The good news for rival bowlers is Chris Gayle has abandoned his onslaught-from-the outset approach. The bad news is, the West Indies opener has decided to delay his big hitting so he can explode in the later stages.
Many observers believe West Indies are taking a huge gamble by taming a wild force with a strategy that could make or break their World Twenty20 title defence in Bangladesh.
The swashbuckling opener recently joked he made Sohag Gazi a household name by hitting the Bangladeshi off-spinner for a six off the first ball of a Test match in Dhaka.
More than a year later, Gayle’s recent batting philosophy has been to shun such extravagance and preserve his aggression for a delayed assault.
Worryingly for his team, the ploy has not really worked so far in the sport’s showcase Twenty20 tournament.
Gayle managed just about run-a-ball scores of 34 and 48 in the defeat against India and the victory against Bangladesh, respectively. He was dropped twice in the match against India, the first before he could open his account.
Those runs came at a strike rate that fails to justify the flamboyant southpaw’s stature as arguably the most destructive batsman in Twenty20 cricket.
Also, it has shifted the onus on his opening partner Dwayne Smith to provide the flying start Gayle had performed until his batting approached changed.
The policy led to a rare sight as Smith outscored Gayle in Tuesday’s 73-run victory against Bangladesh, falling after a quickfire 72 while his opening partner was still pottering around for his first 19 runs off 29 balls.
“I don’t know if it’s a strategy or not,” Smith said after Tuesday’s win. “My aim is to get off a good start and that’s how I play. If Chris is working himself in, at least there will be no pressure on him if I score freely.”
Gayle’s sheer presence, that expressionless countenance, has intimidated rival bowlers but West Indies would badly need him to hit the kind of form he is famous for if they are to retain their World Twenty20 title.
Smith was certain Gayle would be back to his explosive best before long.
“I’m sure that Chris will get around at some point in this tournament because he is batting through the first six and he will be batting through the first 10 overs,” Smith added.
“I’m sure at some point he is going to get off and get some good scores.”
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