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He is probably regarded as the most destructive limited-overs player in modern cricket. Chris Gayle, who has a reputation of playing long innings and hitting big shots, often sending shivers down the spine of the opposition, hasn’t really clicked as it is expected of him in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014. Sudatta Mukherjee figures out what went wrong for the Jamaican.
One of the most destructive batsmen in the world, Chris Gayle was retained by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) along with their skipper Virat Kohli and South African AB de Villiers. The 34-year-old has played six Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 matches till now and has been able to score only 130 runs. His average is 21.66, with a strike-rate of 123.80 and his highest score in this season has been 38. This is unlike the man who had scored a devastating 175 not out from 66 balls against Pune Warriors India with an amazing strike-rate of 265.15.
This time around, teams have found it easy to see the back of Gayle early on. His scores, 20, 27, 38, 4, 19 and 22, are not quite what you call earth-shattering. The pre-tournament plan was simple: while Parthiv Patel would play the support act, Gayle will play the big innings. Gayle was expected to go berserk and play the humongous shots that so typify his style of batting, unsettling the opposition bowlers.
However, that hasn’t been the case till now. It is quite interesting to see what exactly happened that Gayle has failed.
But why is Gayle failing?
Throughout his career, the Jamaican had generally been more prolific on the on-side. For example, if one considers the ICC World T20 2014 encounter against Australia, he had scored 53 runs— of which 38 (72%) had come from his leg-side bazookas, whereas only 15 came from the off side. Even in the ongoing IPL, he has scored 90 out of his 130 (69%) runs from strokes played through the leg-side. In fact, there have been matches where he has scored only from on-side strokes.
What does this mean? It is not that bowlers keep on feeding him with deliveries outside leg-stump. Gayle prefers room, both in terms of line and length, to free his hand and play. Anything full and/or wide on the off-side is usually hit out of the ground.
Basically, what this means is Gayle cannot be given anything wide or full — especially on the off-side. In IPL 2014, in his first match against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), Sandeep Sharma had bowled a medium-paced ball to Gayle, which deceived him and hit middle-and-off.
In his second match against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), leg-spinner Karn Sharma bowled a good length ball which landed between middle- and leg-stumps, giving no space to Gayle to free his hand and play. As a result Gayle tried to prod forward and slam the ball on to deep mid-wicket, only to be caught by Darren Sammy.
Even against Mumbai Indians (MI), Gayle was foxed by Harbhajan Singh’s delivery. He attempted to go down the pitch and slog as Harbhajan came round the wicket and bowled him. To remove a destructive batsman like Gayle, early in the match before the runs start mounting has definitely come as a great relief for the other IPL franchises.
The oppositions have clearly spotted his weakness; they have formed an idea that Gayle finds it difficult to play anything on the middle and leg stump moving away from him. . If he is cramped for room and space, Gayle is vulnerable. The best example is of how Karn Sharma had got him out. With strategically placed fielders (deep mid-wicket and long-on are the key areas), there is a high probability that he may fall prey to the wiles of the captains again.Even in the second instance when RCB faced Kings XI Punjab, Sandeep kept troubling Gayle by swinging it away from the left-hander until he got the scalp.
With four league matches left for Bangalore, it will be left to see whether Gayle is able to conquer the demons or whether the oppositions continue to frustrate him.
(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)
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