What difference can three years make to a person’s life?
Just ask Christopher Henry Gayle. Turn the clock back to around this time of the year in 2011, Gayle was a lonely man. He went unsold at the IPL auction in 2011 with a reserve price of $400,000 and he did not have a contract with the West Indian Cricket Board due to some unresolved issues with them. He had not played for his national team for more than year in any form. In short, he did not have any contract for professional cricket against his name.
At the same time, RCB had started their 2011 season terribly having lost the first few matches they had played. That changed once Dirk Nannes got injured. The left-arm fast bowler had been bought by RCB for $650,000. The IPL rules required a replacement to an injured player to be paid not more than the injured player himself. RCB (in hindsight the best brain at RCB) brought in Chris Gayle as a replacement for Dirk Nannes in the middle of the 2011 season.
The fortunes of RCB were single-handedly changed by Gayle with the team reaching the finals. Chris Gayle also became the highest run-scorer in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
There has been no looking back ever since for the Chris Gayle-RCB partnership. One of the posters held up by a fan at the Chinnaswamy stadium which read “Ben-Gayle-luru” is a clear indication of what an integral part of the team he is.
Come 2013, Chris Gayle has played one of the innings of a life time. Harsha Bogle tweeted “There are some defining moments in the history of a sport, those that make you look at things differently. This Gayle innings was one of those”. Another interesting comment in response to the knock was the one from the Indian captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was happy about his decision to take up wicket keeping as against bowling!!
If you try and deconstruct the curious case of Gaylestrom, the outstanding quality that hits you in the face is not how hard he hits the ball or his strike rate or the match winning innings'. There have been innings such as the one by Brendon McCullum’s innings (158) in the very first IPL match or the one by Paul Valthaty (120 last year) for the KXIP which have been memorable and which have single handedly won matches for the franchisees. It is not even the nearly violent, unflappable style of batting of the champion.
What stands out is the fact that never before in international cricket has any player displayed clean hitting of this nature so consistently. Gayle has done it now for three years in a row.
The champion has a lot of things for other players to learn from. One may not be able to get the sheer strength that he has to brutally hit the ball like he does but one can always try to develop the attitude that he displays, learn the way he conserves his energy (he can teach even Arjuna Ranatunga a lesson or two), learn the way he paces his innings, learn to be as cool headed, etc.
It is really the consistency with which he hits and the ball stays hit, which adds to the magic of Gayle. Nobody in the dug out or the stands panics even if he plays many dot balls or refuses to run (forget running hard!!). Everyone knows that literally anything is possible as long as Gayle is at the crease. Cricket commentators often use the phrase prized wicket... and if somebody’s wicket genuinely deserves that tag it is that of Gayle.
To top it all, his hitting demoralizes the bowlers and rarely do bowlers recover from the onslaught. For instance, the body language of Pune Warriors players suggested that they had lost the match at the end of the 15th over of the RCB innings when the score was close to 200 for the loss of 2 wickets.
And that is why at the end of the day, RCB fans should say a big thank you to Dirk Nannes. It really wouldn't have been possible without him.. errr... his injury that is.