There is no doubting West Indian Chris Gayle’s record-breaking 175 for Royal Challengers of Bangalore will be an innings that is talked about for many years to come. A century in 20 balls is a truly remarkable feat. His 175 coming in just 66 balls and including 17 sixes and 13 fours, statistics that beggar belief.
This innings may also increase the divide between cricket fans of differing generations.
His incredible innings was compiled in a T20 match in the Indian Premier League, an officially recognised first class fixture, but a form of the game that many traditional fans of the game frown upon. A game in which it is frequently a case of hit and miss – as Gayle is testament to – and a form of the game where brute strength is a substitute for solid technique.
So where should this innings stand? Is it the greatest ever played? Or is that determined by the context of the game and not the number of runs scored and how quickly. There is no doubt Chris Gayle probably doesn’t care.
Chris Gayle opted to make himself a ‘gun for hire’ after he fell out with the West Indies Cricket Board, just as T20 was becoming popular. He knew he was talented, and he also realised if he was to make a living from cricket he better focus on T20 where the opportunities were far greater. Immense credit must go to Gayle who has adapted his technique to suit this form of the game. He uses minimum footwork which is complimented by his ability to transfer his weight by leaning back or forwards. He then lets his long arms from his 6-foot 4-inch frame swing freely through the arc to great effect. Another aspect he has tinkered with and which works exceptionally well in this form of the game is staying deep in his crease, which enables him to get under the ball and combined with his huge strength lift it over the boundary. This innings being a perfect example of that ploy.
There have been many great innings in the game of cricket, in the one day version as well as the Test arena, so where does Gayle’s latest effort rate amongst them.
Some wonderful innings that spring to mind to start the debate, are Viv Richards 189 not out in a One day International in 1984 at Old Trafford against England. Who can forget Herschelle Gibbs 175 off 111 balls against Australia at the Wanderers in 2006. Many forget too that the ‘little master’ India’s Sachin Tendulkar did what many believed impossible scoring 200 in a one-day international against South Africa at Gwalior in 2010.
There have been many outstanding innings in the test arena as well, who can forget VVS Laxman’s 281 against Australia in Kolkata in 2001, or Ian Botham’s 149 not out at Headingley in 1981, also against Australia. Then there is Gordon Greenidge’s 214 not out against England at Lords in 1984, and Steve Waugh’s 108 at Manchester in 1997.
The hardest thing is to work out where such an innings sits, especially in a format of the game where caution is thrown to the wind. There is no doubt it was impressive, destructive, powerful and a sight to behold, but as great innings go in the context of affecting a game or a series, it fails to register. But then again the modern followers of the game who are much younger than this writer may well disagree.
(Please note the memorable innings mentioned were all ones that the writer was fortunate to witness on television or live. There are undoubtedly many others he has not witnessed).