This interview was conducted at the start of the World T20 tournament but it still makes interesting reading given Gayle's manic 92-run knock including 11 fours and 5 sixes against the Mumbai Indians last night. So we have republished it. Enjoy.
Colombo: It’s scary standing on the ground during a West Indies practice session. Ball after ball sails beyond the boundary line – it forces you, compels you to keep you eye on the ball because that split second of inattentiveness could mean a trip to the hospital. But when Chris Gayle, who turns 33 tomorrow, takes the crease – being attentive takes on a whole new meaning.
In IPL 5, Gayle hit an astounding 59 sixes in 15 matches. The next highest number was Kevin Pietersen. Cameron White and Dwayne Bravo on 20. In the Big Bash league Down Under, he leads the table once again with 22 sixes in just 7 matches. In the Bangladesh Premier League, he was the top six-hitter as well with 26 sixes in 5 matches.
Others hit fours, take singles and twos, Gayle hits sixes.
So who better than him to speak about the art of hitting sixes, turning 33 and the elevation of the West Indies team as one of the pre-tournament favourites. Excerpts from the interaction.
Even Sourav Ganguly has backed the West Indies as being pre-tournament favourites. How does it feel? It’s been a while since the West Indies team first went into a tournament as favourites.
It’s good to be honest with you. Look at our team – we can bat right down, bowling-wise, we have spinners and fast bowlers. Key for us is to get to the second round. And try and take it step by step. You don’t want to wait around for too long before you play a game. You want to get in it and make best use of the conditions. Sometimes you have to wait around for a week and that can get quite difficult. Try and get in the right frame of mind. The first game (against Australia) is vital. You don’t want to play catch-up cricket in T20, so it’s a very big match for us. It will also get our confidence going.
You topped the six hitting charts in the IPL, the Big Bash, the BPL and even in Zimbabwe. So how easy is it for you to hit a six? Just how do you do it.
Bit of strength work to be honest and once the ball is in your slot you go for it. I am sure everyone can hit a six these days. It doesn’t seem so hard these days with everybody getting big bats and clearing the boundary is easy. So it’s one of those things – you try and get a start and once you are set, you can take advantage of the conditions once you get accustomed to all the bowlers.
Listen to Gayle talk about the art of hitting sixes:
Do you even need to think about hitting the big shot?
It’s instinct. You try and not have to think. To be honest, you have to let the mind and body flow together. You don’t want to get stuck in a two-minded situation. You just try and be natural out there. And things will actually flow for you in the end.
Is your mindset any different from...say Pollard, who is another big six hitter?
The key in that scenario is balance. You have to have good balance to be able to hit a lot of sixes. I try and make sure, lay special emphasis, on my balance. You have to realise that bowlers aren’t always going to make it easy for you. You have to create the shots, so you have to make sure you do it well. So you have to be mentally prepared as well.
Has T20 provided you with a platform to express yourself better… in a more free way or has it been an extension of how you always played?
I play like this naturally. Even in Test cricket and ODI, before T20 came around, this is how I used to play. But you learn different skills in T20 and you can take them to Tests and make a lot more runs. It adds to the fun factor as well and you realise that whatever the means necessary to score runs, you’ll do it.
Any plans to use innovative shots?
Not yet. I haven’t reached that state as yet.
You are going to be 33 tomorrow. Any big Birthday plans?
Not really… am going to spend it with the West Indian women’s team. (Laughter all around)
Well… have a quite drink and sit around. (Laughter continues) So looking forward to it. But I am looking to really celebrate after a win against Australia.
So is T20 an old man’s game now, you know with you turning 33 and all…
You mean, I’m old? (More laughter). I think you can play it for a long time, but it’s good to be 33 and am looking forward to playing with all the youngsters.