufacturer in the world yearns for him to carry their stickers, because there's something about the way he hits the ball that is unique. It's like a Tyson punch, in that it looks the same as lots of other punches, but carries a force that comes from somewhere beyond. When Gayle flicks the switch, without rhyme or reason or warning, the ball travels with more intensity than it ever has before.


crownish said...

Wonderful post OB. It's a shame he didn't carry on against England

John Halliwell said...

Chris Gayle seems to have it all: great physical strength, a glorious eye, marvelous coordination, great technique. So why does he average around 40 in Test cricket when it should be the other side of 50? He can't be bothered? But he has a Test double hundred and two triple hundreds. Does he more often than not get bored, ala Dexter - full of murderous intent, then "to hell with it" as he nears 100? God knows, but while he's out there the anticipation of carnage is more acute than with any batsmen since Richards.

Pay per head websites said...

I was reading your post and I saw you said Geoffrey Boycott, is Boycott really his last name??? I mean if it is, poor guy I can imagine all the jokes people can make about it LOL