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Celebrating Gayle's 37th birthday

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Chris_Gayle_West_Indies_cricketHe calls himself the 'Universe Boss' and the world joins in his celebration. There is a cool and relaxed vibe all around him that veils the focus he has in him. He isn't a too serious guy, an anomaly for a game that is marked with intensity.

He's been a rebel unafraid to voice his issues with the unruly nature of the board that has clawed and shaken the nature of game in the Caribbean. He's lifted the spirits of his team-mates, who revel in his company and continue to work toward their side’s semi-resurrection. He's got a natural instinct for batting, exulting through knock after knock, exercising his six-hitting powers, one that the world has come to love.

At 37, Chris Gayle is a complex character in cricket world; complex not for who he is or his easy going personality, but as a symbol of the misplaced judgment suffered when attempting to ascertain Gayle’s true standing in world cricket. Unjustly, among those heaps of runs that Gayle has scored (mind you modesty isn't a word that defines his plundering (9200 runs in ODIs and 7200 in Tests)) many would suggest that 'big hitting' and 'merciless pummeling' are the sole reasons behind Gayle's towering figures.

In reality, it is anything but. We have become so accustomed to seeing Gayle clobber a delivery out of the park, requiring no more than a minute twitch of his muscle, that on occasions where he misses we feel the big Jamaican missed a 'dolly'.

So what exactly is the point here?

Gayle, who has a decade and a half of cricket under his belt, evidenced by his well-practiced muscles and spasm-plagued back, is an accomplished cricketer. And there is more to his play than the six-hitting imagery built around him, that the world fails to conceive.

The average spectator–especially one who's been fed an incessant, explosive diet of T20 cricket –who attempts to examine Gayle's abilities will likely call Gayle the true manifestation of cricket's free-stroking gladiator: one who walks down a T20 pitch and sends his enemies packing with big swings. Rubbish. There’s so much more behind the smile of the smiling Jamaican.

And here's the evidence

Gayle debuted way back in 2000. His first T20 century, that destruction of South Africa (117 runs, the maiden T20 ton in an ICC World T20), came in 2007. Before he woke up to his magnificent run in the briefest format, which evidently began post 2007, he had already hit 7 of his 15 Test hundreds. His remaining 8 Test hundreds came in the last decade, where he has played much less test cricket.

His one day record only solidifies the foregone conclusion the world has of him that Gayle is a by-product of the irrational influence T20 cricket has exerted upon international cricket. And yet, 15 of his 22 ODI centuries were made before 2007. We must applaud Gayle as an accomplished cricketer for this, suggesting a batsman being in peak form. You would expect the same from any other world class batsmen like Hayden, Gilchrist, Graeme Smith and Sehwag.

The injustice done to Gayle

At the same time, you would do well to recall that everything Gayle accomplished before 2007 were stellar achievements in a flimsy, fidgety Test and ODI unit- one hampered by the needless shuffle and chop and change, unbecoming synonyms of West Indies cricket.

In fact so enormous has been the impact of T20 in defining Gayle's career (and his legacy) that while we easily recollect Gayle's opening partners in this format – Samuels, Fletcher, Johnson Charles and Evin Lewis – we somehow fail to recollect that the younger albeit quieter Chris Gayle struggled to find a regular opening partner, at times opening with Daren Ganga and on other occasions with an in-and-out of form Wavell Hinds. West Indies never respected the credibility that Gayle deserved and continued to keep from him a constant at the other end.

As the powerful and emotion evoking shades of maroon continued to herald Gayle's meteoric rise as a Windies frontman who would send bowlers wobbling in ODIs, we almost forgot that some of Gayle's best Test centuries, from the 15 he's scored came against sides fanning their flames against Gayle's inconsistent Windies. He's thus far scored 3 centuries against England, South Africa and New Zealand. And you would do well to recount that the batsman with a strike rate of 145 in T20s, a peak for any modern day great, has scored not one but two, triple hundreds.

So how do we celebrate Gayle?

He's 37 today, with an ever growing beard and tons of runs behind him, often squared against his light-hearted shenanigans off the pitch. Is he a bit tired? Have those rounds of impulsive push-ups and dance regimens alongside Bravo left him running on empty? Is the Gayle-storm coming to a charmingly slow halt?

Well, he still scored dollops of runs in the recently concluded CPL 2016. Remember: the Jamaica Tallawahs scored around him and won.

Christopher Henry Gayle the man, not the avatar he's come to adorn, should always be remembered as a batsman who excelled across all formats, none more than T20 itself- where despite his struggles against spin and his obvious flaws exacerbated by a total lack of footwork- he did well to achieve more than what he had set out for. And it is a testimony to the blazing surprises that West Indies have decorated world cricket with. Take a bow 'World Boss'.

 

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