Gayle survived to tell the tale — one of a World Cup record of a 147-ball 215 © Getty Images
Gayle survived to tell the tale — one of a World Cup record of a 147-ball 215 © Getty Images

The transition of manslaughter with a bat (the term “willow” sounds so soft) in hand has made a smooth transition from the expressionless assassin (Virender Sehwag) to the clinical superman (AB de Villiers) in the span of less than a decade. Buried between them lay Chris Gayle: the giant who had been breaking one Indian Premier League (IPL) record after another, had become hot property for most Twenty20 franchise-based tournaments across the world, and had once given up a Test spot to play Twenty20. . Catch live updates of the match between West Indies and Zimbabwe here

Chris Gayle is finished, they said. They will weed Chris Gayle out, they said. Chris Gayle has not been scoring in One-Day Internationals (ODIs), they said. Chris Gayle’s decision to stand up for Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard against his Board may be detrimental to his future, they said. Chris Gayle lives a life too reckless for comfort, they said. The knives sharpened in the press-box as Chris Gayle’s form seemed to have deserted him in the biggest stage of them all. Live scorecard: West Indies vs Zimbabwe

READ: Chris Gayle scores 200 against Zimbabwe in ICC World Cup 2015

Then Dwayne Smith perished, second ball. Tinashe Panyangara struck Gayle on the pad the first ball the Jamaican giant faced. The appeal was turned down. Elton Chigumbura reviewed. It had pitched in line. It had hit in line. It had not hit the bat. It was only slightly, ever so slightly high. Gayle survived to tell the tale — one of a World Cup record of a 147-ball 215, one of a world record (for any wicket) 372-run stand with Marlon SamuelsREAD: Marlon Samuels scores his eighth ODI century

READ: Chris Gayle becomes first non-Indian to score ODI 200

It was not that Zimbabwe bowled poorly. They certainly had their moments. Following that appeal, Panyangara had him caught at deep mid-wicket when he was 121 from 114 balls; West Indies were 202 for one. In the next 33 balls he faced, Gayle scored 94; Manuka Oval is certainly not the smallest of grounds, which makes his achievement all the more remarkable. READ: Chris Gayle score 5th double-century in ODI history

READ: Chris Gayle smashes record to guide West Indies to 372/2 against Zimbabwe

Sixteen times did Gayle clear the ropes. He had discarded his shield once he reached hundred, and swapped his sword with a two-handed bardiche, or was it a mace? Was it a battle-axe? It was not a tale of valour, of Arjuna or Achilles or Heimdall: it was Thor in business, complete with his hammer, Thor at his destructive best. READ: Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels put on highest-ever ODI partnership 

READ: Chris Gayle registers highest-ever World Cup score

Or it may have been a demon; or an ogre; or a monster; or some unknown creature yet to be listed in mythological tales, beyond the realms of human imagination. Gayle has risen — again — to set proceedings back to normal. It has been long overdue. READ: Chris Gayle equals record for most sixes in ODI innings

He needed it for himself. He needed it for West Indies cricket — to remind the world what the Calypso Kings used to be like. He needed it for fans that had refused to give up on him. Underestimate Chris Gayle at your own peril. I hope the world got that message today, once and for all. READ: Chris Gayle only man in history to score T20I century, ODI double ton and Test triple hundred

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(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)