Alex Massie

The Gayle Conundrum

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On the one hand you have Jacques Kallis, on the other Chris Gayle. Together they remind one that there are many ways to play the game. And, also, that individual brilliance may manifest itself in ways that do not always help the team as much as quieter, more sustained application might.

That may seem a churlish observation since one has just watched Chris Gayle score 102 off a mere 70 deliveries. And in some ways it is churlish, not least because Gayle's innings was one of the most thrilling one has seen in years. In terms of deliveries faced it was the fifth fastest century ever; if he could ever bat a full session he might one day score a 100 before lunch. There's the rub: in 149 innings for the West Indies, Gayle has lasted more than 100 deliveries just 33 times. That's not ideal for an opener, no matter how great the entertainment he provides.

But what entertainment! Today's innings was, I like to think, Jessopian in its bravura, ambition and, yes, recklessness. That's the way Gayle plays and it's foolish to think he would be able to change his ways even if we wanted him to. (And we don't.) Which makes his 165* in Adelaide, when he carried his bat, the more remarkable innings. Because there Gayle curbed his instincts and played an innings that proved he has more than one weapon in his armoury. That was probably the best innings of his career even if, no because, it was played against type.

Still, superb as Gayle's blitzkrieg was in Perth this morning, one cannot but observe that the West Indies were still 380 runs behind when he was dismissed and that, in the grand scheme of the match, the team could have done with him scoring half as quickly and occupying the crease twice as long. It is hard to see how the Windies can win the match, having conceded 520 runs in the first innings, which rather means they need to bat for at least four, and preferably five, sessions.

This is, however, nit-picking. Gayle's innings will surely be on Youtube soon and I urge you to look it out. It was a copper-bottomed marvel even if one harbours the awkward suspicion that, unless Sarwan and someone else put together a real stand, it will prove in vain.

That's the beauty of the game however: the contrast in styles and the ever-shifting balance between the individual's achievements and the team's requirements is part of what makes it so compelling. The game is situational and without that consideration much of it is rendered less than wholly meaningful. Cricket would be a lesser game if everyone batted in the Chris Gayle fashion and a much poorer one if no-one did.

So thank you Chris, and may your efforts to lead the West Indies back to respectability prove as successful as you, and all cricket-lovers, would hope.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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