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Is it the beginning of the end of Chris Gayle?

The most popular T20 cricketer in the world Chris Gayle has struggled to get going for the best part of the last 16 months

Chris Gayle CR7 Style IPL
Chris Gayle RCB.(Photo Source: BCCI)

There was the great Don Bradman who arguably was the best Test batsman in the history of cricket, then there was the iconic Sachin Tendulkar who ended up being the best ODI batsman ever and then there is Chris Henry Gayle, who is in the similar mould as far as T20 cricket is concerned.

Chris Gayle has racked up tons of runs since he played the T20 format for the first time in 2005. His statistics in this format will be tough to achieve as the Jamaican is heads and shoulder above the rest of the pack.

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Gayle is nearing the never-imagined landmark of 10,000 T20 runs. He is shy by just 25 runs and might achieve the feat in the ongoing season of IPL-10. The next best is Brendon McCullum who has 7411 runs to his name. Gayle has scored 18 T20 hundreds, which is again the most by any player. McCullum again is second to Gayle with 7 hundreds against his name. Gayle also holds the record for most fifties in this format scoring 60 half centuries. His strike rate of 149.48 is the highest for anyone averaging over 40. The West Indian also holds the record for most sixes in T20 cricket. He has 735 sixes to his name and is way ahead of Pollard’s, who is at number two in the list, 450 sixes.

The star opening batsman also holds the record for the fastest ever hundred in this format. He achieved that record in the IPL 2013 when he crushed the Pune Warriors bowler’s on his way to a 30-ball hundred. He went on to get 175 runs which still is the world record for the highest score in T20 cricket. He hit 17 sixes in that blazing innings, which again is a world record which still stands.

The above numbers accentuates the pedigree of this man. His statistics are as scary as his batting, when in full flow. It will take some time for someone to touch his numbers in this format. Gayle has operated as a professional T20 freelancer all around the world playing in various leagues like the Indian Premier league, Big Bash League, Pakistan Super League, Bangladesh Premier League, Caribbean Premier League and Natwest Blast T20. His performances have been extra-ordinary in all the big leagues.

Of late, Gayle has been struggling in his favorite format. Royal Challengers Bangalore, the franchise he plays for in the IPL, recently dropped him in as early as the third game of the season. Interestingly, Gayle who is considered as an un-droppable player in T20 cricket, featured in just 10 out of the 16 games in the last season. Virat Kohli was vocal about his omission saying that he was dropped and not ‘rested’. He didn’t perform to his standards as he averaged just 22.70 in 10 innings scoring just 2 half centuries.

Gayle’s struggle began before the IPL 2016. At the end of the BBL 2015/16, Gayle had an overall average of 43.77. Since then Gayle has played 54 T20 games scoring 1352 runs at an average of 27.59, which is considerably lower than his career average. These statistics are alarming. Gayle has largely struggled in the last 16 months which has seen his career average dip to 40.54 now, though he has managed to keep his strike rate in this period parallel to his career strike rate.

Another concern with the left-handed batsman is his fitness. While his fitness standards never bothered teams when he was in his pomp, but now they are repeatedly getting exposed. Gayle scores a high percentage of his runs (almost 75 %) in boundaries. Due to his dip in form, he can’t even rotate the strike as he isn’t the swiftest between the wickets. This makes him more vulnerable to get stuck in the middle. He can either hit out or get out and recently it has been the latter more often than not.

At 37, Gayle’s skills are diminishing. Of late, he had adopted a strategy of taking time at the start of the innings and then launches an attack around the half-way mark. He did taste success by this modus operandi but it is a big risk if it doesn’t come off as Gayle has lately played some run-a-ball scratchy innings. Such innings suck the momentum out of the innings and because he gets dismissed while pressing on the accelerator, the late flourish never happen.

The Jamaican batsman is a celebrated cricketer all around the globe. He has millions of fans across the world and has been instrumental in attaining several wins for the various teams he has played for. He is nearing a huge personal milestone of getting to 10,000 T20 runs, which was considered an impossible feat once upon of time. But his recent form has been very disappointing according to his own standards. The only good part is that he has still managed to strike at the same rate but the consistency in terms of run scoring has plummeted significantly.

Can Chris Gayle find a second wind to his T20 career? Looking at his skill set, that looks unlikely. He still can contribute to teams by scoring quick-fire 30’s and 40’s. Striking the ball is his natural instinct and Gayle must not curb it. He may have a few runs left in the tank before ending his glittering career.

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