Chris Gayle didn’t just batter Zimbabwe – his Twitter critics were routed too
This match was supposed to be one of the World Cup’s sideshows – a contest between a once-great side and another that the late Peter Roebuck once referred to as the Mugabe XI. Someone forgot to tell Chris Gayle that. After lady luck – and suggests there is no shortage of that – reprieved him off the first ball he faced, Gayle rampaged to 215 off 147 balls at Manuka Oval in Canberra, shattering a slew of records along the way.
This was very much an innings of two halves. For 35 overs, except for the sporadic explosive stroke, both Gayle and West Indies were relatively subdued, easing to 165 for 1. After that, it was like throwing a lit match into a fireworks factory. Gayle’s second hundred took only 33 balls, as West Indies racked up 207 in the final 15 overs. Only 5,544 had come through the turnstiles but, by the innings end, they were serenading a man who has always seen himself as an entertainer first.
“He is a batsman that I would describe as a bowlers’ nightmare,” Viv Richards had written in a column for the World Cup website. “On his day, he can be very destructive. He can be a match-winner in any environment and in any match conditions. If he is on song, then the opposition can lose the match in the blink of an eye, that’s how destructive he can be.”
It was quite an endorsement for a man who had started the tournament with scores of 36 [against Ireland] and four [versus Pakistan], and whose 19 innings since his last ODI hundred had seen him average 14. Irreversible decline? As it turned out, all Gayle needed was that match.
It might have come from social media. Gayle loves but there was only silence from his side after his failure in the Pakistan game. A fan of Guyanese ancestry based in Adelaide,. “Gayle goes…Can’t buy a run,” he tweeted. “Let’s give him a retirement package … Can’t fail repeatedly and still front up based on reputation.”
It was retweeted 10 times, once by , who has just over 1,600 followers. But Whycliffe “Dave” Cameron was no ordinary Joe on a social network site. One of his day jobs is being the president of the West Indies Cricket Board. As PR disasters go, they don’t come much worse.
Gayle was not in a confrontational mood after his epic innings though. “The tweet and everything … you’re disappointed to see where it actually came from,” he said. “It was at a time when you need support. When you can get support from your people, it would actually be more fantastic. But negatives are not needed at this particular time. Honestly, to score a double century in ODIs, it’s right up there. It’s got to be the best one.” Of the 16 sixes he hit – equalling the record held by AB de Villiers and Rohit Sharma – only one was on the off side. Most of the damage was done with pulls, cleaves and slogs in the direction of midwicket. Those sitting in the stands were left wishing for hard hats by the end.
Zimbabwe, who battled bravely before being outclassed, were left to ponder their wretched luck. But for the width of the seam on a cricket ball, Gayle could have been out off the first ball he faced. Tinashe Panyangara directed a full one at the pads, and two distinct sounds made Steve Davis, the umpire, keep his finger down. Undeterred, Zimbabwe went for the TV review. Sure enough, the two sounds were the ball thudding into the front pad before hitting the back one. The bat wasn’t in the equation.
As Gayle watched the giant screen anxiously, the ball-tracking technology showed the ball clipping the bails. Had Davis initially given him out, Gayle would have had to walk. Instead, the lack of an obvious howler meant he stayed. “I was like, oh, you’re kidding me,” he said with a grin after the game. “Well, those were not the exact words … a swear word. I said, come on, not again. Eventually, it was the umpire’s call, and it was like a big relief.”
“Congrats @henrygayle on scoring first 200 in a World Cup match,” , whose style was diametrically opposite to Gayle’s visceral batting. “Welcome back to form mate. Watch out bowlers:)”
Gayle spoke of having a “score to settle” with South Africa, West Indies’ next opponents, after being beaten 4-1 in a recent ODI series. Vernon Philander is injured, and even Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel won’t fancy taking on a batsman whose intimidation quotient is perhaps second only to Richards’.
The “world boss” is back, and he’s in the mood.