Try a simple exercise. Stand at the rooftop of your house and take a javelin. Now apply all the arm-force you possess and hurl it down using all that power.
If you visit the gym, it might not be such a tough ask. Now, ask a professional javelin thrower to do the same. You’d notice, the latter’s reach would be more than yours.
If you put in cricketing context that equation you’d find Chris Gayle to be a great javelin thrower in a game where the ball demands the attention of the bat and where bowlers tire themselves out trying to plot the batsman’s downfall.
The meaning of Chris Gayle
On every single occasion where Chris Gayle has attempted a record, attained it, re-established it and in the process, climbed milestones, he’s thrown the javelin further ahead of so many around him for whom it seems simply- out of reach.
And for a batsman whose ubiquity is as universal as the first word of his self-anointed nickname- Universe Boss, residing all over the Internet in form of Chris Gayle tributes (that throw light on his records) as also in hearts of fans who want to hit the ball hard as him, could there’ve been an end to the thrill concerning him even as Gayle seems to be inching closer to the end of his career?
It’s not often that a worrying prospect presents an outstanding opportunity to speculate for some statistical highs. Perhaps, it may not be wrong to suggest that where national duties are concerned, there may not be more than two years left in Chris Gayle. At 39, what’s one to suppose? But implicit in this likely occurrence is the possibility of all that Gayle can achieve.
Can he, for instance, having gone 4 centuries more than Lara, at 23 ODI tons, go further?
Should he play for 24 months at the most, would he go beyond 25, one at a year seeming well in the reach of his broad arms?
How far can Gayle, with 9700 ODI run go in the pursuit of his landmark 10,000th run? Can he notch up the eleven thousandth run and leave Lara behind? Can he make a return for a final Test series?
Questions veiled as expectations linger everywhere when the statistical possibilities warranting Chris Gayle’s attention are considered. Yet, for a batsman whose middle name seems to pay homage to Michael Jackson’s musical journey, how can one keep the prospect of a thrill away from a man whose every batting move embodies a thriller?
One thinks the possibilities of what might Gayle end up achieving bare a resemblance of the one’s predicted when he first set foot in the game a decade back.
Humble beginnings; mighty rulings
Who would have thought that the lanky Jamaican, who seemed committed to the main task of putting bat to the ball since the beginning, would preside over the mind-boggling numbers he has?
As on date, the boy who dreamt of playing at Kingston Jamaica wearing the famous maroons has manifested his true potential as a six-hitting machine, but not before collecting some dizzying feats.
No tribute to Chris Gayle can be complete without mentioning he’s the only man to have struck a hundred and triple hundred in Tests, doing the latter twice, collected a hundred and double ton in ODIs, the only one to do so for the Windies, and has also struck the most number of hundreds in T20s, wherein he happens to have struck most sixes in an inning and has amassed the most runs ever- going past 10,000.
But while his feats send the brain of an average fan to play ping-pong, here’s what’s often under-represented and often, not even considered.
In doing all the above; in smacking Lee out of the park, several times in the same over, smoking the Proteas in the Caribbean with Kallis, De Villiers, Smith playing spectators on the ground, destroying Sri Lanka, in Sri Lanka, and collecting two triple hundreds, Gayle batted with only with power and excellent hand-eye coordination.
Never did he display a technique that any coach in any cricketing academy would preach under any circumstance or motivate a youngster to follow.
In his single-minded, straight-forward approach to playing cricket as it should, batting with the only principle of exploring opportunities to score- wherever they may be, whether behind point or over widish mid-on- Gayle hardly displayed the central tenet a batsman’s life depends on, especially in Tests.
Does any tribute to Chris Gayle carry a homage to his foot-work? For a batsman who epitomises the free-spanking ways of T20, it’s even more applause-worthy that the belligerent striker of the ball struck arguably his finest collection in a series, one that’s hardly recollected in appreciating it: the 346 run tally in 2009-10 versus Australia.
That he struck a 70-ball-100, the eighth-fastest century in Tests ever, Gayle massacred Bollinger, Watson, and above all- Johnson- exemplifies his standing as an unorthodox legend who rested less on classic copy-book tenets like technique and more on power and timing.
The more you explore the Chris Gayle enigma, the more he confuses you like the Rubik’s cube; he tricks them all, whether a purist who sought pleasure in seeing a Dravid waning out bowlers or a McCullum-backer who relished his 302. The mystery is how did a batsman who didn’t seem to evoke any feeling whatsoever of having followed a coaching manual in any capacity end up scoring 17000 runs.
To call him a successful pinch-hitter who became a frontline attacker would be about as disrespectful as it would be to undermine with fielding skills. Years later, his diving slip-catch in the Global Canada T20 league would be cited by every fielding or batting coach who’d have warned his pupil to be astray from the Gayle-school-of-batting: big, blasting hits.
In a game that given the gentlemanly standards it is expected to behold, Gayle’s proven that enjoyment and entertainment can co-exist without dirtying the fabric of the sport; without resorting to expletives and has shown that Caribbean flair is still very much alive even as many of West Indies’ own fans have opted to leave Test stadia empty and fill up for the CPL.
The enigma of Chris Gayle
When Gayle hangs his bat, he may not even shed a tear and may just end up dancing with his opponents, click an endless stream of selfies and dance the night away, perhaps doing an impromptu pole-dance for amusement of his fans thinking about how far he came to rest in a villa that may not have happened had the little boy in tin-shed roof not had dreamt big.
In so doing, Gayle will continue to remind that life is bigger than the sport you happen to rule and that every single moment is to be lived with the utmost fun.
Then, how does it even matter that he was once, a bed-ridden patient in an Australian hospital dealing with a heart condition?
And in the simplicity that he offers rests a crazy lust for life which provides a real tribute to Chris Gayle; both as a world conqueror and Universe Boss.