By Zaheer Clarke
Published March 9, 2015
Filled with excitement, I enter the buzzing Eastern stand at Sabina Park with my two cricket-crazed friends, Andre and Javed. It’s two hours before the start of the game and the place is packed. We take our seats at the perfect spot. We had no choice; it was the only one left. West Indies almost won the previous match against World Cup champions Australia, and everyone was here to see more.
The game starts. Christopher Henry Gayle takes his guard at the George Headley end. The super fast 100 mph Brett Lee runs in and releases a screamer. All I see is a blur. Gayle, his feet still as a lighthouse during a storm, pelts the ball along the turf, the grass scorches as it travels through cover point. No fielders move. The ball clips the boundary rope, runs hill first up the advertisement boards and sails into the lower floor of the Kingston Cricket Club (KCC). The KCC members scamper hands on heads and ducking for cover. The fans surrounding us in the Eastern Stand chuckle, “Gayle is in the mood for carnage”, Javed says. “Is he ever not?” I rhetorically thought. “Is he ever not?”
It was then I knew that Gayle was a geyser ready to explode onto the cricketing world. I remember saying to Andre, “That is the fastest I’ve ever seen a cricket ball reach the boundary”. It was truly faster than any random thought ever generated in my pea-sized brain.
For years now, Chris Gayle has borne the tag of “the most dangerous batsman in world cricket”; whether Test, One Day International (ODI) or Twenty20 (T20) cricket. Two weeks ago, during the 2015 ODI World Cup, he showed us precisely why he is so dangerous. He became the first batsman to score a double century in ODI World Cup history. 215 runs off 147 balls against a hapless Zimbabwe team. Gayle was also the first batsman to score a century in the T20 World Cup or any T20 International. He seems to be the first to many things.
A few days ago Hashim Amla, the most accomplished ODI batsman in recent times, said that he believes Gayle will accomplish another first. The first to score 300 runs in an ODI match. A few years ago, 300 for a team was some feat. Now we are contemplating a single player scoring 300 runs in an ODI innings. This is bordering on the ridiculous now, but that’s Chris Gayle. He’s a first class willow master who doubles or triple majors in the ridiculous. Amla, you might have had a prophetic moment there.
Two months ago, AB de Villiers scored the fastest century in ODI cricket off 31 balls. It was a remarkable display of clean hitting. I almost said like I’ve never seen. However, I saw Gayle score 100 off 30 balls, without breaking a sweat, in a Twenty20 match for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the Indian Premier League (IPL). The opposing team had not even completed 9 overs when Gayle reached his century. Absolutely ludicrous.
If we project that rate of scoring to 50 overs, Amla, 300 might be too low for Chris. Maybe 400, or 500. What am I saying? Now my once sluggish thoughts in this miniscule brain are hurriedly bordering on the preposterous.
Such is the ability and potential of Christopher Henry Gayle, to tear to shreds any bowling attack in the world. During the 2015 World Cup, AB de Villiers scored 162 off 66 balls. In that match for RCB in the IPL, Gayle scored 175 off 66 balls. AB brought up the fastest 150 in the ODI history off 64 balls in that knock of 162. The Gayle-force winds from Jamaica did his knock in 53 balls for RCB. “Carnage, Carnage, Carnage!” Javed would have said.
In that match for RCB, when Gayle scored 175, he was in blistering form. Ironically, if AB didn’t come in and blitz 31 off 8 balls and deprive Gayle those 8 deliveries in the late overs, we probably would have seen the first 200 scored by a batsman in Twenty20. These absurdities which keep emerging from my head!
Late last year I said publicly Gayle should retire from the Mecca of Test cricket and focus on ODI and T20. It was my view that a break from the rigours of Test cricket would prolong his overall cricket career and reduce his series of injuries or ailments, especially his back. I don’t know if it’s in light of my public statement recently, why WICB President Dave Cameron wanted to briskly prepare an entire retirement package for Chris, but I didn’t go that far.
Sports journalist, Orville Higgins shared with me recently one of Gayle’s desires that keep him still wanting to play Test cricket. The yearn to score another triple century and break his deadlock with Bradman, Lara and Sehwag, who have all scored 2 each. If anyone could score another triple or break Lara’s record of 400 in Test cricket, Gayle could, and even Lara agrees.
If West Indies are to win this 2015 World Cup, then Gayle will have to deliver, and deliver consistently, and that includes the whole team. Gayle has produced some virtuoso performances, however, for some, he has been too sporadic in between. He has a penchant for big scores, but his inconsistency prevents him from sitting comfortably with the gods.
Chris has never seen the West Indies win the ODI World Cup before. The last time West Indies won it June 1979, he was still in the womb. Lord, I pray Chris makes a century in every match and lead West Indies to World Cup victory. It’s been 36 years since we last won the World Cup. If the West Indies wins this World Cup Lord, I wouldn’t ask you for anything else in 2015, well not until Christmas …
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
From the “Lies & Statistics” Column in the Western Mirror (Published Monday, March 9, 2015)