In his latest blog, Dave Fulton believes Chris Gayle has proved his point about Twenty20 cricket.
Last Updated: 18/08/09 5:04pm
Chris Gayle is so laid back he's almost horizontal but his cool demeanour belies an inner determination to prove his point about Twenty20.
Last month Gayle was widely pilloried for speaking honestly about his preference for the shortest form of the game over Test cricket. His emotional comments, coming shortly after defeat in the first Test at Lord's, were taken out of context and held up as a reason for the West Indies' failure.
'The captain doesn't care' was the gist of most media offerings. Now I don't know Gayle personally but this seemed a trifle patronising. Gayle had after all masterminded a smash and grab victory in the Caribbean against the same England side just a couple of short months earlier. He made a fine hundred in the Test victory in Jamaica and showed more tactical nous than most commentators gave him credit for.
The series in England was belatedly shoe-horned into an already crammed international schedule when Sri Lanka's players openly preferred to play in the IPL. For Gayle, also involved in the IPL, these were two Tests he and his team could have done without and he almost said as much.
Now, though, the real stuff has started. After missing his team's warm-up hammering by England last week, Gayle did what the great players do: turn it on when it matters. Gayle's 88 off just 50 balls in the West Indies' opening match of the ICC World Twenty20 against the likes of Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson was awe-inspiring stuff; that six off Lee, one of six during his innings and surely one of the biggest ever smote in the history of the game, was heading into orbit till it clanged off the Oval Pavilion roof. Indeed, a few years ago there was a £50,000 reward for anyone who could get the ball over the famous old building.
Twenty20 is not for everyone. Traditionalists would argue that the more subtle nuances of the longer form are what the game is all about. The ebb and flow of a Test is impossible to replicate in two sets of 20 overs; the courage of an opening batsman confronted with a new-ball bowler and an arcing slip cordon, the patience of a spin bowler baiting his prey with flight and a ring field, would be incomprehensible to those fed an exclusive diet of Twenty20.
Gayle is a fine Test cricketer and he appreciates the longer form of the game. It's just that he prefers the hurly-burly, all-action, jazzed-up version that's neatly packaged into less than three hours work. His penchant is not for a batting average of over 40 but for smashing the ball out of the park. He's an entertainer blessed with enormous power and no little skill when it comes to striking a cricket ball. Who's to say whether the bludgeon over midwicket is any less skilful than the wristy deflections of a Sachin Tendulkar. I know I could never do it.
Gayle's endured a tough month at the hands of those sitting in judgement of his leadership qualities and his character but other than one outburst in the direction of Andrew Strauss, the West Indies captain kept his counsel. His intent, ferocious notice of which he served against the Aussies, is now very clear: to show the world why Twenty20 is such a great game. When he plays like he did the other night, it's difficult to argue.