Huw Richards and The Old Batsman — two of the better cricket writers around — both have pieces on the strange mystery that is Chris Gayle. Only a month ago, he was sidelined from his national team, clubbing at 3 a.m. somewhere in the world, and excluded from the IPL. Then, Richards writes:
He single-handedly has transformed his team’s fortunes. Bangalore had started slowly, with three early losses. It won Gayle’s first five matches to leap from also-ran to serious contender for one of the four playoff places.
“It shows that one man can change the fortunes of a team in a Twenty20 tournament,” said the former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar in his weekly video diary for the ESPNcricinfo Web site.
Lots of players hit the ball hard and a long way, but not like [Gayle] does. Virat Kohli said today that he had ‘the best and most dangerous’ seat in the house to watch him. Dilshan admitted he was scared by the power with which Gayle strikes it.
There’s no doubting Gayle’s talent and power, but his famous coolness — routinely praised by others — has always irked me. Here is a guy who could be as good as he wants, but he decides to turn the ‘on’ switch only when he wants. So, now, he has an average of 99, but during the 2011 World Cup, he notched just above 42. That’s not bad, but things are relative, and for a depleted and lackluster West Indies, the difference between a batsman who scores 40 and one who scores 99 is huge. (Consider: Gayle wasn’t among the top 40 batsmen in that tournament, and he wasn’t even the best West Indian — both Darren Smith and K. Pollard scored more.)
The pessimistic view is that Gayle is an asshole, who plays for himself (as Otis Gibson suggests). The optimistic view is that he’s caught in a pressure trap: when there isn’t any need for him, Gayle will make his presence felt the most. When there is, the tension breaks his back.