One of the giants of modern West Indies cricket has just celebrated his hundredth Test match. Well, he played his hundredth Test. I’m not too sure that there was much celebrating. The Kiwis have polished off the West Indies in that match, which somewhat put a dampener on the occasion for Chris Gayle. In the past decade, the West Indies have had two batsmen who had stood out miles from the rest: Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. While the diminutive Chanderpaul is harder to dislodge than a limit and often imitates a glacier, the mighty Gayle is at all times volcanic.
In an era when West Indian cricket has struggled, to say the least, Gayle has put together a career that has thrilled and impressed. While 100 Tests is an impressive milestone, politics and injury have conspired to limit his Test match cricket in the past few years. He may also have contributed to that somewhat himself. While cashing in on IPL and T20 in general, he said that he didn’t care if Test cricket died! The current Test match is just the ninth Gayle has played this decade – three and half years. He played none in 2011, four each in 2012 and 2013 and this is his first for 2014.
In this hundredth Test match, Gayle has just edged past the 7000 run mark with his 35th half century. He has scored 15 centuries and averages 42. Included in those centuries are two triple hundreds. He made 317 against South Africa in 2005 and 333 against Sri Lanka in 2010. Gayle is one of only four players to score two triples (Bradman, Lara and Sehwag being the others).
Gayle also bowls useful finger spin and has a creditable 72 Test wickets, at an average of 42.
Gayle is big, loud and talks with his bat and his mouth. And he is cool. Way cool. As cool as Michael Holding, I would say. He is a marketer’s dream with the dreadies and swagger, not to mention his massive presence in the T20 game. I don’t know whether he really hates Test cricket. I hope not because he has played a lot of it and had many fine moments.
Sadly, as the West Indies have lost their cachet, their visits to Australia have become shorter and further apart. Gone are the days of a five Test series every four years. The Windies have not played a Test match in Australia since early 2009. That is already more than five years and there is nothing scheduled for 2015. Who knows if Gayle will visit for Tests again? At any rate, in 2009 Gayle came promising to deliver and after a shaky start, deliver he did. In the 2nd Test in Adelaide, he scored a commanding 165 not out and in carrying the bat, saved the match.
In the 3rd Test at Perth he scored a blistering 102 from just 72 balls. The West Indies ultimately lost that match by just 30 runs.
Looking through Gayle’s match listing, it has to be said he has struggled for consistency but I guess that is consistent with his playing style. When he gets it right and finds himself in the zone he makes hay. His first century came in his tenth Test match – 175 against Zimbabwe. His second did not come for another 13 matches – 204 against New Zealand. Get the picture? And he fails a great deal. He has made 15 ducks and in all, has been dismissed 44 times for less than ten runs in his 176 innings – 25% of visits to the crease.
I hope Gayle can play Test cricket for some time to come. The West Indies need him Chanderpaul needs him. However, it seems more likely that he will be playing IPL and lots of other T20 leagues for far longer.