Chris Gayle rocked, the world enjoyed……
In the last few years, you have hardly seen Chris Gayle in the West Indian colours. He has always been spotted playing and bossing some or the other T20 league across the globe. He has broken almost every possible T20 record and declares himself as the king of the shortest format.
The 39-year-old Jamaican returned to the Windies ODI team after a gap of almost eight months. He was not in the best of forms and yet he was brimming with confidence. ‘I’m the greatest player in the world. Of course, I’m still the Universe Boss, that will never change.’ These were Chris Gayle’s words before the start of the ODI series against England as he revealed that the upcoming World Cup would his last 50-over assignment.
One must have certainly thought that the best of Chris Gayle was certainly seen quite a while ago. Moreover, he was up against the best ODI team in the world at the moment. Yes, it was not the best of attacks but they had been effective and found ways to get the job done. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong if you’d think that Gayle’s best was past him. Yes, he was still capable of sending some tremors in the opposition camp and playing some blistering knocks, consistency was way past him. But a certain Christopher Henry Gayle strode out in usual fashion just to prove everyone wrong.
424 runs, average of 106.00, strike-rate of 134.17, two hundreds, two fifties, 20 fours, 39 sixes!
You couldn’t ask for more as a cricket fan. The Universe Boss was doing his job, something that he always promises and that is entertain. He entertained at a level that no one in the Caribbean, or the Barmy Army or the cricketing fraternity across the globe could forget. If you missed this ODI series, you have missed something special. If you try catching up with the highlights of Gayle’s madness, every time he walked, he ensured that his innings was no less than a highlights reel.
Gayle was easily the best batsman on show in the five-match series. Eoin Morgan was the next best in terms of runs and he was more than 150 runs behind. The next best West Indian batsman didn’t even touch the 150-run mark in the series and in fact, in the first game itself, Gayle scored more than any of his other teammates could in the entire series.
39 sixes in four innings! Who does that? All England could manage in the entire series was 37 sixes. Even in this day and age, even in T20 cricket, even with the short boundaries and flat pitches, you don’t score so many sixes. But Christopher Henry Gayle seems like he’s from another planet. Almost 10 sixes per innings, a six every 8 deliveries. These are some unreal numbers. These are the most sixes by a batsman in a series. He beat his own record which he created in the 2015 World Cup (26 sixes).
He gave England a warning in the lead-up to the series and he delivered his promise. The 39-year-old achieved supreme consistency in this series. Match after match, he charged at England’s bowlers, sending some real shivers down their spines.
In the first game, he scored a brilliant ton on a comeback. It was his first game in West Indian colours since July 2018 and he scored a blistering 135, smoking 12 sixes, eight out of which went sailing out of the ground at Bridgetown. He was criticised for the dot balls he used up at the start and for not taking some singles. But nonetheless, his 135 helped Windies to notch up 360 batting first. This went in vain as Jason Roy and Joe Root struck tons to lead England to a fantastic win.
Gayle walked out with a greater intent in the second ODI. He scored exactly 50 (four sixes) but didn’t use up as many deliveries as the previous game. He tried to go hard pretty early and make a statement. But his innings was cut short by a wily Adil Rashid. Come the fourth game (third game was washed out), Gayle was in no mood to relent. Chasing a near impossible 419, the big Jamaican absolutely murdered the England bowlers, smashing them to all parts of the St George’s Park in Grenada. He smashed a 55-ball ton as he struck the second fastest ODI ton by a West Indian. The 39-year-old struck a fabulous 162 as he put the Windies on course to chase down 419. He hit 14 sixes in his 97-ball knock.
And then came the final ODI where Windies were 1-2 behind and had just 113 to chase. Gayle came out as if there was no tomorrow as he blasted the fastest ever half-century by a Windies player (19 balls). It looked like Gayle would alone gobble up England’s score but his innings came to an end on 77 (off a mere 27 deliveries). He smashed nine sixes and five fours as he led Windies to a series-levelling win.
He finished the series with a staggering 424 runs in four innings. The Universe Boss was awarded the Man of the Series as he single-handedly hogged the limelight. He became the second oldest player (after Imran Tahir) to win a man of the series award in ODI cricket. He bossed around the No. 1 ranked ODI team like nobody had in the last few years. He’s got to the 10,000-run mark in ODI cricket as well (just the second Windies player to do it after Brian Lara).
Gayle played this ODI series like never before. It was his last ODI series in the Caribbean and boy, did he make it one for the ages! “It’s been an honour to wear the crest and entertain the people around the Caribbean. This is my last ODI series in the Caribbean. So, I was giving the fans a nice wave,” Gayle said after the winning the Man of the Series award. He did reveal that he might be contemplating reversing that call of bidding adieu to 50-over cricket. But for now, he might’ve played his last ODI in the Caribbean.
But he has sent a warning to all the bowlers coming to the World Cup in a couple of months’ time. The Universe Boss might be 39 years old but he’s surely got the zip and the ability to attain that consistency. He will still send tremors down bowling attacks and if he gets it right at the World Cup, Windies could be a big threat to a lot of teams.