Cape Town - Chris Gayle has been a phenomenal batsman and an X-factor against many playing nations for the past decade. Whilst a pleasure to watch, it is also a daunting task to watch for the oppositions once he gets going. Let’s go deeper and evaluate what the batting secrets of Chris Gayle is and why he is so colossal.
Firstly, it is worth to know that Gayle does regular strength training as reported in one of the post-match presentation last year. He also mentioned his enjoyment of dancing which keeps him happy, agile and less pressurised.
Contributing to his calm demeanour, one can notice that both his head and bat is still at the crease before he hits the ball. This shows that he is breathing which keeps him in a relaxed state. If he had to strike his bat numerous times on the pitch before hitting the ball, it would make him more agitated before hitting the ball. Instead, he keeps his backlift pointing to second slip, and the face of his bat to point, until the bowler delivers the ball.
In contrast, Adam Gilchrist and Herschelle Gibbs used to strike their bat on the pitch a few times before hitting the ball as they played best when their adrenalin was high. Unlike Gayle, it appears that he prefers to be calm at the crease before striking the ball with shear force and power.
AB de Villiers does the same thing as Gayle with his backlift and calm demeanour which could also explain his talented performance. However, we will leave the analysis of AB for another day.
Bearing Gayle’s backlift in mind, what other characteristics of his batting which comes to mind is worth to look out for? Well, firstly, Chris Gayle is a tall man and bats with a wide stance at the crease. This ensures a solid base, and is adjustable for any delivery bowled at him. He also has limited feet movement which is all efficient hand-eye coordination.
Baseball players also have a wide stance when hitting the ball. It’s an interesting thought whether Gayle would be a proficient baseball player or not? My guess is that he would, as there is no bounce involved with baseball and any ‘full toss’ for a cricketer is a pure gift. Secondly, in addition to Gayle’s effective backlift and strong bottom hand grip, he has a long handle which gives him some leverage when holding the bat.
Graeme Pollock, a legend of South African cricket a few decades ago, also had a long bat handle and was of similar height to Gayle. Graeme Pollock once said in a television interview that cricket is a “see-ball, hit-ball” game.
Therefore, why do we place so much emphasis on technique when the objective of cricket is to hit the ball and score as much runs as possible? It would therefore be interesting to find out if players such as Gayle and Lara played Calypso cricket in childhood.
Calypso cricket is a form of street cricket played in the Caribbean and the objective is to hit every ball, hard as well, and get as many runs as possible. The question still remains: what made or makes these two giants (Gayle and Pollock) so destructive in cricket?
Graeme had the second highest average in test cricket of 66 with Sir Donald Bradman having the highest of 99. Assumptions based on height of a batman show that the shorter the batsman, the more successful they are i.e. players like Tendulkar, Dravid, Ponting and Jayawardene.
So why are tall batsman like Gayle and Graeme so successful? They are left-handed batsmen and one cannot underestimate the left-hander’s arc or in other words, ‘cow’ corner’. In the present and past era, players such as Gayle, Lara, Klusener, Gilchrist, Miller, Moeen Ali and De Kock have all made use of their left-hander’s arc in which they score a whole lot of runs in that area.
My point on batsman’s height is: shorter batsmen who are right handed are more successful whilst taller batsmen who are left-handed are more destructive. Verily, we cannot generalise as each batsman is different and unique in their own capabilities.
In addition to Gayle’s wide stance and hand grip, he also has a lot of power when hitting the ball. He hardly double-steps and this speaks to his quick speed of the bat before making impact with the ball. It’s the last few split seconds, before impact of the ball which compliments both his strength training and the runs scored on the leg side.
The question is, where should one bowl to Gayle?
1. Bowling consistently at Yorker length – death bowling is key, especially towards the end of the innings.
2. Swinging the ball away to him where it comes to off-side at back of a length, and nothing full or short as Gayle would decapitate a bowler with full or short deliveries.
3. Spinners should bowl to him outside off stump, especially if they are right hand orthodox or off-spinners.
4. And lastly, an adequate bouncer from the pace of bowlers such as Steyn, Johnson or Anderson might boggle the Gayle force.
* Habib Noorbhai is a registered biokineticist. He's also a PhD Scholar in Exercise Science (UCT) and resident Health24 Fitness Expert. You can follow him on Twitter.