Not so long ago, England were claiming that they had little regard for par scores any more. Henceforth, their only target was to be ‘as many as we can get’. Maybe this is still the case, but today’s batting against the West Indies seemed initially cautious to these sometimes blurry eyes.
We had in mind a rather worrying interview with Jason Roy we read last week, in which he said: “I’ve got to realise I need to give myself time – I’m not a robot.”
It seemed unfair on robots that they shouldn’t be permitted time, but that wasn’t what really concerned us. We were more worried about Roy spending any time at all playing himself in. Jason Roy may well need to give himself time, but that is almost exactly what England don’t need.
Roy’s job is to flail from the off, because Alex Hales can’t. If Roy eats up a dozen balls making a similar number of runs, that isn’t really good enough. It’s a fifth of the innings wasted, because Hales will more often than not be doing the same. Hales has earned the right do that. That’s his way. He is the big log England are looking to ignite. In this analogy, Jason Roy is basically just tinder.
That may seem dismissive, but the truth is that this is essentially England’s strategy. They have ten batsmen, only two or three of whom are special. The rest are disposable; fast-burning kindling. A to-hell-with-the-consequences approach at the top of the order is barely even a gamble because the only consequences are to the individual – the team can easily cope with his loss.
In contrast, Chris Gayle is the West Indies’ Hales. And then some.
Gayle is Alex Hales having played hundreds more international matches and twice as much T20. He is an Alex Hales who’s faced every T20 situation and played T20 in every ground. He is an Alex Hales shot-through with experience and shorn of doubt.
Gayle knew that 183 could be chased in Mumbai. All he had to do was go out and do it.
Where do you go for your right to reply these days? Instagram, apparently.
Chris Gayle made a 12-ball fifty in the Big Bash this week and as ever with sportsmen, you get the impression he thinks this proves his fundamental rightness about everything; like he could napalm an orphanage but it wouldn’t be wrong if he got crucial runs at a decent lick the following day.
He doesn’t say that explicitly, but that’s the vibe.
“My idol & the person who I look up to and also want to be like when growing up as a kid is in the picture” he begins – about a picture of himself. After that, he thanks a load of people, including ‘the haters’ – a term which pretty much always signposts unrepentant wrongdoing.
After bemoaning all the players who smiled in front of his face but didn’t publicly stand up for him (it’s because they didn’t really support you, Chris), it’s on to the people he doesn’t thank – principally Andrew Flintoff, Chris Rogers and Shane Watson, in that order.
“The past cricketer who say I make myself look like a chop, the other who claim I was no good to the youngsters while playing for the thunder, the next one who said he expect that sort of behavior from Chris – Y’all can kiss my ‘Black Rass'”
That counts as a slamming, right? We’ve always wanted to use ‘slams’ in a headline.
If you don’t already know, Chris Gayle’s unique selling point is that he likes women. That’s how he defines and sells himself. Quite how vacuous a person has to be before they decide upon a characteristic shared by 90-odd per cent of men as being somehow self-defining is beyond us.
To make it stick, Gayle goes all in. The latest example saw him attempting to chat up a female reporter during a live TV interview. He did it because HE REALLY LIKES WOMEN – NO, LIKE WAY MORE THAN YOU DO.
Unsurprisingly, she wasn’t interested.
There’s a definite line between being ‘a character’ and just being sleazy and disrespectful. For example, when Gayle ignored the ramblings of old Etonian, former MCC president and ex-England manager, John Barclay, and asked him, “You get much pussy?” – that’s funny. It’s totally inappropriate, but there’s a certain power dynamic at play where above all it just seems mischievous or amusingly oblivious.
When a reporter asks you a direct question and you ignore what she’s saying to make a comment about her eyes, that’s different. That’s not mischievous. That’s undermining her and making it impossible for her to do her job. In this instance, Gayle is the megabucks sports star; one of the big names of the whole damn event. It’s a different dynamic.
A lot of people working in sport apparently don’t see the difference.
As much as this is about Chris Gayle and what he said, it’s probably more about the world that created him. Most people commenting on the issue have pointed out that he’s been swanning about behaving like a naughty 13-year-old for many years now and has not just been left unchecked, but has effectively been encouraged. Chris Rogers makes the point that Gayle’s laddish reputation has seen him put on a pedestal by the media.
We have the dubious pleasure of having to trawl through all of Gayle’s tweets once a fortnight as part of our Twitter round-up for Cricinfo. The thing that always strikes us the most is not so much how he relentlessly promotes himself as some sort of fun-loving ‘player,’ but that there’s always someone who finds him funny. He can say anything, literally anything – usually something totally straightforward about how he likes to party or how he likes women – and some retard will tweet him to tell him he’s ‘hilarious’.
We always assumed it was 12-year-old boys for whom English was a second language, but maybe it’s sportsmen and members of the media.
We’d say that Chris Gayle’s biggest achievement today was looking like a relatively small person. The route to achieving this wasn’t easy. He first had to hit a double hundred and this then allowed him the opportunity to stand next to Ian Bishop at the post-match press conference.
Bishop appears to have spent his time since retirement growing, such that he now looks like a bigger than life-size version of a human – all in proportion but built to completely the wrong scale. We’re desperately hoping that England get to play the Windies and that James Taylor puts in a match-winning performance.
Shortly after Gayle had exited the pop-up stage, Jason Holder made an appearance. Miraculously, he was taller than Bishop, but looking at his spindly physique, it was obvious what had happened: someone had stretched him.
Also today, Shane Warne used the phrase ‘absolutely salmon trout’ to mean ‘out’. Combine this with all his talk of cherries, poles and globes and it’s obvious that the man is somehow entirely unfamiliar with the language of cricket.
The worth of a Twenty20 player cannot be measured via a single innings. That’s a mistake many people make – they confuse aberrations with excellence. It’s therefore worth underlining the sheer inevitability that it would be Chris Gayle who would break the record for the highest individual score in the shortest format.
It doesn’t actually matter all that much that he was facing Ishwar Pandey, Ali Murtaza and even an over from Aaron Finch (although Luke Wright’s four overs for 26 look pretty fine in this context). Whoever was bowling, it takes phenomenal ability to hit 30 of the 66 balls you face for boundaries. As a child, we never once managed it when bowling a tennis ball to ourself via the wall of the garage and we were bowling underarm and umpiring as well.
Gayle finished with 175 not out, having hit 13 fours and 17 sixes in another good advert for his core strength. His team, Royal Challengers Bangalore, won. You may well have guessed that last bit.
It’s generally best to avoid writing about Chris Gayle, because he seems to draw admiration – and therefore blog comments – from the biggest dickheads on the planet.
It’s not that there’s nothing to admire about Gayle’s batting. It’s just that a rich seam of knobheadery sits alongside rational, justifiable appreciation. Don’t follow his Twitter feed, because he frequently answers questions from what can accurately be described as his fans. These people exhibit an unironic level of hero worship that we find really depressing. Maybe we’re just embittered because they appear to find his non-jokes funny. There’s little more dispiriting than idiocy that also devalues what you do.
But back to sport, John Hotten has written a nice summary of how and why Gayle is such a singular cricketer in the shortest format. In essence, he’s reliable, but he also has an unusual ability to hit sixes once he’s played himself in. We’ve always been struck by how hard Gayle hits the ball with such little effort and we reckon it’s all in the core.
It’s not in The Core – you’d be hard-pressed to get anything useful out of that. It’s in the totally uncool sets of muscles that span your midriff. Gayle is known for being built like a masonry khazi with big cannonball shoulders and biceps which for some reason are always described as ‘rippling’ as if they’re flobbling about rather than solid. But there are plenty of batsmen who are – in the parlance of our times – ‘ripped’ and who don’t seem to hit the ball in the same way.
When you hit a cricket ball, you do so using a whole host of muscles. Your legs and torso are the foundations for all that follows. They are what braces against the impact of ball on bat and if they do not give, you get a better return from your cover drive/aimless heave.
Watch Chris Gayle play a pull shot and the power comes from the body, not from the arms. The strength’s not just about producing power, it’s also about producing controlled power. He can swing within himself and still clear the nearest sea.
The moral of the story is this: for all the apparent vanity of the man, he must also spend a lot of time developing practical strength and pragmatism is a quality even non-dickheads can admire.
Much has been made of the fact that Chris Gayle has become consistent at Twenty20, because many mistakenly believe the format is all about luck. Clearly it isn’t, as Gayle has shown. His has been a calculating method: See off the good bowler; cane Joe McMilitary-Medium.
However, this execution of Twenty20 arse-spankery has left a little obscured. In club and franchise cricket, there’s always at least three bowlers who are middling-to-crap, but what of international cricket?
A man who’s hit triple hundreds against South Africa and Sri Lanka clearly once had it and on yesterday’s evidence, Gayle still does. Every England pace bowler he faced got a damn good shoeing.
He did it the old-fashioned way. He took a look. Having made one run off Steven Finn’s first seven deliveries to him, Gayle then engaged the long handle, thumping and fluking three successive fours. He took a look at James Anderson as well before going on the offensive, although by the time Tim Bresnan came into the attack, the long handle couldn’t be disengaged.
If he did make a mistake, it was in continuing to bat left-handed against Graeme Swann. Studies show that is not an effective strategy.
It’s easy to characterise Chris Gayle as a man who’d rather play Twenty20 for money than international cricket for less money. However, recent jumping has taken him through a number of hoops in order that he is now, once again, able to play for the West Indies.
Essentially, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) made him get down on bended knee and kiss their boots using the right technique.
The WICB chief executive, Ernest Hilaire, basically said that Gayle had to make himself fully available by cancelling all his current commitments and if he did, then he would be considered for selection. It was like saying ‘jack in your day job and we might give you a few hours of freelance work – no promises though’.
Gayle did jack in the day job, however – meeting the WICB’s rather unnecessary demands – and is now facing possible legal action from Somerset, with whom he had signed a contract. Hopefully, they’ll chill out and spend the money they’ll save on Ajmal Shahzad instead, because they’re short of bowlers.
The good news is that we should get to see Chris Gayle in international cricket this summer. Lancashire’s Oliver Newby isn’t the only person who’s ‘partial to a bit of Chris Gayle spanking‘. He’s a great cricketer and this is a great story, by the way.